The results are in…What is L&D’s main priority for 2022?

At Learning Technologies 2022, we asked visitors to our stand to take part in a rather unique poll! As the dust settles on an excellent event, we are ready to assess the results and reveal what you consider to be the biggest challenge for your learning strategy right now.

Learning Technologies was an opportunity to reconnect with familiar faces, a chance to hear insightful seminars on L&D’s present and future and, above all, it had the conversations, busyness, and overall excitement that can only be experienced at in-person events.

Located in the centre of the ExCeL’s South Hall, Sponge’s stand was a hive of activity for those two days. Many excellent conversations were had, and many were initiated by one of the stand’s talking points – a gigantic jelly-bean dispenser.

Note to future LearnTech exhibitors: never underestimate the power of sweets to draw a crowd! However, Sponge’s attraction was a lot more than a quirky way to provide a sugary treat. Each of the seven dispensers related to a particular answer to the question: 'Which global workplace challenge is the biggest for your learning strategy in 2022?'. The possible answers were as follows:

  • Managing the company journey.
  • Supporting company culture.
  • Promoting ESG and corporate responsibility.
  • Digital fluency.
  • Reducing workforce-related risk.
  • Observing workforce behaviour.
  • Proving learning impact.


By interacting with the dispenser, stand visitors (typically vendors or buyers in the L&D space) were voting on their key priorities for this year. We’re pleased to announce what these top three priorities are, and provide potential reasons for them:

In Third Place: Reducing workforce-related risk

Reducing risk is the bread and butter of compliance content, so we would expect it to be a major priority any year. However, several issues have brought it into sharp focus in 2022.

Firstly, there is the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks. As IBM’s 2021 Cost of Data Breach Report shows, 2021 saw the highest average cost per breach in 17 years. The ongoing digital transformation across all sectors is likely to increase risk in 2022 and beyond. However, there remains a strategic aim within L&D of persuading decision makers to invest in costly solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Secondly, the shift to hybrid has also placed an emphasis on the importance of risk. In 2021, the average cost per breach was over $1 million higher where remote work was a factor. However, risk is not enough to recall hybrid workers back to offices, especially when, against the backdrop of the Great Resignation, remote working options are necessary for retaining talent. Therefore, a key strategic priority for L&D is the implementation of secure hybrid working practices – from encouraging the use of home security software, to instigating a change in organisational culture centred around security.

Finally, risk remains a key industry topic due to the residual effects of Covid. Along with the obvious health risks of another pandemic, there are the broader business implications of future lockdowns and supply chain issues. The uncertainty of what may be just around the corner, makes it understandable that workforce-related risk should be such a priority in 2022.

In Second Place: Promoting ESG and corporate responsibility

ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) found itself in second place as the main challenge for L&D leaders in 2022.

According to one report, 2021 saw $120 billion of ESG exchange-traded funds, more than double the previous year, and global ESG assets are predicted to exceed $53 trillion by 2025. Much of the increased concern around promoting ESG can be ascribed to the broad trend of employees asking more of their employers. Bottom lines, profit margins and performance-related bonuses are no longer enough. Employees want their workplaces to share their own concerns about sustainability and ultimately make a positive impact in the world.

However, why has there been such rapid growth in ESG in the past two years? Yes, the news coverage of climate-related issues explains the ‘E’, but what about social and governance issues? The answer, once again, is the radical shake up of the workplace caused by hybrid work. Similarly, remote work, radically changed previously fixed systems of governance. The successful way in which many organisations transitioned has demonstrated to a socially conscious workforce that future change is possible.

In First Place: Observing workforce behaviour

At first, observing workforce behaviour may appear an odd priority. However, after breaking down what is meant by this, we can understand why it was voted the biggest challenge to L&D strategy in 2022.

Clearly, this is partly the result of hybrid working. Questions of observing remote workers may seem a little Big Brother, but concerns are justified. How do we replace face-to-face onboarding? How do we ensure employees who need help (both work and non-work-related) get it? A successful hybrid strategy must answer these questions, and often innovation is required – it is not as simple as moving systems and processes online.

The fact that this option was chosen as the main priority for 2022 reflects a concern among talent acquisition and management, against a backdrop of global uncertainties, rapid technological change, as well as upskilling and reskilling.

Organisations need to know if their teams possess the necessary behaviours to do their current role. If they are hiring, they need to know which candidates exhibit the required behaviours and if they are redeploying existing workers, they need to ascertain which behaviours are needed to undertake their new role. A focus on behaviours is reflected in the employees themselves. Time and again, we see populations of learners determined to undertake non-mandatory learning to gain additional workplace behaviours, as shown by a recent survey by delivery service Glovo. In an age of talent retention issues, organisations are expected to provide this learning to encourage behavioural change amongst their workers.

Conclusion (and Disclaimer!):

Of course, these results should not be the last word in a discussion of L&D’s priorities in 2022. This was a jelly-bean poll, not a scientific survey.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is the spread of results. Yes, ‘observing workforce behaviour’ was the clear ‘winner’, but it didn't receive the majority share. All the potential options to the question 'Which global workplace challenge is the biggest for your learning strategy in 2022?' were popular, echoing a message that was repeated throughout LearnTech: L&D is a growing, dynamic, and shifting market, which needs to be agile in its response to a number of key issues – hybrid work, digital transformation, organisational skill-gaps, to name a few.

With almost two decades worth of experience in the digital learning space, Sponge can meet the diverse needs of organisations and L&D practitioners in 2022 and beyond. Our award-winning and expert-generated bespoke and off-the-shelf compliance solutions prevent risk, support security-conscious organisational cultures, and cover every aspect of ESG. Our data analytics capabilities provide actionable insights of workplace behaviours and allows you to track the performance of your learning populations. Finally, as experts in learning science, we go beyond jelly-bean polls to investigate the latest developments in L&D to be a trusted partner in a complex marketplace.

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