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Does Your Business Need Learning and Development?

A couple of weeks ago, one of our clients – a travel technology company with global operations – told our team something that we wouldn’t hear a few years ago: learning and development opportunities have become a key aspect of their retention strategy.

We have seen this becoming a trend amongst some of our clients. There is a unanimous feeling across the industry that learning and development (L&D) is the superpower of this decade.

While corporations have already made a significant investment in the implementation of L&D systems, the focus is not limited to large-scale business. According to a survey conducted by FT, mid-level companies are now anticipated to exhibit the greatest change in expenditure on executive training in the coming years. More companies are adopting the post of Chief Learning Officer (CLO). In fact, by 2020 65% of businesses studied in the LinkedIn Learning Report had a CLO in place, compared to just 19% the year before. L&D has become investment-worthy.

But this has not always been the case.

Ten years ago, L&D was something that businesses felt they had to do. Now, it is something they want to do. And that is the most seismic industry change.

Even in the nineties and noughties, in the years after the Investors in People accreditation became established in the UK, learning, and development were typically looked into with good intentions, but poorly executed – with a few exceptions. The cost-benefit ratio was unfavourably skewed, as poorly implemented annual training schemes delivered few results.

But new results-driven approaches to L&D that have seen learning integrated within the daily processes of businesses have shown what a cohesive L&D programme can bring.

Why has L&D become important for businesses looking to grow?

Investment in L&D has the potential to deliver wide-ranging business benefits. The fact that it helps to attract and retain talent is no secret. Equally, the potential to close skills and productivity gaps carries significant appeal. But there are other reasons why L&D is receiving such focus.

Initiating the right L&D programme can:

  • Build operational strengths
  • Empower people to deliver on company goals and strategy
  • Shape company culture
  • Create future leaders and ensure leadership standards
  • Enhance employee engagement and motivation
  • Implement consistency across the business

With the right focus, L&D can supercharge a brand’s ability to scale and grow, aligning employee capabilities with the demands of the business.

Ok, but is L&D for everyone?

One common misconception that many business leaders have is that L&D is a privilege of large corporations. The reality is that L&D is becoming even more of a key attraction for privately owned and sometimes family-owned businesses. These kinds of organisations can suffer from high staff turnover at mid and lower levels, with leavers often mentioning the lack of learning opportunities as one of the reasons why they are leaving. Similarly, the mostly millennial and gen-z tech-savvy workforce of start-ups increasingly demands support in the shape of learning resources, coaching, and personal development opportunities.

SMEs who position themselves as investors in people will stand out in the new world of work. And, importantly, L&D initiatives don’t have to blow the budget – we recently interviewed the head of people from mid-size tech scale-up who said that their most popular L&D initiatives are the most affordable ones: the ability to expense the costs of books and having on-demand access to career coaches. Employees don’t need (and don’t really want) a long list of optional courses to attend. They want to take learning into their own hands and consistently enhance their skills.

The role of L&D has undeniably evolved throughout the last decade. Perhaps particularly so since the advent of Covid-19, when people had more time to consider what they wanted from their careers. The widespread adoption of the Chief Learning Officer role is a testament to this change, demonstrating the value that is being placed on L&D and its role within the contemporary business.

For L&D to be effective, it needs to be responsive. It needs to align with the company’s purpose, and be able to stay up to date with the changing environment, evolving technology, and the demands of the business. Agility and flexibility are built into the foundations of every successful L&D programme. And that’s what businesses are now demanding as standard.



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