• Clare Burlingham

Investment in a learning culture - is it worth it?

Spending on training and development is often considered discretionary. As such, it can be one of the first areas to see a reduction in spend when a business is going through tough times. An understandable decision, but is it a false economy? Can careful investment in learning and development actually save on spending further down the line?


The expectations an employee has about their company have shifted over the last 20 years. People are now very open to and indeed expect to change jobs multiple times in their careers. And this is an increasing trend as younger generations join the workforce. Research recently conducted by Gallup reported that 60% of millennials are “open to different job opportunities”.


Employers therefore do need to be mindful of what aspects of a role will keep people from moving on. Research has found that today many people value learning and development opportunities as highly as salary. Learning is seen as an ongoing thread weaving throughout our careers. While saving money on training may provide a short-term benefit, this must be weighed up against the cost of recruitment to replace employees lost to competitors offering development.


Furthermore, there is a direct link between the acquisition of technical skills and improved performance. Research undertaken by the RAIN Group Centre for Sales Research concluded that “effective training does indeed correlate with business results”. Thus a highly skilled workforce is likely to give a company a competitive edge leading to improved commercial results.


But this doesn’t have to mean expensive coaching for the top levels of your organisation. Supporting the development of those new to your company and in junior roles can help to lay strong foundations for building the right culture in your organisation. Instilling the desired values and behaviours early on can also help with succession planning. Remember that promoting from within is much more cost effective than external recruitment.


Consider too behavioural skills as well as technical. For example, your sales teams need to know how to listen well to your customers' needs just as much as they need to know how to use your new CRM system. Learning by doing can be highly effective at allowing teams to practice their new behaviours in a safe and supportive environment. And new skills that are regularly practiced are likely to quickly become second nature.


Given the year we’ve just had, morale and job satisfaction matter more than ever. It is important for employee’s own sense of worth to see themselves improving their performance, and to see tangible evidence of the high value they have to their employer.


Taking employees’ learning seriously can be a strong part of your employee brand. This can help to attract top talent to your organisation, and it is so much better value if the people you need find you, than when you go searching for them.


A culture of learning doesn't have to cost the earth when development is tailored to individuals and a range of training methods is utilised. The dearth of a culture of learning might infact cost you more.