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Published February 2021
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The 2021 L&D Global Sentiment Survey asked “What will be hot in workplace learning in 2021?” The format of the question has remained unchanged since 2014.

Respondents voted for three of 15 suggested options, plus a free text ‘Other’ option. 3,114 voters participated from 95 countries.

The results clearly show the impact of Covid-19 on the profession, and its aspirations for 2021.
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A summary of the 2021 survey
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From the foreword and conclusion:

This is the eighth year of the L&D Global Sentiment Survey, and the results are unlike any other. This is unsurprising, given the impact of Covid-19 last year, and the shadow it casts over 2021. The pandemic hit most of the countries surveyed in early 2020, so when the survey opened on 30 November 2020, people had lived with its impact for several months and it dominated their thinking for the coming year.

Reskilling/upskilling dominates
The effect on the thinking of Learning and Development (L&D) practitioners can be seen throughout this report. Most prominently, an option newly introduced to the survey this year – Reskilling/upskilling – proved the most popular in every working environment polled and in almost every region. No new entry has ever done this before. Given the workload faced by L&D as a result of the pandemic, this seems sensible, but it is also open to question – after all, aren’t reskilling and upskilling the daily work of L&D?

We spend some time in the report looking at the origins of these terms before the pandemic struck, and how their widespread use on media indicate an opportunity for L&D to exploit.

The death of data?
While one option was propelled to the top of the survey table this year, others suffered badly. In particular Artificial intelligence and Virtual and augmented reality, two technologies with plenty to offer L&D, ended further down the table than might have been predicted. Learning analytics, a recent high-performing star, also suffered badly as people turned away from technologies and methods which show promise, but as yet, no wide-spread adoption.

The return of social learning
In contrast, Coaching/mentoring and Collaborative/social learning did well and the success of Collaborative/social learning stands out in particular. It is the only option that increased its share of the vote over 2020. This is particularly remarkable, as it had been on a steady decline since the survey started in 2014.

A return to proven methods
Looking at the impact of the pandemic on L&D across the globe this year, one thing is clear. Under great pressure to both change delivery methods and reach more people with more offerings, the L&D profession has reacted against novelty. It has not looked to new technologies or unfamiliar methodologies to solve these problems, but has turned instead to what it sees as proven approaches. And it will use these to respond to what it sees as the great challenge of the year: reskilling and upskilling a workforce still largely in crisis.

An opportunity for L&D
The ultimate test for workplace L&D is not whether it can successfully move delivery of courses online. It spent last year proving it could. This year will be when we discover whether L&D can take advantage of a unique opportunity. Can it take advantage of the prominence of skills on the organisational and policy agenda to reposition itself from a tactical deliverer of training to a strategic business partner?

As noted in the report, our voters are most likely to be self-selecting Innovators and Early adopters. So while this emphasis on data is keenly felt among those thinking about these issues deeply, it is unlikely currently to be widely spread across the L&D community. In the report, we provide a page detailing these caveats:

  1. Respondents are more likely to be tech-savvy than the general L&D population
  2. Respondents are largely unqualified
  3. Year-on-year comparisons may be unsound
  4. Respondents may not share the same understanding of the options
  5. Key individuals/organisations may skew results from some countries

Using the report

Please feel free to share information from the report. When you do, please cite it like this:

Donald H Taylor’s L&D Global Sentiment Survey 2021,

On social media, please use this hashtag: #GSS21




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2021 Sponsors & Media Partners
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The 2021 L&D Global Sentiment Survey was made possible thanks to these sponsors and partners.
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