The Importance of Learning and Development

Following a volatile two years, employers now face the perfect storm of issues related to rising business and living costs, a fierce war on talent, widening skills gaps and making hybrid working a permanent reality for those who want it. 

With so many different areas to focus on at once businesses may be forgiven for neglecting employee learning and development. However, with the impact of upskilling employees being so beneficial, it is vital that Human Resources departments continue to offer learning and development opportunities.

Living and working through the pandemic and dealing with the subsequent economic and social challenges has prompted individuals to prioritise flexibility and personal fulfilment. Organisations are re-examining business strategies, workforce models, values, and culture — often steered by new demands from employees themselves. 

Amid this era of massive transformation, learning and development (L&D) has a new mandate to become its best self. L&D leaders are being challenged to answer employees’ renewed calls for growth and purpose, while also grappling with the urgent challenge of future-proofing their organisations. 

Retention, retention, retention 

Demand for talent is consistently outstripping supply – we are constantly reminded that it’s an employee’s market. Some sectors are affected by severe labour shortages as the great resignation left a black hole where a talent pipeline used to be. 

Employee retention is now a competitive advantage. An employer’s ability to hold on to its talent — especially those with highly sought-after skills — underpins its ability to operate at an optimal level, and avoid the cost and disruption caused by employee turnover and the resultant drain on knowledge and skills

The cost – in time and resources- to replace workers is massive, meaning retention affects bottom line profits like never before. It’s a new fight for businesses and it’s one that’s being waged on a global battlefield. 

Learning and development strategies that align closely with business objectives are a great way to upskill, reskill and retain staff and a way of utilising all the skills available in an existing workforce. Filling skills gaps by reallocating human resources creates upwards or sideways movement, which provides new opportunities and offers fresh challenges for a workforce. 

Workforce agility 

While L&D has always been recognised as offering some added value, in times of belt-tightening, it was traditionally one of the functions to suffer most. Thankfully this outdated concept was changing before the pandemic with e-learning software a great enabler for distributing on-demand information, but the last two years have been an accelerator for one of the greatest business shakeups in living memory and as businesses pivoted to survive, they required a level of staff flexibility not seen in generations. 

While many businesses suffered periods of labour restriction and constraint, due to lockdowns and furlough, they found that they still had to offer a similar or even greater level of service. Some organisations enhanced existing products or services; some diversified and created new ones but often with far smaller workforces, bringing a reliance on greater workforce agility.

In broad terms, workforce agility relies on the number of individuals- or collective units –within an existing workforce that were able to pivot and apply their more generalist skills, knowledge and behaviours to different or even newly created roles within a business. 

The businesses that performed well in recent years, those that were able to thrive or pivot successfully and weather the storm, generally had a high level of learning culture already developed within their organisation that pre-dated the pandemic. Many demonstrated the benefits of having expert learning and development solutions that were able to identify gaps and apply solutions to create new skills to deliver new responsibilities. 

The new focus on L&D means learning leaders are knocking down traditional silos to collaborate on a more holistic vision for HR. They’re reaching for fresh solutions to align business objectives to skills gaps to career paths, internal mobility, and retention, while also bringing a new sense of care and humanity to employee well-being, diversity, and inclusion.

Unlock the potential of your team members 

Unlock the potential of your team members with an expert learning and development department.  

Learning and Development Apprenticeships will develop the skills and confidence needed to create an effective training framework that can be effectively implemented across your organisation. Working closely with Human Resources and other business functions, learning and development apprentices work closely with managers and senior stakeholders to identify ways to improve operational and organisational performance at all levels.