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What is Learning and Development?

Learning and Development is a term used to describe everything a business does to encourage professional development among its employees. Training, mentoring, courses, learning budgets – and much more – all fall under this bracket.

Because of the breadth of the term, what Learning and Development (L&D) looks like in one business might be very different from what it looks like in another. In particular, L&D often differs massively between big, corporate companies and small to medium-sized businesses.

Learning and Development in larger companies

In large companies, L&D is usually highly structured. There might be an entire team dedicated to L&D, or the HR department might be in charge of it.

The Learning & Development opportunities offered to employees are likely to be more formal – such as specific training courses and qualifications. In larger companies, it’s also not uncommon for L&D to be designed for both employees and non-employees – such as courses which are sold to external clients as well as delivered to current employees.

Learning and Development in small businesses

In smaller businesses, which might be more constrained by their budget and are unlikely to have a fully-fledged HR department the opportunities offered to employees are likely to be less formal or structured.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable. In fact, many people choose small businesses because of the unique L&D opportunities they offer.

In small, fast-growing businesses, low budgets and small teams often mean people are regularly working way outside their comfort zone, learning new skills and implementing them at break-neck speed. It’s an intense way to work – but for some people, it’s a highly attractive prospect, offering much faster progression and a wider set of experiences than larger companies provide.

However, this type of “learning by doing” isn’t the only way small businesses provide L&D. Small businesses might have mentorship programmes, knowledge-sharing sessions, personal development budgets and dozens of other ways of promoting personal development. If you're interested in building a culture of L&D in your business, but are worried about costs, we've actually got an article all about how small businesses can build a great L&D environment on a tight budget.

The key difference between big and small businesses here is that the L&D you’ll find in small businesses is much more self-motivated: employees are likely to be taking ownership of their own progression, rather than just hopping onto a pre-made roadmap.

The benefits of Learning & Development

The most obvious benefit to developing the skills of your employees is that it should improve their skills, and therefore increase their performance, efficiency and the overall productivity of your business.

However, especially among newer generations, there’s strong evidence to suggest that L&D is a powerful tool for increasing retention and engagement. A PWC study found that millennials considered personal development more important than financial reward at work. As a result, implementing an attractive L&D system at your job can help attract potential hires, motivate your current team, and retain them for longer – it is part of the reason why CharlieHR puts such an emphasis on development. When viewed through this lens, L&D can be about far more than just improving the specific skills your employees use on a day-to-day basis: it can be considered more like a benefit, and one of the key incentives to join and stay at your company.

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