Learning and development or L&D has always been one of the primary functions of the human resources (HR) department. However, the role of HR learning and development has become even more crucial as the world continues to emerge from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.


L&D in the Face of COVID and the Great Resignation

 When the pandemic hit and companies had to shift to remote working arrangements, employees realised they could be just as productive (if not more productive) working from home as they were while working in the office.

Empirical evidence supports this. An employee productivity monitoring software data shows employee productivity is higher by 5% when employees work from home. Likewise, a Becker Friedman Institute working paper indicates that the majority of employees feel they are more productive working from home.

hr learning and development
Image by pressfoto on Freepik

The study tallied 30,750 survey responses from employees collected from 2020 to 2021 and found that:

  • 59.5% felt more productive than expected
  • 26.7% deemed their productivity was about the same
  • 13.9% thought they were less productive than expected

Once workers realised they were as productive working remotely as (if not more productive than) they were when they worked in-office, they started making the opportunity to work from home a firm criterion for deciding on their employers.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) surveyed 52,195 respondents employed or active in the labour market in 44 countries and territories in its Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022

The study reveals 20% of employees are likely to switch employers in the next 12 months. Autonomy is a vital factor, with 50% and 40% reporting the ability to choose when and where they work, respectively, as crucial to considering a change of employment.

Rippling also commissioned a study of 2,000 remote and hybrid employees in the United States. The results indicate 35% will only consider a job if it includes an option to work remotely. Additionally, 76% will apply to a role outside their industry if the position is fully remote.

These studies tell you that employees are less bound to their employers than one might think (thus the one in five resignations revealed by PwC’s report), and that many will consider only employers that offer the option to work remotely.

This does not bode well for enterprises. A report by McKinsey shows 87% of companies worldwide are aware they have a skills gap or will experience one in just a few years; the one in five resignation predicted by PwC’s report only exacerbates the problem.


What does this mean for employers? 

The indisputable resolution is that they must offer remote or hybrid working arrangements. The less obvious conclusion, however, is that employers must provide other benefits to improve their competitive advantage in the job market.

One way companies can become more competitive is to invest in extensive and impactful HR learning and development initiatives.

HR L&D’s Role in Attracting and Retaining Talent

Training equips employees with the skills they need to effectively perform their roles (with the ultimate goal of increasing productivity). This is the primary reason learning and development programmes exist.

An IBM Smarter Workforce study surveyed employees in the best-performing and worst-performing companies. Eighty-four per cent of employees in the first group reported receiving the training they needed to perform their current job effectively. In contrast, only 16% of employees in the second group could say the same thing.

However, L&D has now become one of the criteria by which employees evaluate prospective employers.


1. Upskilling opportunities mean competitive job offers.

A survey by Gallup for Amazon revealed that 65% of U.S. workers believe employer-provided upskilling opportunities are a significant consideration when evaluating a potential role. Furthermore, 48% say they will switch jobs if skills training opportunities are on the table.


2. A robust learning and development programme enhances brand reputation.

Aside from directly figuring in an employee’s evaluation of a job offer’s merits, an organisation’s learning and development programme also indirectly influences a company’s attractiveness to prospective employees.

A company that actively and significantly invests in upskilling its workforce can create and enhance its brand. In particular, a strong learning culture can make an organisation a great place to work. It is, after all, a company that heavily invests in the well-being of its employees.

This is important because if an employee must choose between two companies with almost equal pay and benefits, they’ll probably choose the company with the better image. 

The PwC survey earlier mentioned says 60% of employees believe the degree of care a company shows for their employees’ well-being is an important consideration when thinking of switching companies.


3. Learning and development improves employee retention.

TalentLMS and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed employees and employers to understand HR learning and development sentiments. Their research reveals that employees (76%) are more likely to stay if a company provides continuous upskilling.

Likewise, Better Buys researched the effect of professional development on employee engagement and retention. Its results say employees with professional development have 34% higher retention rates.

Employees who get upskilling training are naturally more effective at their jobs. This can be both empowering and fulfilling. Such employees are more likely to feel their job has meaning and their role has a purpose, so they’re less likely to consider changing employers. 

PwC’s report says a quest for meaning is a definite consideration when employees are thinking of changing jobs.

Employees who get professional development opportunities are also more engaged. Better Buys’ research says such employees are 15% more engaged. Deloitte, in an article published in Deloitte Review, confirms this. Specifically, Deloitte says organisations with a robust learning culture have 30-50% higher engagement and retention rates.

Finally, upskilling and training enhance a company’s brand or present a positive corporate image. This can make a company stickier to its employees.


Learning and Development: A Crucial Business Strategy

The pandemic has taught employees (and employers) they don’t need to be in the office to be productive. This has made workers more selective about their jobs, even going so far as resigning to fulfil their need for autonomy.

This has exacerbated the skills gaps that organisations are already experiencing. If companies are to resolve their talent shortages, they will have to hire more talent and keep the employees they already have.

This is why a company must invest in its HR learning and development initiatives. 

Not only do these work to align employee skills with the company’s business objectives. A robust training, upskilling, and professional development culture also makes a company more attractive to prospective employees and improves its brand reputation, and ability to engage and retain talent.