Adam Coleman, CEO of HRLocker, on the business case for providing learning and development opportunities.
Organisations must invest in learning and development to benefit their employees and the business.
HR leaders are a bit like investors. But instead of picking out the best stocks, they choose what investments the company should make in people. Every day, they invest time, money, and energy into ensuring employees can do their jobs to the best of their ability.
“Employers can’t always offer a salary that competes with the big shots, but there are plenty of other benefits that are equally, if not more important, to potential candidates”
Things like competitive benefits, up-to-date office tech, and ergonomic equipment come under the investment remit of an HR lead. One investment that isn’t spoken about enough, beyond basic competency training, is learning and development.
This is surprising, considering just how impactful it can be for all businesses. In a world short on skills and talent, learning and development is an excellent way for employers to stand out from the hiring crowd and help existing employees diversify their skill sets.
When you can’t find talent externally, being able to cultivate it internally is a superpower. Multiskilled teams can move freely around the business and cross-pollinate departments with the skills they’ve picked up along the way. It’s easier to plug the skills gap with your existing team when they have a breadth of knowledge and ability.
Whether it’s upskilling your existing staff, attracting new recruits, engaging your whole team or improving productivity, learning and development can advance every single one of these objectives.
Recruitment and retention
For fear of repeating what’s already been said, we’ll get this bit out of the way: top talent is scarce, and the skills gap is mighty—now, moving on to the positives.
Employers can’t always offer a salary that competes with the big shots, but there are plenty of other benefits that are equally, if not more important, to potential candidates.
Learning and development is a top priority for Gen Z, the next major demographic to join the workforce. So, if you aren’t nailing it just yet, now’s the time to start investing in your learning opportunities. Even if we take Gen Z out of the equation, employees of all ages and demographics are looking for development opportunities. They’re also more than willing to leave your company if you don’t provide them.
We don’t have to tell you recruitment is expensive. So, if you’re losing employees with your lack of development opportunities, building a strategy that makes learning a cornerstone of your culture will sustain your current workforce for longer.
But when push comes to shove, and you need to recruit, you’ll need a dazzling employer brand to stand out in the crowd. You probably already know what we’re about to say – that learning and development can help with this, too.
Nothing says ‘your career matters to me’ like actively providing opportunities for your employees to develop their capabilities. Maybe you’ll bring in world-class speakers, fund higher education, or simply create a mentoring program for peer support. Either way, learning and development elevates your brand, positioning your company as one that cares about and invests in the future of your people.
Ever met someone whose confidence was contagious? Maybe you watched them work a room or network with complete strangers. Confidence is extremely useful in business.
When you provide employees with the opportunity to develop new skills and refine their existing ones, they grow in confidence. The better they become at their job, the easier it becomes. It goes without saying that as they grow in skill, your business grows in capabilities.
For some employees, there may come a point where the job feels too easy; they’ve learned so much and ask –what’s next on the agenda? The answer–even more opportunities to develop!
Learning and development opportunities – particularly those in smaller focused groups (like talks and seminars) – facilitate better colleague relationships. They bond over shared learning experiences and provide invaluable mutual support. Employees who feel more confident in their roles are more engaged, and, as we’ve mentioned many times before, the key to high productivity is highly engaged teams.
The bottom line
If you can already find the skills you need within your existing workforce, you won’t need to hire as often. And we all know how expensive the recruitment process can be.
Learning and development makes filling gaps in your workforce easier, but it also means employees can move around the workplace more freely. By cultivating a team of multiskilled workers, you open doors to lateral movement and interdepartmental teams.
Individuals from one area of the business can take their ideas and abilities to other parts of the organisation. With this movement, employees learn even more from peers and replenish talent pools from inside the business.
Looking to the future, HR leaders can structure learning and development programs that meet the changing needs of the business and its employees. With the proper knowledge, your teams can tackle some of the biggest challenges companies face today – from the pandemic and climate change to digital skills gaps and talent shortages.
For a deeper dive into the benefits of learning and development, download our Employee Experience – Learning and Development white paper.