Learning and development (L&D) has traditionally been associated with acquiring new skills to support a promotion, a pay rise or a change in career direction. But today’s workforce sees it as much more. Learning is becoming an essential component of company culture that leads to both personal and professional success for individuals as well as business growth.
Online learning, training courses, development programmes and activities all fall under the umbrella of L&D. Strategies for L&D in big companies (more structure, more resources) will differ from those in smaller companies where resources and budgets are limited. In small-to-medium companies, training may be less structured and learning more informal, but this does not mean it’s less meaningful or valuable.
In smaller, fast-growing companies, learning is often accomplished by ‘doing’. People are usually in less distinct roles, having to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills at speed, making them more adaptable and flexible. Not formal corporate training, more like on-the-job training, it’s a form of continuous learning that provides wider work experience and less ‘pigeon-holing’ than in bigger companies. It may be more intense and less predictable but it’s what makes smaller companies the workplace of choice for many people.
Practical learning comes in the form of regular one-to-one and team meetings where people are encouraged to be proactive in their response to problem-solving and reflective about challenges they are facing and how to overcome them. A form of social learning, it’s an opportunity for team members to develop active listening skills and an understanding of cooperative group dynamics. Coaching and mentoring support can also be something that happens between peers in small high-functioning teams. It not only supports individual learning but also builds company capacity and resilience.
However, social learning and ‘learning by doing’ aren’t the only ways for small businesses to provide L&D.
A culture of learning offers employees the chance to grow and develop as well as acquire a range of skills. It will attract new hires. Having a learning-centric culture is also linked to strong employee engagement. And engaged employees are more likely to stay with you. An effective, engaged and retained workforce is a competitive advantage. The benefits keep on coming.