The True Impact of Learning and Development Programs

Dispelling myths, shooting down rumors, and setting the record straight on job training.

In a survey by The Harris Poll, 70% of employees say they’d consider leaving their current company for an employer investing in learning and development. The reality is, corporate learning and development programs and on the job training are not a luxury – they are a requirement.

For employers looking for better ways to attract high-level talent and retain their top performers, that’s a truth they can’t afford to ignore. Yet, there still seems to be significant resistance to giving professionals the tools they need to develop their skills.

In fact, 59% of professionals say they received no formal training and development for their current role.

It makes some sense, considering the sheer amount of noise surrounding this specific aspect of retention strategies. Some say it requires too much work and isn’t worth the time or money. Others argue it just gives their employees more leverage to jump ship once they’ve increased their professional value. And the rest believe a focus on skills development isn’t practical — that it’s a sunken cost that yields little return.

But that’s all it is: noise.

There’s no objective truth to any of the pushback.

So maybe if we can provide a little insight and perspective and help organizations understand the realities of the modern workplace, they’ll see that learning and development is more than just a hot-button topic or a passing fad. It’s a necessity, a surefire way to increase engagement, boost retention, and improve the bottom line.

Let’s look at the myths and false narratives surrounding L&D and see if we can find some real answers.

Myth # 1: Learning and Development Programs Aren’t Worth the Investment

Companies spend billions of dollars every year on advertising, messaging, and media content designed to capture the attention of the American workforce. They invest all that hard cash in aggressive hiring campaigns that pull out all the stops, hire recruiters, and take out ads. And they rent billboards that promise life-changing opportunities and competitive benefits packages.

It probably works, too, costing an average of $4,425 per hire.

But soon, the glitter fades, and employers are still left scratching their heads, trying to figure out why they can’t hang on to their best people or attract qualified candidates.

Nothing changes.

Yet, most senior-level leaders and decision-makers believe this is money well spent. And they justify the expense by looking at the number of clicks and eyeballs on a specific ad. Don’t get us wrong; data is data, and every percentage point has a story to tell. But it’s as if they forget that turnover, engagement, and retention rates are the only numbers that matter when trying to keep their teams fully staffed.

It stands to reason that if an organization can increase retention, it’ll ultimately spend less on recruiting for a revolving door of roles.

So wouldn’t it be wise to take a small chunk of all that effort put into recruiting and invest it in the development of current employees?

According to Training Magazine’s 2021 Training Industry Report, companies across all industries spent an average of $1,071 per employee on training costs; that’s $40 less per person compared to the previous year. More specifically, small companies (100 to 999 employees) decreased their per-person training expense by $245 per employee.

And now for the real kicker: Based on data from the Association for Talent Development, companies that offer training opportunities have a 24% higher profit margin compared to businesses that don’t engage in similar programs.

Myth # 2: Digital Skills Training Isn’t Practical

We still can’t figure out why anyone would question the effectiveness of self-paced, digital skills training. Of course, when online training was first introduced as an alternative to the traditional setting — overcrowded classrooms with uncomfortable chairs and monotone instructors — this method was understandably met with an overwhelming amount of skepticism.

And that skepticism was contagious, influencing educational communities and worming its way into the minds of employers across multiple industries.

But today? A lot has changed, and the data speaks for itself:

    • Digital learning can reduce the time it takes to learn new material by 25%-60% compared to traditional learning methods.
    • 76% of employees believe their companies should provide more digital skills training; only 44% said their employers currently do so.
    • 93% of top-performing organizations agreed that personalized learning helps employees achieve professional goals at faster rates.

But for the departments footing the bill, success isn’t only measured by the quality of training and its impact on each individual’s abilities. It’s also measured by the value L&D adds to an organization beyond career development. Can corporate learning and development programs actually improve retention? How about engagement? Employee morale? Does it boost productivity?

The answer is yes.

Retention

Over 70% of high-retention-risk employees will leave their company to advance their careers. That’s probably why retention rates rise 30-50% for companies with strong learning cultures.

Engagement

Employee engagement hinges on their professional development. When employees feel stagnant, they become disengaged, costing an estimated $300 million each year — according to Gallup. And, a corporate learning and development program fixes that. Other studies show that employees who feel like they’re actively learning and growing within their role are 21% more engaged than those who don’t have the same opportunities.

Morale

We can emphasize the importance of a strong corporate culture enough. More so today than ever before, employees want to work for organizations with values that align with their own. For many, these values often include personal and professional growth. Studies show that 60% of organizations (across all industries) with advanced upskilling solutions also have stronger corporate cultures.

Productivity

70% of employees state they do not possess the skills they need to become experts at their job. The result? Poor engagement and lower productivity. In one study, 67% of companies that offer concrete training opportunities recorded higher productivity and faster onboarding.

But maybe any lingering skepticism is actually a matter of trust. Employers don’t seem to believe their employees are willing or able to dedicate their time to learning new skills. To counter this, 77% of professionals surveyed say they would put in the effort to upskill and make themselves more employable if given the opportunity.

This apparent disconnect between employers and their employees may play a role in perpetuating this myth about the importance of having an on the job training program.

Myth # 3: Employees Are More Likely to Leave After Learning New Skills

Employee turnover is at an all-time high, and sometimes — to reduce attrition — employers will actually withhold corporate learning and development programs and opportunities. That’s because they’re afraid their employees will take all their newly sharpened skills and apply them in a new role at a new company. It’s a valid concern, particularly when considering the intense competition level for top job candidates.

But the reality is that this belief couldn’t be farther from the truth about on the job training programs.

Turnover and retention studies show that a lack of learning and development opportunities — not salary or perks or benefits — ranks highest on the list of reasons people quit their jobs. In fact, 93% of Millennial and Gen Z professionals expect their employers to provide some level of on-the-job training, and they’re willing to quit their jobs to work for organizations with a solid training program. For most professionals, training and development is a non-negotiable, and 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if their employers invested in their career training and development.

Make Learning and Development a Priority

There’s just no getting around the fact that when the growth, training and development of people is engrained in organizational culture, employees become stronger, more efficient contributors who are highly motivated and productive. And the impact on turnover, engagement, and retention is difficult to overlook. The bottom line looks better, too.

The lesson?

If your organization doesn’t provide consistent learning and growth opportunities, employees will take their professional development into their own hands by seeking employers who do.

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