Blog Post

Why the ROI of Learning Shouldn't Be a Question

Cornerstone Editors

As companies increasingly recognize that an investment in learning directly impacts workforce productivity, satisfaction and performance, they are working to create and prioritize new educational and talent development opportunities for their employees.

In fact, in Deloitte's latest Global Human Capital Trends report, executives identified learning as the second most important organizational trend in 2017, with 83 percent ranking it as important or very important.

Employees recognize that they are in an era of lifelong learning, and that it is essential to continually develop and re-develop skills throughout their careers. Millennials, for example, prioritize the "ability to learn and progress" when looking at a company's brand, Glassdoor found. Despite this, only one-third of millennials think the companies they work for make good use of their skills, and 42 percent say they'll likely leave if they feel they're not learning fast enough.

With expectations high, one thing is clear: organizations must meet employee demands for learning in order to attract and maintain a strong pool of talent, instill a high-achieving culture and achieve business success. We spoke with Jim Lundy, founder and CEO of technology research firm Aragon Research, about why learning should be a priority for businesses, even in the age of job hoppers.

Have you noticed any stand-out trends that will define the future of work with regards to learning?

Artificial intelligence applications are definitely going to define the future. Apple, for one, has been talking about all of the things that Siri can help you do with your day. With regard to learning, we'll see the rise of AI-powered digital learning systems that can assist with day-to-day tasks. For example, an AI assistant might say "Jim, I see you've got a meeting today. Do you want to see your most recent reports to help you prepare?"

How much are companies budgeting for employee education?

If you go back to the early 2000s, organizations spent $100 billion a year on training content. In 2013, we estimated that they were spending $300 billion, and by 2018, we predict that the investment will grow to $600 billion. Why the big jump? Digital media and user-generated content. The challenge now, however, is that enterprises are not prepared to manage all that content.

Millennials have a propensity to job-hop—should companies still invest in learning, knowing that some of their employees might not be around in two years?

Job-hopping is not new, especially in major metropolitan areas. The difference is that now it's happening in smaller cities as well. The question then becomes: should you hire people that are already trained instead of investing in training? That approach can actually sometimes end up costing more, because trained people are more expensive to hire. And there's no guarantee that they won't leave, too.

You have to find a balance and say, 'If this is a great place to work, people are going to want to work here.' The reality is some places are not, so people will vote with their feet and leave.

Training expenses often end up on the budgetary chopping block. What would you say to organizations that want to cut training costs?

There's still a prevailing notion that the first expense to cut should be training, but training can't be a one-and-done effort. It has to be a continued investment. Business leaders are coming around to this realization. They don't wake up and say 'I have to spend more on learning,' but they're finding that if they can better understand employees' knowledge levels, they'll reach their desired outcomes faster.

Photo: Twenty20

Millennials, for example, prioritize the "ability to learn and progress" when looking at a company's brand, Glassdoor found.

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