Future of corporate learning

Corporate Learning & Development (L&D) is an essential part of any company. It covers everything from employee training to personal development as well as professional development. 

There is huge value in this; more developed employees can be more productive and innovative and this therefore optimises the company as a whole. The numbers back this. 

Just in 2019, PwC carried out a global survey of CEOs, bringing to light the urgency of such an issue. 79% said that they were concerned about the availability of skills, and 55% of CEOs cited issues with innovation as a result of a lack of the availability of skills. Additionally, 46% of CEOs agree that upskilling is the best way to close this skills gap.

However, it’s never good to just blindly trust numbers; so I went ahead and tried to verify this. Speaking to the global head of marketing at Zespri, she confirmed all of this. From our brief chat, two things stuck with me:

  1. A lot of senior positions like her own were being filled by employees coming from other large companies with robust learning programs; locally trained employees struggle to compete for those positions under a poorer learning program.
  2. Learning and development is always the first thing to be left behind when a company gets in a difficult position.

I also spoke to an employee in a more junior position who is subject to all of this. He’s a junior software engineer at the moment, but he’s previously worked in other industries and only recently transferred into software engineering. I asked him about his overall experience during his various jobs and how the L&D was for him. He gave me three key takeaways:

  1. Yearly reviews – “not the most effective”
  2. “Wellness programs should be further improved”
  3. “There’s more self-learning than provided training”

It optimizes companies, increases employee retention which has positive impacts and helps accelerate (or at least not slow down) innovation. There is clearly an issue here.

Take a look at a great case study: Unilever.

A global leader in the FMCG space, Unilever has an incredibly robust L&D program and this is visible in how former unilever employees excel after having spent early, formative years under the large MNC. The previously mentioned Global Head of Marketing at Zespri was actually trained at Unilever herself and noted that senior positions are often filled by former Unilever employees as they are significantly better-trained.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ve grossly oversimplified their compressive L&D strategy down to three key elements:

  1. Leadership programs (among other programs) – Unilever helps partially, or fully fund their employees attendance in third party programs and even holds some internal ones
  2. Reviews – Extensive, comprehensive reviews
  3. Accountability & Metrics – In Unilever’s case, they use skills trees specially designed for specific teams which help track employee development and significantly contributes to the accountability of the system as a whole, particularly on a micro/individual level which is often more difficult.

If you’re an employee, maybe next time you should look for a company with a better L&D strategy as you’ve seen, that really makes a difference in your future and there are countless benefits in investing in yourself. If you’re a manager or have your own company, what does your L&D strategy look like right now? Is it robust? Is it future-ready? The effects of a lack of efficient L&D were shown earlier; it causes very tangible detriments to your company. With that in mind, if you’re maybe you should make it better to attract better employees too? Furthermore, you can better develop employees in junior positions to take up more senior positions in your company as the company grows instead of hiring from outside, employees who spend a long career rising and growing alongside the company believe in the company and its mission much more than an employee who has just come from another company to fill a senior position.

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