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Chris Sheppardson

EP Business in Hospitality


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Is ROI the reason talent is missing out on crucial L&D opportunities?


Leadership teams across the country are still failing to invest enough in L&D opportunities for talent, but what is the impact and are we blinded by the acronym that covers all manner of sins: ROI?

Arguably, there is a general lack of trust in the motives of leadership and brands today, and the decline of investment in L&D and reduction of employee benefits in the workplace only serve to perpetuate this.

Worse still, for many workers this also translates into ‘lack of care in people’.  It’s therefore no wonder that over 90% of millennial employees don’t anticipate staying in their jobs for more than two to three years at most.  

The ROI battleground

The real battleground right now is that management teams need to reconnect with their people and build trust within their culture. Investment in talent and L&D is a huge part of building that trust and loyalty within the workplace yet, interestingly, almost half of millennial employees believe that their career progression depends on their social background while only one third believe this is related to talent. On the same token nearly half of adults from the lowest socio-economic groups receive no training at all after leaving school.

Then we come to the debate around training and ROI, a common scenario where leadership teams weigh up in black and white terms whether developing talent is worth the physical investment or not, and whether they can draw a direct correlation in terms of spend on training vs. output.

Investment in talent and L&D should be about a genuine passion and belief that good people will lead to great performance.

This discussion usually involves questions like, ‘What is our ROI if we invest in L&D?’ This becomes a pretty laughable process, and a pointless one too, if there is a total lack of trust across the workforce. All of the retention strategies in the world won’t solve that problem.

Of course, the answer to this very transactional question should be: culture, teams, good people, aspiration and courage. Yet sadly we are blinded by what is really defined by the term ROI – is it just about good old ‘dirty cash’ or are we missing the point altogether?  

Successful businesses need great talent. Talent can rise from lowly beginnings and across all walks of life, yet still leadership creates unfair barriers to progression.

Where the true ROI lies

Investment in talent and L&D should be about a genuine passion and belief that good people will lead to great performance. That is where the true ROI lies. The trouble is that society has this increasing fixation on risk, all risks must be reduced to a bare minimum and that translates across the workplace in terms of how we recruit, invest in and shape our teams today.  

At the same time, boards complain that younger generations today have an increasing fear of failure and lack the confidence to be brave, bold and accountable. But if they aren’t trusted or given the right opportunities to grow and develop in the first instance, how can they take their mental agility to a higher level?

In reducing the level of investment in L&D, businesses have succeeded in alienating prospective talent and stifling the growth of emerging leadership.

Change is needed and we need to work towards a world that believes that ‘talent is talent’.

Everyone fails at some point, it’s an important part of the journey. We need people to be brave and yet the mental approach of many businesses is the reverse.    

Richard Branson has been quoted as saying “I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money.  If that is the sole motive, I believe you are better off not doing it.” Food for thought when the next discussion on training ROI crops up.

It’s time to redress the balance; business is about craft, service, character and creativity.  Embracing talent is about nurturing those skills and helping people to feel valued, trusted and part of something bigger. If businesses don’t start investing back into people, how can we move forward in what is such a people-centric world?

Talent is talent

Investing in people can mean all sorts of things to all kinds of people, but it is important for the employee and for the business.

Both parties need to be able to aspire for better and to have greater hope, but to do that leadership needs to set the tone by broadening its thinking, opening its eyes to the talent out there, and nurturing, coaching and encouraging its people.  Perhaps only then will teams start to regain trust in their leaders again.

Instead of rejecting talent if they don’t hold the right degree, or making L&D investment decisions based on risk profile, we should be supporting hard work, dedication and potential.

One thing is certain, change is needed and we need to work towards a world that believes that ‘talent is talent’. If people are good enough, they should be invested in and have the opportunity and aspiration to succeed – ROI in the real world will undoubtedly follow.


One Response

  1. A very thought provoking
    A very thought provoking article which I agree with. L&D needs to take the risk of investing in people continuously and worry less whether there is a ROI (even though that is important). We often talk about developing a learning culture. One way to help develop that is to make accessibility to learning and development easy and make everyone within the organisation believe that there are always opportunities to learn.

    Thanks for the article.


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