When I speak to companies about the greatest barrier to learning and development is that employees are too busy. They simply don’t have time.
And I have worked at busy places. It’s hard to make time for learning and development! When leading a team, helping your people carve out time to learn can feel like something that is impossible.
But it's worth it. I know it's worth it. Even when it feels like it's not. And when it feels impossible.
So I went on the thought exercise of imagining two companies on either end of the learning extremes. I took these extremes and tried to imagine how they might be different. How they might act, and compete. What their cultures would be like and what it might feel like to be an employee working there.
Come on this thought journey with me:
Company A: This company is perfectly invested in learning and development. This is unrealistic, I know, but just image. Here are some of the characteristics of their learning and development programs:
Company B: This company is doing absolutely zero learning and development. Every employee is busy doing their job but nobody is stopping to further develop their skills. No new skills are being introduced to the workforce. They are just turning the cogs of their business machine each day.
Continuing on this thought journey, let’s imagine what each company likely looks like across a number of criteria and how they are different:
Company A (invested in learning and development): Employees in this company would have up-to-date skills and knowledge relevant to their roles. As a result, they would be more adaptable and capable of handling changing job requirements.
Company B (no learning and development): Employees in this company might have outdated skills or knowledge gaps, making them less effective in their roles.
Company A: Encouraging continuous learning can foster a culture of innovation. Employees may feel empowered to suggest and implement new ideas, leading to greater innovation.
Company B: Without learning and development opportunities, employees may become stagnant in their thinking, hindering the company's ability to innovate.
Company A: Employees are likely to feel valued and engaged because the company invests in their growth and development. This can lead to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.
Company B: Lack of investment in employee development may result in disengagement, lower morale, and higher turnover.
Company A: With a workforce that continually upgrades its skills and knowledge, the company can stay competitive in a rapidly changing business landscape.
Company B: A stagnant workforce could struggle to keep up with industry trends and lose its competitive edge.
Company A: It's more likely to attract top talent because professionals often seek opportunities for growth and development. Additionally, existing employees may choose to stay with the company for longer.
Company B: Difficulty attracting and retaining talent can become a problem, especially if competitors offer better learning and development programs.
Company A: Employees are better equipped to adapt to changes, whether it's new technologies, market shifts, or organizational restructuring. Especially because with learning and development in place, there are systems to support change and learning new skills.
Company B: Resistance to change may be more common because there are not existing learning systems to support change.
Company A: Leadership pipelines are likely to be stronger, as the company invests in developing leadership skills at all levels.
Company B: Leadership development may be lacking, potentially resulting in a shortage of capable leaders.
Company A: The company may develop a positive reputation for investing in its employees' growth, which can attract customers and partners who value such commitment.
Company B: A lack of investment in employee development can lead to a negative reputation, which may affect customer trust and partnerships.
In conclusion, this thought experiment, comparing a company that fervently invests in learning and development with one that completely neglects it, may seem like an extreme scenario. However, it serves as a valuable illustration of the profound impact these choices can have on an organization and its workforce. In the real world, the realities often lie somewhere in the shades of gray between these extremes. Companies must carefully consider their unique circumstances, resources, and objectives to strike the right balance in their approach to employee development. Nevertheless, the message is clear: investing in learning and development can yield numerous benefits, while neglecting it can come with significant drawbacks. Finding the optimal path forward is the key to success in a constantly evolving business landscape.