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The importance of learning and development within an organisation

A manager sitting down with an employee at a round meeting table looking at paperwork.

Chloe Holland, HR Manager at iHASCO, provides an insight into why employee learning & development is so important to help improve your organisation's performance and offers her advice about how to approach it. Her expert commentary featured in The Workplace Journal which we released earlier this year...

Why & how should business leaders aim to build, strengthen and instil a learning culture throughout their organisation?

There are many reasons why business owners and managers choose to place employee learning and development at a lower priority than other business objectives, from lack of time for staff to complete training to no available budget. However, there are proven benefits for a business that has embedded a learning culture. Ultimately it helps improve a company’s overall performance but it can also improve employee satisfaction and retention as well as help an organisation be more resilient in times of adversity. Therefore it is a worthwhile investment that can more than pay for itself. In fact, research suggests that top performing organisations are 5 times more likely to have a learning culture.

While a business leader may well be passionate about learning and development, in order to truly instil a learning culture throughout the whole organisation a robust strategy must be put into place. A learning culture cannot be achieved by just providing training opportunities to employees, although it’s a start it is more than that. Continuous learning must be instilled to keep employees engaged and motivated. A learning culture exists when employees seek to learn new skills and knowledge not only for themselves but to the benefit of their colleagues and their organisation. Learning and seeking improvement must be valued and a vision shared by every employee. If you are not there yet, be patient as it takes time to embed a learning culture.

If you are not sure where to start you can ask your employees what skills training they feel they need to support them not only in their roles but also for their development. It’s important that they take accountability for their learning, so involving them will help with this. Goal setting and reviewing progress is important, as well as creating a training plan. Allow employees time for their personal development, and encourage them to block the time out in their calendar, even if it is just half an hour each week. 

There are a variety of ways to support your employees with learning and development, whether through online training, coaching, cross-departmental training, seminars or even self-directed learning. Different people have different preferences when it comes to learning, which is important to be aware of. Also take into account your remote workers and part time workers, as they should also have learning and development opportunities available to them. 

You can also review what skills you want your employees to possess, and this may determine if there is a skills gap. For example, you may want to prioritise leadership skills or have identified an opportunity but need improved knowledge or a specific skill to be able to maximise its potential. This will then help dictate what learning and development is required. 

When it comes to health, safety and wellbeing, having a learning culture is incredibly important to ensure staff take it seriously and learning doesn’t just become a tick-box exercise. Of course it helps if the training is engaging and helps them relate the learning to their role.

It can be difficult to measure return on investment when it comes to learning and development, and it can take time to see the benefits. Observing employee behaviour, looking at Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and asking for feedback can all be useful measures.

If you want to strengthen your organisation and improve its performance, particularly as we come out the other side of the pandemic, as an HR professional, I would highly recommend that companies look at their learning and development strategy for their employees. Putting the needs of your employees first will help them develop and grow alongside your business.

The Workplace Journal includes further expert commentaries from specialists & established brands on a range of hot topics, to help you understand business challenges and priorities for the year ahead. Download your copy now!

The Workplace Journal 2022. Free downloadable report - covering important themes and issues for workplaces in 2022.