The learning & development department is an extremely rewarding place to work in any business. For us practitioners, the opportunity to have touch points throughout an organisation, to watch people genuinely grow in themselves and their own capabilities, and to make a positive contribution to a business’s performance really shows the value we bring to the business. So how do we make sure that the rest of the business understands the value that L&D bring to the table? And how do we make the case for learning & development activities to be viewed as an investment?
L&D as a cost
With a UK average of 4 training days per employee each year, workforce development presents business with both direct costs (IT, training, travel) and indirect costs (lost productivity, for example.) This can add up to a significant spend that companies need to account for.
According to the latest Employment & Skills Survey, UK business spent £44.2bn on training in 2017.
An organisation that views L&D with a cost mindset tends to focus on the numbers rather than the impact of any L&D activity. This can lead to a culture of “use it or lose it” which results in less than optimal L&D investment and makes it difficult for the L&D team to fully demonstrate their value. As has become evident through covid-19, in a recession, L&D can often be the first thing to go in these organisations.
L&D as value add
If we shift to a mindset that focuses on the value that can be brought by L&D, we start to recognise the importance of developing our employees and their capabilities to take our businesses out of difficulty or up to the next level. We start to recognise the impact that training and development can have, not only on capability, but on employee engagement, recruitment, organisational design, and employee retention. We start to recognise the impact learning & development professionals have on the performance of our business as a whole.
So how do we move from a cost mindset to understanding the value of L&D? We start by making a business case for learning and development….
Whether this is formally or through the demonstration of value, once you are able to present the business case for learning and development as a core enabler for business success, then the mindset shifts to view L&D as integral to the organisation.
For many other major business investments, creating a business case is generally accepted as best practice, so why not do the same for your learning & development activities? Pulling together a business case, no matter the size of the initiative, will allow you to present the benefits to the business of carrying out that activity, and why they should invest in it. A good business case will also allow you to demonstrate what the expected return on investment (RoI) will be, so that you can test and measure the activity and its effectiveness.
If you make it standard practice to justify your learning and development activity, this will have a really beneficial effect on the perception of it as an investment, and set the precedence of L&D being seen as a must have, rather than something that is a nice-to-have and can be cut when times get tough.
Mindset is incredibly important to many aspects of work, and how we view employee development is no different. If we start making the case for the great work that is being done by learning and development professionals throughout the UK, and fully understand the value this brings to the organisation, then we will make businesses much more capable and resilient in difficult times.