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Are companies still investing in training and if so why?

For some organisations a Learning and Development strategy will seem like an irrelevant concept. It’s not something they’ve ever done and the benefits may seem long term at best and non-existent at worst so it’s not something they would start investing in, especially not in the middle of the recession.

Apart from not believing there’s economic benefit to having a Learning and Development strategy and providing learning plans for employees, there are other reasons why SMEs might not bother implementing a Learning and Development strategy:

    • if additional or different skills are needed the organisational culture might be to hire new employees rather than recruit internally;
    • some SMEs might expect employees to be responsible for their own development; if an employee wants training enough they can pay for it themselves.
    • investment in training might be seen as a waste as employees who have had training might leave the company.

These are all legitimate concerns by SMEs and the aim here is to provide counter arguments to each of those concerns.

What is the economic benefit to having a Learning and Development strategy?

In an Institute of Directors report from 2009 entitled “Training in the recession: winner or loser?” the following economic benefits were identified in the survey (there were 937 respondents and the percentage is as a percentage of 937):

    • improved staff morale (76%);
    • improved productivity and/or profitability (74%);
    • improved customer satisfaction (69%);
    • improved staff retention (62%);
    • 37% believed investing in training resulted in improved market share;
    • 21% that it improved staff recruitment.

Survey respondents highlighted that although training budgets hadn’t necessarily been a target in the recession, the budgets had been affected in terms of the type of training on offer and the delivery methods.

“The financial pressures of the recession have forced many organisations to adapt creatively when balancing their strategic focus on skills against the requirement for improved efficiency. Directors are looking extremely hard at the value-add and immediate business relevance of training. If it is ‘different this time’, then the reason is arguably to be found in the innovative approaches employers have adopted to keep the training show on the road at a time of acute strain on cash flow and balance sheets.”

Should new skill requirements be met by staff hired externally and should employees be responsible for their own development?

The attitudes that additional skills needed by an organisation can be hired in and that employees should be responsible for their own development are short term attitudes that will mean your company ends up with a disparate group of people who show no loyalty to you or your organisation.

Staff morale will suffer and ultimately so will productivity.

It will also create an ever decreasing circle as good employees will fund their own training and will move on to greener pastures. Your organisation will be left with staff who show lack of initiative.

Is that the workforce you want for your organisation?

Is investment in training a waste as employees who have had training might leave the company?

This is of course a legitimate concern and it will happen. However, good candidates will expect to see training on offer as part of any package offered to them.

If your organisation doesn’t have a good L&D strategy in place, it could act as a competitive disadvantage. You won’t attract the best candidates and they will go to your competitors.

On several levels then the absence of a L&D strategy would become a competitive disadvantage. Not only will you not attract good candidates and you’ll be left with a workforce lacking initiative but your competitors will have a much better workforce. How can you compete on that basis?

The aim has to be for your organisation to put a Learning and Development strategy in place, however basic.

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