According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 11 million jobs in the U.S. are unfilled 1 —roughly double the number of people who are unemployed. The Great Resignation has sent workers to new jobs, but also into education and the rapidly expanding gig economy, leaving skills and knowledge gaps in almost every American company.

Organizations are determined to fill the gaps with workforce-ready employees who have both the hard and soft skills needed to build 21st century careers. And workplace learning and development (L&D) is their primary tool.

To fully understand the current state of L&D in America’s workplaces, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and TalentLMS surveyed U.S.-based HR managers and employees in early 2022 to learn what employees want and expect in the L&D space today, as well as what organizations are willing and able to provide.


earning and development (L&D) serves a dual purpose for organizations: to reskill and upskill current employees to fill business needs, and to recruit and retain talented workers who want to continuously learn. More than 8 in 10 HR managers believe training is beneficial to attract (83%) and retain (86%) talent, and many employees (48%) agree that training opportunities were a factor in choosing their current company. More than three-quarters of employees (76%) say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.

What Do Employees Want to Learn?

Almost all employees want to be trained in hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to the job-related knowledge and abilities employees need to perform their job duties effectively. Nearly 9 in 10 employees (88%) say it is important to them to get workplace training on hard skills, and nearly 4 in 5 organizations (79%) say they are likely to focus on hard-skills training within the next 12 months.

Soft skills are those related to behavioral and interpersonal abilities, such as the ability to effectively communicate, problem-solve, lead, collaborate and organize. More than 8 in 10 employees (84%) say it is important to them to get training on soft skills, with leadership training the most desired (cited by 54% of respondents). Just 7% of employees say they don’t need training in soft skills. More than three-quarters of organizations (76%) say they are likely to focus on soft-skills training within the next 12 months.

When we asked HR managers what soft-skills training their organizations offer, their answers aligned with what employees say they prefer. Both groups ranked leadership, communication/ collaboration and time management as being the soft-skills training that is most in demand.

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