Sitting in the middle of cost-of-living crisis, enduring its seemingly never-ending impact, business leaders know as well as anybody the reality and real-time impact it is having on both financial and human capital.
Whilst it’s a natural reflex reaction to protect the business bottom line by curtailing “non-essential” spending, there is a very good case to resist the propensity to reach for the laptop and delete the budget line for this year’s learning and development (L&D) provision.
Keeping a tight grip on today’s escalating operational costs, as well as one eye on investing in future growth, is always a balancing act in any business. So it’s no surprise to read in the recent 2023 Q1 Labour Market Outlook report that the number of employees that received off-the-job-training has fallen to a two-decade low at 6.9% in late 2022.
But in a labour market that’s tighter than ever, organisations still need to seek opportunities to build, invest, and capitalise on their talent. Yet research by IMC found that 92% of job candidates use L&D opportunities as a deciding factor when considering job offers, and 52 percent of employees had left a role due to lack of personal or professional development opportunities. This strongly indicates that talent development is an essential ingredient to attracting and retaining staff.
No matter the size of your organisation, Learning and Development is key, so this begs the question: what should employers be focusing their L&D efforts on?
For one thing, keeping pace with technological change. This is an ever-present challenge for any and every organisation, currently emphasised by AI and its exponential shift into everyday life and the promise of the ‘future of work’.
Whilst for many businesses AI may seem a little like “jam tomorrow”, with technology continuing to accelerate and AI's potential expanding, akin to the emergence of smart phones in 2005, the limitations of today will give way to ground-breaking advancements. Focusing on and enabling your organisations talents and applying their strengths to keep pace and capitalise on the tech advancements is a major factor in business development.
By shifting the focus of learning away from rigid competencies to a “business context focus”, employers are ensuring that the skills being developed within an organisation are in-step with business and environmental developments.
When considering the delivery of learning and development solutions, agility and flexibility are key enablers needed for any organisation to maximise its learning opportunities. Embracing a blend of “learning channels” whilst taking advantage of the wide availability of (internet-based) learning resources means learning can become more self-directed and more easily meet needs across the whole organisation.
Whilst there is a natural predilection to focus on academia as a development solution, one of the most effective development tools sits within an organisation itself. Experience-based learning provides ideal career development opportunities through gaining experiences needed to excel in a specific role or function.
By default, the outcomes needed to prove competence are already defined within a role or a project, it just requires a constructive approach and managerial support to capitalise on learning by exposure.
In a similar vein, another proven form of L&D is the provision of opportunities for in-person mentoring and shadowing. Today, learning by proxy is often overlooked in favour of visual and auditory learning. However, with the rise of hybrid and remote working models, employees are spending less physical time with each other and the natural learning “osmosis” apparent in a physical work environment has waned.
Restructuring the hybrid working environment can enable organisations to easily capitalise on the depth of experience held within it. One such way of doing so is by promoting a ‘learning in the flow of work (LITFOW)’ mindset.
This learning habit comes from the idea that employees can find solutions and answers to things by using the resources they have e.g., asking colleagues or using search engines (and now AI technology).
In an age of having information at our fingertips and working outside of the office, employees are given the space and opportunity to LITFOW. The key to doing this is actively coaching a LITFOW mindset, guiding and highlighting the correct resources available to employees.
For development needs that require a more structured academic basis to enable progression, another often overlooked opportunity for enabling career progression is, dare I say it, an apprenticeship!
Now before you scroll on, consider that today’s apprenticeships cover pretty much every business sector and education levels up to level 6 (degree level). Accordingly, they are available for any age 16+ (whether you’re 16 or 62, you can still start an apprenticeship), and in case you’re still not convinced, of the 195,600 apprenticeships started in 2023, 41% (82,130) of those who started were over the age of 25.
Aside from the vastly improved quality, one of the main reasons for many small to medium sized organisations to start apprenticeships is that you should only have to pay (up to) 5% of the total training cost, with the rest funded by government grants. This makes apprenticeships a great value form of development for the staff you need to upskill.
Even in these cash-strapped times, investing in L&D is an incredibly effective way of protecting and growing your organisation and its talent. Not only does it build learning mindsets into the fabric of your workplace culture, it also enables you to attract, develop and retain the talent you need.
To discuss L&D strategies in more detail, please get in touch with me at email@example.com