Should Your Small Business Spend on L&D? 6 Reasons Why Your Employees Want You To

September 7, 2023

Are great employees found? Or are they made? More and more organizations are betting on that second option, setting aside resources for additional learning and development (L&D).

But should your small business or startup spend more in this area?

There's evidence that both employees and employers benefit from this investment. A recent study from TalentLMS and the Society for Human Resources Management found that 76% of employees want to work for companies that offer ongoing training. Meanwhile, the same data set indicated that almost nine out of 10 HR managers (85%) think this additional instructional support sets the stage for increased growth.

76% of employees want to work for companies that offer ongoing training.

However, there are potential downsides to consider. As a small business, you need to watch every penny. To decide whether L&D spending makes sense for you, you need to understand the pros and cons. This article will help you weigh the benefits against the costs of the process, as well as give some tips on how to get started.

What is L&D?

Learning and development, or L&D as it is often known, is a fairly straightforward concept. It means that you take steps to increase the knowledge and skill base of your employees. Through this strategy, you give your organization an educational component.

This has become a major goal of many organizations. In a competitive labor market, you need to get the most out of every resource, including the talent you already have on staff. No wonder employers have turned L&D into a $350 billion market.

Benefits you can gain from more L&D spending

An investment in L&D can improve your organization on many fronts at once. Here are some of the specific benefits you can expect:

  • Makes It Easier to Promote from Within
  • Builds a Leadership Bench
  • Spurs Innovation
  • Improves Retention
  • Enhances Your Employer Brand
  • Creates a Flexible Workforce
  • Helps You Prepare for the Future

Costs of L&D Programs

Even with all these upsides, L&D programs come with their share of costs. The biggest of these come on the financial front. You'll need to set aside funds to make these programs a reality. For a small business or startup, these expenses can make it difficult to pull the trigger on an extensive L&D commitment.

There are other downsides as well. For instance, these programs take time away from your day-to-day operation. It's an investment in the future, but you'll still need to sacrifice some near-term production.

Meanwhile, your selection process for L&D opportunities could potentially create jealousy or tension. To prevent this, you'll need to remain transparent about the process and stay consistent about your parameters.

Why do more employees want L&D

Research has indicated that career growth opportunities rank with salary as the top factors job seekers consider when weighing opportunities. Top talent is drawn to situations where they can accelerate their professional development. As such, these high-value candidates will seek out companies willing to invest in their futures.

Given this dynamic, offering L&D opportunities puts you in the front of the line for the best talent in the job market. Understanding the details of this appeal will help you build out your offerings and shape how you communicate it to your current staff and to potential hires.

With that in mind, here some of the specific reasons more employees want L&D investment:

Encourages Engagement

Both your employees and your organization benefit when your team gets excited about their positions. L&D encourages a higher level of engagement. It gives your staff another reason to get revved up for work.

Recognizes Talent

Everyone wants their work recognized. The more ways you have to reward hard work and talent, the better it is for the entire organization. Along with raises and promotions, L&D opportunities give you a chance to show appreciation for your best performers.

Improves Employee Experience

L&D chances can break up the mundane day-to-day routines that come with any job. It adds variety and provides a change of pace. Your employees will appreciate these opportunities to mix things up.

Fuels Career Momentum

No one wants to feel stuck in their jobs. Your team members want to experience forward momentum in their careers over time. Help them do this with abundant L&D opportunities.

Career growth opportunities rank with salary as the top factors job seekers consider when weighing opportunities.

Maintains a Future-First Orientation

Employees like to feel like they are part of the cutting edge. A commitment to L&D makes that palpable. Your team will benefit from the knowledge that their skill base represents the gold standard in your industry.

Contributes to a Strong Culture

A heavy investment in L&D contributes to an excellent overall environment. Your team will feel connected to the organization and to each other. As a result, you'll nurture a stellar corporate culture.

How to provide L&D on a budget

As we've seen, there are plenty of upsides to an aggressive L&D program. It can improve your organization over time and provide a critical incentive that employees want. However, you still need to develop a program that you can afford. Here are some steps you can take to set up a system that gives you the benefits you need while keeping the costs under control:

Make L&D a Priority

Upskilling your team takes a commitment. You need to devote energy and resources to the task. If you're serious about the strategy, develop a formal process to bring it to life.

Create a Budget and Timeline

Time for the nitty-gritty. Determine the specifics of your L&D program. Set aside funds to invest in development and create a timeline of how you plan to implement it.

Rethink Your Onboarding

Start your L&D commitment early in each employee's tenure. As soon as they join the organization, begin scouting for possible long-term development opportunities. Declare your commitment to ongoing training by setting a tone during the onboarding process.

Have a Process to Identify L&D Opportunities

How will you spot potential growth opportunities? What steps will an employee go through if they are interested? Figure out the details of your L&D program and make sure those specifics are communicated to your staff.

Build In-House Training Programs

To save cash, do what you can to avoid using expensive third-party programs. Create as many in-house resources as possible. This can include online manuals, guides, and training videos.

Set Up Mentorship Programs

Let your team members teach each other. Have veteran employees impart some of their wisdom to their less-experienced coworkers. By creating mentorship structures, you encourage organic development.

Use Group Training Sessions

Get more bang for your buck by delivering L&D upgrades on a bulk basis. Set up group lessons. This way, you can provide skill enhancements on a team-wide, or even company-wide, basis.

Look for Ways to Make Micro Improvements

L&D doesn't only need to consist of giant leaps forward. Small enhancements can add up to massive overall improvement over time. As such, set up systems to deliver more precise refinements and augmentations of existing skills.

Improving your small business with L&D

There are many benefits to offering L&D in your small business, both for you and for your employees. You'll get a more productive and innovative workforce, while they receive a better work experience and a chance to build their careers over time.

However, there are costs involved as well. As a growing business that needs to leverage every available resource, you need to think about how you can capture these upsides without undermining your budget.

With this article, you can begin to weigh whether L&D makes sense. If so, you can also use the information here to implement an affordable program that will let you get the most out of the effort.