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Developing an adaptable and productive workforce for the future: The trends and challenges facing senior leadership teams in 2024

Aiming to answer the questions: what are the trends impacting learning and development (L&D) in 2024? What are the most in-demand skills? And how can organisations build the skills they need? For its third annual research report, ILX Group surveyed 250 business, HR and L&D senior leaders to discover the key challenges, priorities and opportunities facing their organisations when developing a flexible workforce in 2024 and beyond.

Key challenges facing organisations

The impacts of the cost-of-living crisis continues to cause problems for organisations this year, as it remains the number one challenge (77%). This is because they are still being impacted by increased operating costs and labour market pressures to supply chain disruptions, decreased customer spending and economic uncertainty.

In addition to this, skills shortages are the number one factor driving L&D in 2024, with three-quarters of all organisations saying it’s a key challenge they’ll face this year. But the war for talent continues to make it difficult to fill these skills gaps through hiring, 77% say this is the biggest challenge.

The top five most in-demand skills in 2024

Artificial intelligence is the number-one most in-demand skill for 2024, with 77% of senior leaders saying they are planning to invest in building these skills. Which is unsurprising, considering the widespread global adoption of AI over the past year. Alongside the prevalence of easily accessible and free-to-use generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT, which are demonstrating the value of AI first-hand to organisations. Technology has advanced considerably over the past year alone, creating skills gaps that need to be filled.

Sustainable development is the second most in-demand skill in 2024, with 76% of organisations planning to invest in it throughout the year. Organisations are under increasing pressure to accelerate their progress to net zero and implement actionable plans to help them get there. Strong ESG policies give businesses a competitive advantage, build customer loyalty and attract potential investors. To achieve this, organisations need employees with the right skills and knowledge to put these policies, plans and pledges into action.

Rounding off the top five in-demand skills this year are, cloud (76%), a shift from eighth in 2023, digital marketing (75%) and automation (73%).

What does this mean for senior leaders?

The pace at which our world is changing technologically, socially and environmentally has meant that both senior leadership teams and workforces are struggling to keep up. Skills gaps are growing wider, and the need for a more flexible and agile workforce is greater than ever.

L&D is a critical component in supporting senior leadership teams to build the skills their workforces need in order to meet the needs of the increasingly fast paced, volatile, uncertain and unpredictable world in which their organisation operates.

How will L&D enable organisations in 2024?

Russell Kenrick, Managing Director of ILX Group, commented: “Business needs have changed, organisations are struggling to keep up with new technologies, advancements, and ways of working. But by providing L&D programmes that develop both hard and professional (soft) skills, senior leadership teams will build capabilities within their workforce that enables them to be more adaptable and agile when faced with these uncertainties.

“Upskilling remains the number one way to fill skills gaps, allowing organisations to address this issue at a lower cost. And not only is upskilling more cost effective than hiring, but it also helps with improving employee satisfaction – a top priority this year – and talent retention, which the research revealed is a challenge for 75% of organisations.”

Download the full research report, or visit to learn more about the training solutions and curriculum areas available from ILX Group.