I’m a self-confessed learning nerd. There. I’ve said it.
This carries a few noticeable symptoms. Waterstones is like cat-nip. I can’t walk past a white-board without drawing a diagram for whoever’s in close proximity. And every January when the learning and development tips and trends for the year ahead are released, I can’t help getting excited – what magical new insight has someone come up with?
As you can imagine, the tingle of excitement doesn’t last long before it’s replaced with the dawning realisation that this year’s version is, yet again, just a reworked effort of the last ten years. With new buzzwords.
However, it’s time to grasp the nettle. Every new and swanky L&D trend seems to serve no purpose other than to distract us from what’s really important. We’re losing sight of the thing that makes the biggest difference to the organisation – the thing that, right now, businesses need their L&D teams to do this more than ever. I’m talking about increasing profit.
I’ve spoken to several CEOs of multi-million pound organisations recently. They’re all telling me the same thing – that, in their opinion, their L&D teams are too reactive and get too caught up with ‘tick-box’ training (which is always going to be an investment made begrudgingly).
Wouldn’t you prefer your CEO to see learning and development as part of the solution?
Of course! So, my top tip for 2023 isn’t to invest in VR or move your entire learning suite to the metaverse. It’s this:
Focus on developing the skills of your people that will have the biggest impact on the profitability of your business.
I know – this isn’t some new-fangled thinking. It’s not even a reworked effort of the last ten years. In fact, this has been around for hundreds of years. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Cue an analogy…
Imagine for a moment that there was a football team that decided not to develop the skills of their players for a year. There would be no training, no coaching, no fitness assessments – nothing. What would happen if the players’ only chance to use their skills was when they played a match?
That team would be terrible!
They’d never have the opportunity to practice their skills in a safe environment, discuss tactics or work out where improvements could be made. They’d never be able to develop their teamwork or understand their strategies. They’d never develop an understanding of what they’d need to do to win. They’d be unconsciously incompetent. And the results? Well. they’d be less competitive, lose matches, drop divisions; and the fans would become disgruntled – eventually turning their backs on the team for not investing in the skills required to win.
How long has it been since you focused on developing the skills of your team? If the answer’s that it’s been too long, then you can at least take some comfort in not being the only one. Most businesses throttle back on skills development when times are tricky. In fact, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts released data in December 2022 showing that “average expenditure on workforce training per employee [has fallen] from £1,710 in 2011 to £1,530 in 2019”. And this doesn’t take inflation into account. The same report went on to state that “the 2021 employer skills survey found that 52% of the total workforce had received some training during the year, which is the lowest proportion since the first survey in 2011”.
Only 52%? Wow! We neglect the skills of our people all the time, and when we do, teams and businesses stagnate. This, in turn, means businesses are less effective, competitive and profitable.
So, if you want to have a significant positive impact on the profitability of your business in 2023, identify the skills that make the most tangible difference to that profit, and invest in developing them in your team. You know it makes sense, don’t say I didn’t tell you!
Now, where did I put those white-board markers?
Eric is one of Popcorn’s co-founders and directors. He’s developed numerous learning and development strategies and managed large L&D teams for several corporate employers in a career spanning over 25 years. His actions have generated many millions of pounds worth of revenue for the organisations he’s worked with. He also likes bacon, butter, and any mealtime opportunity to combine the two.