Australia has a A$35 billion learning snag and we’re all ‘too busy’ to fix it

Declining participation in workplace learning programs is costing the Australian economy more than A$35 billion a year because “we’re all too busy” trying to manage workloads and hit deadlines, according to one of Australia’s leading workplace analysts. Our accelerated work environment is driving lots of work in progress, multiple deadlines and overwhelming us. 

We’re seeing this on a regular basis. People are unable to learn in the workplace because they simply don’t have time and it’s a very common pain pointAlso, at the end of a demanding workday, many people just don’t have the energy or mindset to take on extra learning and development. As a result, this ‘busy-ness’ means many people don’t have the time or mental capacity for learning and development and this is hurting both businesses and employees.

A study conducted by the Association for Talent Development found that companies who invested in formalised training experienced a 24 percent higher profit margin than those who did not. Training results improved productivity, employee engagement and retention. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Aussie firms generated gross operating profits of A$147.7bn for the year to December 2022, so this “lack of learning” is potentially costing the economy A$35.5bn per year. Investing in employee development is vital to success no matter the industry or company size and also applies to businesses worldwide. 

Improving learning and development in the workplace

It drives the bottom line for firms and provides a major benefit to employees who feel more engaged in the workplace. The people and firms that learn the fastest win in this amplified pace of change. Here are five ways to improve learning and development in the workplace: 

Develop a plan when people are most receptive to a future state

This is often at the start of a new year, or a new role or project. Employees can leverage this mental space to get clarity on what they can learn to develop their skills. Learning can also be a mixture of formal training, podcasts, webinars, online master classes. 

Follow through

Ensure that any training and development is not just a one-off exercise and is applied in practice on a regular basis so that it is not simply forgotten within weeks. Regular leadership support check-ins can be established monthly and quarterly to show progress. 

Put your hand up

Employees need to have the confidence, or be given it, to outline what they believe will be beneficial, with the caveat that it produces tangible benefits to the business.  

Be disciplined

Stick with the learning and development programs and make sure they have a high priority attached. Set hours or days for learning and only break this if a higher priority task arises.  

Encourage collaboration

For the best results, create opportunities for employees to learn from and with each other and create teams if they are learning similar skills. This could include team-based learning projects, peer-to-peer mentoring, or cross-functional training initiatives.

Final thoughts

Also, remember that simply holding a one-off training session is pointless if there is no follow up application of that training. Studies have shown that 80% of training is forgotten after one week so if you’re doing these one-off sessions, you’re basically paying for disengagement. 

This knowledge needs to be applied on a regular basis and in a practical way, otherwise it’s just a waste of time and money. Firms need to foster a culture of continued learning, encouraging small mistakes in order to keep getting better and pushing the boundaries.

The LinkedIn Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay at a firm longer if it invested in their learning and development. Conversely, employees who feel their firm doesn’t invest in their learning and development are 12 times more likely to consider leaving the job. 

Employees said the number one reason they held back from extra learning is because of a lack time. The 2023 Learning Report found that 93% of firms are concerned about employee retention and they are dealing with this is through “providing learning opportunities”.  “People who aren’t learning will leave. Three of the top five factors that drive people to pursue new jobs reflect their desire to stretch, grow, and develop new skills,” the report states. 

Investing in employee learning and development has become crucial for retention and overall business performance. As training levels increase and improve, employees will become more engaged, feel better about their role and become more likely to stay. They will also help drive quality, innovation and revenue for a business which is why this is a win-win situation.

Richard McAllister is the Founder and Managing Director of ScalablRichard has over 20 years’ experience within technologyorganisational change and scaling agility. He brings a fresh and energetic approach to solving complex business problems.

Richard McAllister, Founder and Managing Director of Scalabl