By Sarah Pedder, Learning & Development Consultant, Thales Learning & Development

We live in a world where the vast majority of businesses understand that learning and development is a vital part of helping them utilise the increased skills of their employees in a way that ultimately saves them time and money and allows them to grow organically. However, surprisingly few companies know how to allow L&D to thrive within the organisation as a whole.

It is vital that as much importance is given to learning and development as other areas of the company, because employees that are offered the chance to grow and develop are not only more valuable to the company through furthering its ambition and working at highly productive levels, but also have less of an inclination to leave.

What changes can companies who are struggling to carve out a place for learning and development make?

Loosen the purse strings
A large factor here is budget: businesses might recognise that L&D is important, but cannot spare the money to ensure that it is given the treatment it deserves. 2014 has actually seen budgets stabilise — 30% of L&D budgets are expected to rise, while 50% will stay the same — but those 20% of businesses whose budgets have shrunk or been reallocated elsewhere really should try to at least maintain what they’re already spending on their L&D because, as seen above, it will save them money in the long run. When the average cost of finding a new hire is about £5,000, would it not make more sense to develop current employees and keep them on board?

Align L&D programmes to business objectives
A recent report said that 41% of businesses are failing to tailor their learning and development programmes to the overall objectives of their business, despite a general consensus that this is the most effective way to organise them. Learning should focus on areas that the business is not performing well in or want to expand into so that it is kept relevant at all times. This streamlines costs and ensures that the maximum return, financially and work-wise, is coming out of L&D initiatives.

Focus on hands-on learning
An important element of learning and development is the actual method used to develop employees. Different people respond in varying ways to different methods, so it is important to find the right balance. E-learning in the form of webinars, online tests, mobile or tablet games and so on are not considered to be particularly effective, while action learning in the form of simulations, training while on the job and specific coaching enables employees to get to grips with ideas and processes much faster. Companies should therefore try and focus on hands-on learning techniques as much as possible in order to increase the effectiveness of learning and development as a whole.

Improve the execution
The actual day-to-day execution of learning and development initiatives should also be scrutinised in order to save time and money on processes that might not be necessary. Give trainers and others involved with the training as much responsibility as possible so that the minimum number of people have to worry about it, and streamline every operation where you can to limit the amount of confusion and messing around that might occur if problems arise.