In a recent McKinsey survey, leaders at organizations across the world say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them aware of the urgency of getting learning programs right. Yet companies are failing at delivering positive training outcomes, and executives can and must do more to help.

The value of capability building

Company leaders report that COVID-19 has accelerated the value of capability building. Nearly 80% say that it’s very or extremely important to their organizations’ long-term growth – compared with 59% before the pandemic.

This makes sense, because COVID-19 has transitioned many industries into fully-remote or partially remote work environments. While remote working, leadership wants to ensure employees have the skills and resources needed to effectively manage their time and workload in this new environment. Respondents of the survey report spending more time on learning during the pandemic – with 54% of leadership engaged in self-paced learning.

Failing to achieve business objectives

While the value of employee training and development cannot be overlooked, many organizations still report failing to achieve their business objectives or implement successful programs. Only 33% of those surveyed as seeing the results they want – indicating that more work needs to be done to improve these educational experiences and ensure employees are gaining the support and resources they need to be successful in their virtual environments.

One way to improve this is to see active support and guidance from top management downward. Employees believe that senior executives should have an active role in capability building programs.

There also is an opportunity for better planning to allow employees to have enough opportunities to apply what they learn in practice. Nearly half of all respondents feel they don’t have enough time to pursue self-directed learning – and nearly half of all leaders say their companies don’t have a concrete plan to prioritize learning.


This survey makes it obvious that employee development and capabilities training is critical for the future of work. However, there is still much that needs to be done to improve these virtual learning experiences and sustain learning after a workshop is complete.

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