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Four Priorities for Chief Learning & Talent Leaders in 2023

The past few years have brought dramatic shifts in the ways people work—and work model strategy remains unsettled for many employers. In line with i4cp’s other five boards, when asked about the greatest potential disruptors to their organizations in 2023, the top concern by far (88%) among the members of i4cp’s Chief Learning and Talent Officer Board was attracting, retaining, and development talent. A key factor in this is work model strategy; many organizations are still experimenting with the best approaches to remote, hybrid, and flexible work options, and most expect this to continue in the year ahead.

Another challenge cited by CLTO board members is a continuation of one that has been prominent the past few years—employee well-being. More specifically, leaders are concerned about burnout of the workforce. Talent and learning leaders must address this issue in 2023, as the best efforts to drive talent attraction, development, and retention will be for naught if employees can’t work at their best.

Reflecting these concerns, the top 2023 priorities of i4cp's Chief Learning and Talent Officers Board members are:

  1. Developing leaders for the new world of work
  2. Renewing focus on performance and outcomes
  3. Creating a culture of learning that enables upskilling
  4. Achieving measurable diversity, equity, and inclusion goals

Over the past three years, people managers dealt with more sudden changes than is reasonable to expect to experience in a whole decade. Expected to effectively manage remote (and now hybrid) workers, juggle work with childcare or eldercare needs, manage respectful conversations on polarizing topics such as abortion and gun control, and staying productive in one of the tightest labor markets in history were just some of the challenges people leaders faced.

The next three years will offer more challenges. As we collectively enter a new age of work, the expectations of leaders and how organizations prepare and support them will also need to change. Leaders will flounder if leadership behavior models and the development initiatives that align with them—including training, mentoring, coaching, and more—are rooted in the past, not updated for this new world, or supported by their talent and learning partners.

There’s also been a subtle shift in the expectations of leaders as many companies move toward renewed emphasis on performance and outcomes. Organizations that shift attention away from shallow issues such as who is in the office or not, and instead define and hold employees accountable for achieving goals and objectives, are more likely to achieve higher performance. This seems simple on the surface, but it’s remarkable how many organizations drifted from traditional management by objective during the pandemic and are now reengaged in discussions on effective performance management.

These discussions inevitably morph into better understanding the skills that exist in the workforce today and how to better leverage them. Almost every organization has or is evolving its approach to a skills-centric model, but where they are on this journey varies. The need to move forward thoughtfully but also quickly will keep talent and learning leaders focused on reconsidering job roles and descriptions, identifying and cataloging employees’ skills, determining future skill needs and, where gaps exist, providing targeted upskilling and reskilling opportunities.

But i4cp’s research has found that only 12% of those we surveyed perceive their organizations' upskilling programs as highly effective. One reason for this is lack of a strong, foundational culture of learning. In 2023, increased attention will be paid to developing and maintaining an organization-wide learning culture in which continuous learning is encouraged and rewarded. A true learning culture positively affects employee attraction, engagement, and retention in addition to individual and business performance. Some key trending approaches include enabling greater talent development and talent mobility through internal talent marketplaces, and reimagining and redesigning career path opportunities.

Cultures of learning also ensure there is adequate emphasis and effort on the diversity, equity, and inclusion goals that are now a key element of most talent strategies and systems. For most organizations, DE&I has evolved from a siloed function to an integral part of how business gets done. Talent and learning leaders in some cases have stepped up to lead and own the organization’s DE&I strategy, and at the very least play an important supportive role by providing an ever-expanding library of educational resources, facilitating authentic conversations among peers, to monitoring behavior, processes, and outcomes for bias.

For our four predictions and priorities for other human capital functions including Total Rewards, Talent Acquisition, and more, download the full 2023 Priorities & Predictions report