2 Surveys = 6 ROIs: When Companies Invest in Learning and Development

Surveys suggest L & D investment meets workplace skills demand and earns solid ROI

Combine the results of two 2018 surveys, one by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Future Workforce Strategy and the other by LinkedIn on Learning and Development (L & D) and you can splice together an ROI opportunity that HR departments (and CEOs) around the world should embrace.   

The workforce agrees, training for soft skills is the #1 priority
The workforce agrees, training for soft skills is the #1 priority

Even 19th-century U.S. statesman Henry Clay, who claimed “Statistics are no substitute for judgment,” would agree that these findings should produce sound judgment about extending value, increasing talent retention and optimizing employee lifecycles.

The #1 challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning
The #1 challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning

Prefacing its statistics, the WEF declared:

The impact of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruptions on business models will be felt in transformations to the employment landscape and skills requirements, resulting in substantial challenges for recruiting, training and managing talent.

What’s coming to business will demand changes in all that which employees bring to a job, which in turn, will dictate to HR effective and new-talent recruitment and retention methods.

Soft Skills in Demand

It seems global businesses are keen to this cause and effect. About two thirds of WEF survey respondents report intent to invest in the reskilling of current employees as part of their change management and future workforce planning efforts, making it by far the highest-ranked strategy overall.

And what skill set are companies most keen about their workforce possessing and refining now and in the future?  

Soft skills.

Envisaged Workforce Strategies
Envisaged Workforce Strategies

Businesses prefer workers possessing attributes that beget harmonious interaction with other people, more than being able to navigate spreadsheets or configure virtual servers.

Despite Facebook’s championing the “open office” and  recent popularity – and dubious success – of team-building activities (Axe-throwing at the pub!), many workers seem to prefer insulating themselves to actually get work done. That is, until collaboration is made compulsory for a project. Then, employees must wield interpersonal aptitude, clear communication, and those qualities (e.g., empathy, humility, deference, etc.) that help a person articulate a company’s eco-system and productively work toward a common goal within a group.

So, it’s no surprise that 92% of executives polled consider having soft skills equal to or more important than possession of any hard skills. 92 percent! It would stand to reason, then, that developing soft skills would be advantageous for workers and companies, both.

Fortunately, the WEF’s survey indicates that across all industries, investment in reskilling current employees figures prominently as a future workforce strategy.

And that’s where LinkedIn’s survey on L & D trends comes in.  

Shifting Skill Set Demand Resolved by L & D

The surging U.S. economy has tightened the labor market. Qualified candidates for well-paying jobs are at a premium. The accelerated rate of technology adoption has shortened the shelf life of those once in-demand hard skills.  

What were bankable strengths a few years ago have become obsolete today. Install software from a CD? All it takes now is a download from the internet. Configure a cluster of on-premise servers? Just subscribe to a cloud host. Capably handle the nuances of generating an expense report? CakeHR software automates the process.

HR management software CakeHR
HR management software CakeHR

LinkedIn discovered that a shade more than 90% of executives polled consider L & D essential to attaining company goals and satisfying employees. The same percentage admit that developing the workforce – as new skills are needed – is critical to a company’s future.

Employees see it as crucial, too. Complementing the executives’ sentiment, 94% of worker respondents admit they could be retained longer if employers invested in their careers. Recognizing this current win-win, in terms of employee satisfaction and company goals, isn’t some sort of needle in the haystack, concealed from an HR admin.  

Executives acknowledge an inclination to invest in training. Employees identify that investment as an inducement for corporate loyalty and longevity. Their responses also indicate partiality to:  

  • an abiding preference to keep their skill set relevant  
  • a desire to capitalize on instruction that promotes growth and achievement
  • an opportunity to learn at work, resistant to taking time away from the job to learn new skills.

Might now be a good time for workers to refine their skill sets through L & D, and supply refined skills which executives seek (and admit their companies need)? That is, soft-skills.

While hard skills can be acquired through certified instruction (and on-the-job observation), the same can’t be said about soft skills. And unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of executives admit it’s even more challenging to recruit candidates with refined soft skills.

So, which soft skills have been identified as critical by a majority of C-suiters?

  • Leadership (65%)
  • Communication (65%)  
  • Collaboration (55%)

Invest in L & D. Collect a Tidy Return.

So, yes, now is the time that businesses should invest in willing-to-learn employees. Budgeting to build and implement effective employee training programs will begin to satisfy workforce demands to remain relevant and current in the workplace. Satisfied workers mean Human Resources spends less time both recruiting and off-boarding.

Whether you concede to statistics or judgment, any effective training program should address soft skills refinement – along with the accelerating hard skills gap that’s a natural upshot of the pace of modern technology used in business.

What’s the L & D return on investment for the executives and their companies? Here are six:  

  1. Employees will be retained longer and promoted sooner, assuming leadership roles more quickly than in the past
  2. Employees will experience increased job satisfaction
  3. Employees’ job performances and productivity will improve
  4. Business challenges will be overcome by motivated and engaged employees
  5. Less expense will be allotted for workforce turnover
  6. Company bottom line will thicken.

In its survey summary, the WEF echoed the significance of budgeting for L & D:

[A]s the rate of skills change accelerates across both old and new roles in all industries, proactive and innovative skill-building and talent management is an urgent issue. What this requires is a [talent development] function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table.

Ageing countries won’t just need lifelong learning—they will need wholesale reskilling of existing workforces throughout their lifecycle. Governments and businesses have many opportunities to collaborate more to ensure that individuals have the time, motivation and means to seek retraining opportunities.

Invest in L & D. Reap the ROI. Now.

Author Bio

Keith Craig is Content Marketing Manager for Better Buys. He has more than a decade of experience using, researching and writing about business software and hardware. He can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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