Management and leadership top focus for L&D, but budget constraints still an issue

leadership skills

In early 2014, Thales Learning & Development surveyed key decision makers and influencers across a wide range of industries – 76% worked in HR, L&D or Talent, with 17% in procurement. The results provided a sharp insight into not only the budget and areas of focus, but also the goals and frustrations of the respondents.

Budget constraint was the top concern, yet our statistics suggest that L&D budgets – 44% of which are over £50k – are in a better place than previous years. In addition to the 30% whose budgets will increase in 2014, 50% expect them to stay the same – which means, for the most part, they’re no longer shrinking.

So why are budget restrictions still considered an obstacle? According to TLD’s Head of Business Development, the answer could lie in the way in which budgets are being focused:

‘Learning and development budgets are stabilising,’ she says. ‘But there’s a stronger focus on emerging talent, rather than just general training. Senior leaders programme, for example – while higher in cost – are likely to have a greater impact on organisational performance than spreading your budget across all staff. There’s a real drive to represent good ROI.’

Another finding from our survey appears to support that statement. Management and leadership came out as the top focus area for learning and development, with 61% saying this was where their budget would go. Then came personal development (56%), IT and computing (36%), and sales and marketing (28%).

So what is the reasoning behind those statistics? TLD’s Head of Leadership and Management Capability, thinks organisational change could be a key driver:

‘There’s a strong focus on management and leadership because there are a lot of changes currently happening within organisations,’ she says. ‘Leaders are key in driving and managing that change.’

Batley also believes the recovering economy could be a contributing factor:

‘As the economy improves, people are starting to look for jobs,’ she says. ‘So there may be a stronger focus on retaining leaders.’

But while management and leadership came out on top in terms of development areas, 72% of respondents said that – in terms of people – their focus would be on supervisors and middle managers, with sales following behind with 41%. This suggests organisations are still placing importance on training those below senior leadership level.

Goals and frustrations

The top three goals for learning and development were boosting productivity, retaining employees – which supports the earlier sentiment on retaining leaders in a recovering economy – and employee engagement.

In terms of frustrations: along with budget constraints – the two main hurdles were organisational behaviour towards learning and development, and getting access to staff.

Coaching to save costs

So how can organisations continue their learning and development activities in the face of budget constraints, while still having a positive impact on their employees? Clearly organisations are keen to focus on management and leadership capabilities, and a good way to capitalise on that is through coaching:

‘One good way to make sure L&D continues to succeed despite budget constraints,’ says TLD’s Head of Capability, ‘is to provide leaders with coaching skills so they can continually develop staff.’

This is certainly a trend that we’re seeing within our own business, and as organisations continue to evolve and restructure over the coming months, we can only expect this area to grow.

What are you seeing within your own organisation? Are L&D budgets sufficient for business needs? Would coaching help you as either a manager or team member?

Need to convince a sceptic that learning and development is a valuable investment? Review our message to L&D sceptics in Enhance, and forward them ‘The Sceptic’s Guide to Learning and Development’.