Employees around the world have shown an unprecedented level of interest in learning on the job amidst the seismic change brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the new LinkedIn Learning global report Leading with Learning: Insights and Advice about the New State of L&D

These new learning opportunities can potentially strengthen organizations’ employee engagement, as Glint research has shown employees who see good opportunities to learn and grow are 3.6 times more likely to report being happy compared to those who don’t. 

In short, learning is poised to play a huge role in how organizations reimagine themselves in the new world of work.

Learning takes off

When wide swaths of the global workforce had to quickly pivot to working from home, skills gaps emerged. In March and April 2020, LinkedIn Learning experienced its largest spike in history, as employees spent 130% more time learning than they had in the first two months of the year. Unsurprisingly, learning and development (L&D) pros made these learning opportunities possible, increasing the creation of learning paths by 126% in the same time period.

“L&D’s swift response, coupled with a big appetite for learning, propelled L&D into a much more strategic position within their organizations,” the report states.

HR teams’ quick action also translated into validation from organizational leaders. Seventy percent of L&D pros surveyed said their CEOs are actively championing learning, an increase of  43 percentage points from October 2019 research.

Well-being content in high demand

Among the learning paths employees sought out as the pandemic took hold, well-being and mental health stood out. People turned to their employers to help them cope with new stresses, upended work and life circumstances, and global uncertainty. Employees using LinkedIn Learning engaged in 10 times more mindfulness and stress management content in March and April than they did In January and February.

“Learners are hungry for this content, and… L&D is well positioned to immediately deliver resources to help them adapt,” the report says. 

One thing we know from Glint People Science research and experience is that employees need to see that their leaders are prioritizing their safety and needs. L&D teams have demonstrated humanity in a big way by helping their people cope with unprecedented change.

(If you’re looking for well-being learning opportunities for your employees, check out LinkedIn Learning’s free mindfulness and stress management courses.)

Managers take the lead

Managers matter as much in learning and development as they do in employee engagement. 

According to the report, more than two-thirds of learning leaders said that managers are promoting more learning to their teams than they did prior to this crisis. Managers also doubled the amount of time they themselves spent on learning in March and April compared to the beginning of 2020. As they often do, managers are leading by example.

But one word of caution: People leaders would do well to make sure their organization’s managers feel supported and are taking care of themselves. Glint research has found that managers have experienced the pandemic-related work shifts differently from individual contributors, with managers feeling less clear about what to prioritize and burdened with the uncertainty related to processes like performance management.

Learning and the new world of work

L&D pros will play a crucial role in their organizations as leaders grapple with how to adapt their businesses to our new realities. The report predicts the top five learning challenges for L&D pros in the next three months will be:

  1. Helping managers lead through change 
  2. Keeping employees motivated and productive 
  3. Transitioning in-person trainers into virtual trainers 
  4. Meeting the emotional and psychological needs of employees 
  5. Activating managers to support their teams

To learn about how L&D leaders at organizations like Novartis, Verizon Wireless, Netflix, Kellogg’s and others are taking advantage of this moment, check out the full report.