People and Change

Why continued investment in learning and development makes good business sense

Andrew Howie
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For many people in organisations the opening months of the year will coincide with objective setting – an opportunity to plan our development goals over the next 12-months and explore what support is available to us at work to help achieve them.

As employees set out to complete this process, organisations will also consider their direction within what is still very much an uncertain operating environment.

As a result of the current economic environment, organisations may assess where ‘non-critical expenditure’ can be cut within their business – often Learning and Development expenditure is among the first on the agenda when it comes to such cuts. While deciding to cut back on their L&D priorities, there may be short-term cash benefits, but it is important for organisations to consider the potential long-term implications these cuts may have.

Recent research by Microsoft in its ‘Work Trend Index Report’ found that over three quarters of employees surveyed indicated that they would remain at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development support, with 68% of leaders reiterating the importance of growth and development opportunities for retention.

The connection between development and retention is clear, and organisations operating in a difficult labour and economic environment might want to assess how continued investment, rather than pulling back on employee L&D can positively impact retention, engagement, and business growth in the long-term. With the hiring costs soaring, it is much smarter to retain good employees rather than look for new ones!

So, what should organisations consider when aiming to complement their employee learning and development strategy with overall business growth objectives?

Firstly, consider the learning culture that exists within the organisation. Last year, Mercedes-Benz committed to investing €1.3 billion in the learning and development of its staff by 2030, a clear signal towards the growing recognition of the importance of creating supportive environments for the development of today’s workforce. At an organisational level, there needs to be appropriate and effective structures, processes, and technology in place that are all aligned to encourage learning.

Secondly, it is important for organisations to position learning and development as an important strategic factor when considering business growth. Last year, almost three quarters of leaders reported that learning and development has moved more into the spotlight to get a seat at the ‘executive table’ in their organisation. In line with this, we see more and more companies creating Chief Learning Officer positions in their organisations to reflect its growing strategic importance.

Finally, identify where the skills and capability gaps are at each level of the organisation, and how an investment in learning and development can be better suited to help fill those gaps. This encourages a greater focus to be placed on developing rather than buying in talent from the labour market.

I believe the case is clear that L&D is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a necessity for success, engagement, and retention for today’s workforce. It makes good business sense as well.