To Retain Talent, L&D Needs To Think About Impact

To Retain Talent, L&D Needs To Think About Impact
Summary: Cost savings are at the forefront of our minds in the current economic climate but having a short-term budget view when it comes to people development could be a false economy.

Switching Our Mindset From eLearning Cost To Impact

We are bombarded with news about the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, and poor productivity. Organizational, as well as personal, budgets are also feeling the squeeze. Economic uncertainty inevitably leads to belt-tightening and a laser focus on spending. But when it comes to our people, a short-term budgetary view could be a false economy, especially in a market where job seekers have the power.

While budgets are being squeezed, the "quiet quitting" phenomenon is growing. After COVID-19, we saw the Great Resignation, where people were switching to jobs that offered a better quality of life but also better Learning and Development (L&D) opportunities. In October's Global Talent Trends, LinkedIn reported that employees are more engaged when they have opportunities to learn and grow, and talent leaders are looking for new and better ways to retain their people.

Innovation often takes second place and is seen as a luxury or as extraneous, but with the rising pressures from employees looking for a better learning offering, L&D teams need to think again before acquiring yet another generic course library that will sit on the LMS and never get used, or worse, still get used and disenfranchise our learners. As a community of passionate professionals, we need to flip our mindset away from cost and toward impact, and to do that, and most importantly to take the organization on the journey with us, we need a business case substantiated in fact.

Flipping Our Mindset To Retain Talent

We are of course always, sooner or later (usually sooner), asked what immersive learning "typically costs." We understand the question; we ask it ourselves frequently. Let's say on average one of our learning solutions does four commercially clever things regarding cost:

  1. It costs on average the same as rehiring between one and two middle managers who have left because they are not stimulated by their company's learning options (and of course, there are no guarantees that the newbies will be quite what you're looking for in a skills-short market—and it's often the best people who leave first).
  2. It retains those who might otherwise look for a more innovative employer (Oxford Economics calculated the average true cost of replacing a middle-tier person to be around £30K back in 2014, so it is somewhat more now).
  3. It provides assets that are infinitely reusable/scalable (so the cost is potentially pennies per head), and repurpose-able, so that the sales, communications, marketing, maintenance, and customer service departments can use these assets if the training team lets them.
  4. It can directly reduce operational costs through effective training, for example, by reducing accidents amongst fleet drivers and hence insurance costs, time off work, and injury claims (we have evidence). It makes no sense to spend more money on effect than on cause, does it?

Once we've got past the cost question, we can start discussing how much energy, motivation, enjoyment, skill, knowledge, collaboration, fun, awareness, and all those other truly important measures will be positively impacted by an elegant and holistic digital learning strategy. These are the factors that will retain your best staff.


The L&D department has never been more essential to the success of an organization. It's not hyperbole to state that there is a war on for talent. McKinsey reports that nine out of ten organizations globally are experiencing a skills gap. Employees can be very selective about where they wish to work. Great L&D opportunities are what people are looking for.

To retain the talent in your organization and avoid the costs of replacing any leavers, L&D needs to ensure they are meeting the needs and the desires of the workforce, while preparing and protecting the organization. Material needs to be presented in engaging formats that resonate with learners on an emotional and human level. A content library of standard off-the-shelf click-next modules won't meet that need.

If you had to replace 10 mid-tier managers tomorrow, it could cost upward of £300K to the business regardless of salary. This would buy an awful lot of groundbreaking immersive learning content that would engage and retain your greatest asset, your people.

Flipping the mindset is about moving away from cost and toward impact. While budgets are being squeezed, we urge L&D to focus on the commercial benefits that great learning content can bring. To retain talent L&D needs to stop thinking about cost and start thinking about impact. To help, we offer a bespoke planning canvas that can help L&D teams think through complex problems to create innovative solutions. Contact us to find out more.

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Totem Learning
Totem is a learning company. We blend behavioural psychology, technology and creative expertise to help companies walk through the walls that stand between them and where they want to be.