Learning and development is a critical component of a successful organization. However, leaders all too often neglect L&D because they fail to understand just how it slots into achieving mission-critical goals and objectives. Understanding the five-fold strategic role of learning and development within your business will not only help ensure that L&D initiatives are seen as priorities, but will underscore their interconnectedness with all other areas of the business.
It Occupies a Central Position
Learning and talent development sits at the center of five areas or functions that are crucial to business performance, longevity, and its ability to compete within an industry or vertical. This position also means that L&D supports other key business priorities, including retention of key talent, employee engagement, and even building a robust brand. Failure to recognize the importance and centrality of L&D to an organization’s success will short-circuit the very efforts leaders undertake to foster growth and profitability. We will explore all five of these areas below in greater detail.
Attract and Retain Top Talent
Without the right talent in place, no business can thrive. It doesn’t matter how compelling your USP might be, or how much better your product is than your competitors’ offerings. Without people, there is no business. Therefore, it follows that attracting and retaining the right people is central to achieving growth and stability.
The problem is that employers that the traditional focus of L&D has been on making people more productive. While that is important, it is less so than ensuring overall employability. The dramatic shift in American employment that began a few decades ago – with employees previously working for a single employer for many years, or even their entire career, now being retained only as long as they can provide value to that employer – has come full circle.
Today, workers seek out opportunities with employers that allow them to grow their skills. For that reason, most people prefer to work with companies that offer them opportunities for learning and development. On the other hand, a significant number of people leaving their employers cite the lack of opportunities to grow and evolve as a motivating factor.
A robust learning and development initiative is central to being able to attract and then retain top talent, regardless of industry, niche, or business size.
Motivate and Engage Employees
Engagement – it’s an ephemeral, difficult-to-measure metric, yet absolutely critical to employee performance and business success. Likewise, employee motivation underlies an organization’s ability to compete and succeed. Without L&D, employee engagement and motivation dwindles. Why, though?
Without new opportunities to learn and grow, employees are not challenged. In fact, without those opportunities, the result is stagnation. Lifelong learning is one factor in engendering happiness. Workers without access to learning and development opportunities become disconnected, demotivated, and disengaged. Conversely, with a strong L&D initiative, employees can routinely challenge themselves, master new skills, grow, and improve their happiness.
The result? An environment where motivation and engagement are high, employees rate their level of happiness as consistently high, and bolstered engagement and motivation.
Build an Employer Brand
A great deal of focus goes into the customer-facing side of a company’s brand. That’s natural. Customer perception is one of the most crucial factors in building lasting success. A well-defined brand helps a company stand out from the crowd, and lends itself to the products or services on offer. Take Apple as an example – the company’s brand is clearly embodied not just in its marketing efforts, but in the very design language of its products. However, that is just one facet of ‘brand’. It also connects with the other side of the coin – your employees.
Today, there is an ever-shrinking talent pool. Baby Boomers are retiring from the workforce in growing numbers. Gen Xers and Millennials now make up the core for most businesses, with Generation Z coming close on their heels. The need for a strong employer brand is greater now than at any point before the 1950s.
With a shrinking pool of talent, employers must now compete for the cream of the crop. A strong employer brand, supported by a robust L&D initiative that ensures employees have the opportunity to learn, grow, and move up within the company, can be a major differentiator here.
Create a Values-Based Culture
Business culture is under greater scrutiny than ever before. With an increasing need for diversity, inclusion, and equity for all, coupled with the increasing global interconnectivity of businesses, it has never been more important to create a values-based culture. A strong L&D initiative is the foundation of that.
Learning and development initiatives play a central role in establishing corporate responsibility, how businesses give back to local communities, and more. With a values-based culture, it becomes possible to achieve other goals, such as strengthening your employer brand and attracting and retaining top talent.
Develop People Capabilities
Knowledge becomes outdated at a faster and faster pace today. Old ways of doing things are replaced by newer, faster, (usually) better ways quite regularly. Learning and development initiatives are key in enabling your people to develop new capabilities and keep up with those trends. Failure to implement a robust L&D initiative can result in the inability to compete simply because knowledge and processes within your business are out of date.
The other side of this coin is that by providing learning and development opportunities, you also invest in your people. You help them develop their capabilities (which ties into motivation and engagement, talent retention, and so much more).
It’s Time to Invest in L&D
As you can see, L&D plays a central, strategic role in business success. Without a robust L&D strategy and key supports, such as a modern LMS, it becomes infinitely more difficult to engage and motivate employees, and attract the talent you need for growth and success. At eLeaP, we understand how central L&D is to growth and designed our LMS to deliver key capabilities, ease of use, and to tie into your employer brand. Contact us today to learn more.