How to Build a Business Case for Learning and Development Spend

Innovation, staff retention, and client satisfaction are inextricably linked to your L&D provision. You’re keen to know more and eager to pick a learning provider, but how do you build a business case for the spend? 

Keep reading to find out.

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

Innovation helps you stay ahead of the curve. It fosters growth, gives your organisation a competitive advantage, increases productivity and efficiency, and attracts and retains talent. In a survey of 800 UK business leaders, two-thirds said innovation was important to the success of their organisation. Over 4/5 executives considered their future success to be very or extremely dependent on innovation.

How does a business innovate? By encouraging a culture of curiosity, creativity and critical thinking and ensuring it has a clear vision. Link your learning to the organisation’s broader ambitions. With a rich and impactful L&D provision, employees learn to innovate, and the organisation embraces progress. Your workforce begins to ask the difficult questions, take the required risks, and collaborate for more effective results.  Struggling to justify the spend? Well, can your organisation afford to keep things exactly the way they currently are? Serial entrepreneur Bianca Miller Cole’s warning is clear: “Reluctance to innovate can crush a business, so don’t let it crush yours.”

Staff Retention

According to the Harvard Business Review, “In general, people leave their jobs because they don’t like their boss, don’t see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay).”

An improved L&D offering might not be able to rectify the third reason, but it can certainly impact how managers lead, how relationships are built, how a workplace culture looks, and how present growth opportunities are. 

Flexjobs found toxic company culture (62%) was a significant reason for people wanting to quit their jobs. CBS News found 59% of people were motivated to leave due to a lack of learning and growth opportunities. Indeed lists 11 reasons for people leaving their jobs, including looking for a challenge, job growth or career development, a better work-life balance, a more positive workplace, and wanting to feel more valued at work. The right L&D provision targets these issues and many more. Giving individuals autonomy over their learning, demonstrating they are appreciated and listened to, and providing content around well-being and workplace culture are all invaluable for talent retention, especially as engaged employees are 59% less likely to seek out a new job or career in the next 12 months. 

88% of people surveyed after completing a two-week Assemble You pilot said that what they had listened to had affected their decisions or behaviours. Impressive L&D resources can promote transformation across a business. 

Change is Inevitable

“Change is the only constant” - Heraclitus.

The world is changing, and there’s a lot of work to do to keep up. Clients’ and customers’ expectations change rapidly, and you want to do your very best to retain them. To be prepared for broader change, you have to be prepared to change.

Actor Milton Berle’s advice? "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." 

Writer and speaker April Rinne explains, “The future will not be more stable or certain. The future — whether that’s this afternoon, next week, next quarter, next year, or the next decade — is now defined by more uncertainty, more unpredictability, and more unknowns.”

So, prioritise initiative and resourcefulness and train your staff to anticipate change. Commit to learning that’s engaging and simple to access. Audio is an ideal solution if your team spends a lot of time travelling for work as 79% of people listen to podcasts while commuting.

A proactive approach is vital here, and it’s a real skill to be curious and prepare for the future. Providing the best resources means you can trust your team to thrive when (not if!) change happens. 

What’s Next?

If your organisation has already bought into these broad topics, how do you make a specific case?

We suggest examining:

  1. Engagement and impact
  2. Accessibility
  3. Value and ROI

Whatever L&D options you explore, consider whether individuals will use the resources and how easy it is for them to engage with them. Reflect on why exactly your organisation needs to spend on L&D. Do you need effective onboarding materials? Are you attempting to guide your team through change or introduce them to new policies? Do you hope to embed a culture of learning and growth? Try a pilot to test how well-received your new resources are (or could be). Ask employees what they think needs to be added to your current provision.

Consider what content your business needs, what your organisation’s goals are, and how your team prefers to learn. Are they desk-based workers experiencing screen fatigue? Do they travel a lot for work? Do they commute? Are they customer-facing? What do they engage with in their spare time? Find the best possible fit.

And finally, what’s the ROI? Are you retaining individuals who may otherwise leave if they don’t feel you cater to their learning needs? Could you create content yourself, and if so, how much would it cost? What existing knowledge and resources do you already have? Weigh up how useful they might be.

We’ve examined how impactful learning options allow you to innovate and stay ahead of your competition. We’ve discussed how instilling your team with the skills and motivation to be curious is essential for iterating and staying ahead. L&D links directly to retaining staff and fostering a sense of purpose and collective growth. Change is inevitable and 

You need to directly link a business case for learning to core business objectives. Commercial return is sometimes challenging to prove, but find existing stats, model the effect, and run pilots that test the impact. Replacing an existing method with a new, less expensive, better alternative is usually a more straightforward case to make compared with a brand-new initiative. However, link your initiatives to specific business goals, and the case will be more compelling.

Remember that learning engagement doesn't necessarily equal impact, so you need to thoroughly measure and think carefully about the impact your learning initiative is having.