I recently went to the World of Learning (WOL) exhibition at the NEC. A question posed was ‘is the future training or learning?’ Given the title of the exhibition it was reassuring that almost everyone answered Learning. However, these were all people involved in learning and development; many others might ask what the difference is and why it matters. As the world changes, business changes and has to face new challenges. So, traditional roles and responsibilities also have to change; people need to constantly learn and develop new skills throughout their working life. Apart from new technologies, Managers need to manage in different ways and Leaders need a wider variety of skills than ever before. In addition, with the compulsory retirement age being abolished there is an increasing need to recognise the various needs and expectations of different generations in the workforce.
Of course in difficult economic times training is often one of the first casualties because it is seen by some as a cost and its value underestimated. However, effective learning should be seen as an investment because it should improve performance. An improvement in performance might result from new/improved/updated skills, higher morale, better team working or improved customer relations – to name but a few aspects.
So how can business meet the learning and development needs of its people when money is tight? Firstly, carry out a learning needs analysis to understand what knowledge and skills are needed to meet your business plans and customer requirements. Then, compare this to the current knowledge and skills, identifying gaps. Remember that learning can be achieved via many different means so consider different options for filling these gaps. Having a learning culture throughout the business does not have to be disruptive or costly and everyone in the business can contribute and benefit.