The Great Resignation shows no sign of waning. People working across various industries and professions continue to quit, changing companies and careers.

Organizations are responding by introducing an array of policies such as better pay and flexible work schedules. All viable and worthy solutions which may alleviate the situation. However, in this highly competitive professional marketplace, an engaging Learning and Development (L&D) strategy is essential to attract and retain the best talent.

Case in point – according to a 2019 LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. Furthermore, many employees also say that learning and development opportunities are a significant factor for remaining in a job than receiving a pay raise.

In our decades of experience as management consultants and executive coaches, we have observed several timeless obstacles that often rendered organizations’ investment in learning and development ineffective.

Michael Beer, et. al. in an HBR Spotlight in 2016 reported, “only one in four senior managers reported their learning and development was critical to achieving business outcomes.” They wrote, “companies are dumping billions of dollars into training and development programs — but their investments aren’t paying off.”

As with most barriers, there are usually ways around it. Consider the following: 


If your business were a garden, your employees would be the plants in it, and like any garden, your workforce needs to be nurtured and nourished to keep it verdant and flourishing.

Finding time for learning and upskilling can be a challenge with employees reluctant to step away from their work duties. I have witnessed numerous situations where while in training, so many feel compelled to keep their phones handy, keep checking messages, or leave to respond to “an emergency” or an “escalation.” An interruption in the transfer of learning is an interruption in the mind of the learner assimilating the concepts and forging new neural connections.

Establishing and communicating a favourable context for learning and growth is the role of leaders. Such intentional designs will prioritize a culture of learning and sees it for allowing time to sharpen the saw. As clichéd as it may be, it’s a powerful image that still conveys a crucial message – after all, Stephen Covey put it as the 7th habit of highly effective people!

Organizations can prioritize learning and development and communicate its importance and value to employees. If staff understand that their personal development is integral to the overall company strategy, they are far more likely to take it upon themselves to plan and prepare so they can attend uninterrupted.

Attendee Motivation and Resistance

Another barrier to more effective L&D programs and higher ROI is lack of or low motivation and resistance from employees. The truth is that there are many reasons for employees to be resistant or lack motivation when it comes to attending learning and development programs.

There is saying amongst trainers that there are three kind of training attendees: Adventurers, vacationers, and prisoners – those who love learning, those who’d rather be anywhere else but their desks and those who have been told they must attend the training. You can guess the ROI of training on the latter two groups.

Similarly, a perceived lack of relevance can cause resistance in employees. If they cannot see how the training is relevant to their roles now or in the future, they will perceive it to be a waste of time.

A possible response to these obstacles is a designed alignment where learning and development is tied to strategic imperatives in the organization. As an example, let’s assume a company’s strategy is set on the foundations of the three pillars of Michael Treacy’s Discipline of Market Leaders: Operational Excellence, Product Leadership and Customer Intimacy. Years ago, Treacy and his co-author Fred Wiersema argued that to be a market leader, determine which of the three pillars you want to be the best at in your industry and market segment — and then do your best to be at par with your competitors in the other two.

With such a clear strategy established in the company, now it’s possible to pinpoint what skills and competencies are missing to achieve the desired results. This facilitates having a frank conversation with your employees, explaining the reasoning behind the training, how they can personally gain from it, and its value to the organization.

The added benefit of such a structured and aligned approach is setting the foundation of L&D directly tied to objectives and key results (OKRs) of John E. Doerr’s “Measure What Matters.”


Undoubtedly, another barrier is the Learning and Development cost. The L&D budget may be arrived at through a top-down estimating approach, which means during the annual budgeting exercise, a certain amount money is allocated to the learning and development department or function to be divided between the departments for their staff training. Such L&D allocations tend to be broad and unfair at times. Further, due to both barriers mentioned above, staff training is postponed due to lack of priority. Many managers affirm that if they don’t spend their annual budget – next year’s budget may be impacted or significantly reduced. This “use it or lose it” methodology can lead to sending staff to last-minute and often low-value training programs.

Alternatively, consider a “bottom-up” approach by looking at the skill and competency gaps in each department that is pertinent to achieving the strategy such as the one discussed above.

When executed well, bottom-up estimating will determine the actual budget required and is driven by defining the training objectives per area/department and level for both technical and behavioral identified needs.

Tackling The Great Resignation with L&D

Numerous research articles in the past year have identified that an effective, well-designed human-centred L&D program offers opportunities for (i) upskilling and growth and (ii) developing better leaders that can foster better teams and create more enjoyable work environments.

A recent article published on sites the following four focus areas companies need to prioritize in order to shift the tide of the Great Resignation to one of the Great Reengagement:

1.    Strengthening Manager/Direct Reporting Relationships

2.    Embrace flexibility

3.    Expansion of company wellness policies

4.    Providing opportunities for career development

Professional and leadership development is at the core of number one and two in the list above. Employees ultimately want to know that their contributions are valued, their careers are going somewhere, and the time and effort spent at work has meaning.

8020 Excellerate, our self-paced, six-month, virtual program offers a hands-on developmental experience — elevating the leadership skills necessary to refresh your career, strengthen relationships and future-proof your organization.

If you are interested in learning how our program can help you tap into the hidden potential in your organization, and save a bundle on your retention, and development costs – please schedule a call here.