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Learning and development inequality: are junior employees losing out?

Unequal access to learning and development opportunities has always been an issue that significantly impacts workers lower down the career ladder.

Logically, the more you need to learn, the better your access to learning should be, right?


Highlighted in our 2021 Learner Survey report – where we surveyed over 1,000 UK workers across various industries, ages, genders, and job roles – learning and development inequality is as rife as ever.

Who benefits the most from L&D opportunities?

Business leaders.

A whopping 62% of business leaders are satisfied with their access to learning within their organisation, and 69% felt they received the right amount or more learning than they needed over the past year. Compared with the 45% of non-managerial and junior employees who felt they needed more workplace learning to effectively do their jobs, this reveals a stark difference in learning privilege.

2020 has become synonymous with waves of job losses, and hundreds of thousands of UK workers suffering financial and career struggles. But while many workers seem to be frantically looking for new jobs to keep ownership of their homes, it seems the workers in more senior positions barely felt the effects.

L&D generally bore the brunt of the pandemic, with 25% of UK workers not having any access to learning. 50% of UK workers couldn’t even access the learning they needed.

So the question must be asked – why are a big chunk of business leaders happy with the amount of L&D opportunities they have, yet so many other employees are left wanting?

What about people who aren’t leaders?

Sadly, it seems junior and non-managerial employees have drawn the short straw when it comes to L&D. Where 46% of business leaders had more than 5 whole days of training in the past year, only 19% of non-managerial employees can say the same.

This implies that the non-managerial employees had a more “hands-on” approach to help keep businesses afloat.

The business leaders, on the other hand, seemed to have more time to focus on their learning. More than double the amount of business leaders had over 5 days of training and the chance to push their professional development forward.

Virtual reality isn’t a reality for many…

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the top-rated successful learning tools for 2021, with 77% of users rating VR as effective or very effective.

While only 17% of our respondents had access to VR learning at work, it’s clearly an impactful learning tool. Yet only 4% of non-managerial positions had access to VR or similar learning tools, demonstrating another inequality in terms of the types of modern learning workers can access.

VR learning wasn’t the only innovative method of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) being taken advantage of by those in more senior positions. 29% of business leaders managed to partake in informal training such as webinars, podcasts and videos compared to 13% for non-managerial employees.

Our top tip: talk to your employees. We’ve shown you a general consensus of UK workers, but to really elevate your L&D strategy, open an honest communication channel between you and your teams. Find out what, how and when they want to learn and then it’s up to you to support those demands.

Want more key L&D insights, content, and statistics?

Discover how the L&D industry is changing, how to adapt to the new employee demands and how to support everyone’s career development.

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Written by Mara Swann

Mara has a passion for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion across global workplaces and hopes to inspire learners to focus on their own careers with self-directed learning content.


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