Date posted: 02/06/2022 5 min read

Why now is the time to boost professional development

As business disruption eases following COVID-19, many firms are bolstering learning and development efforts in a bid to secure top talent.

In Brief

  • In the wake of COVID-19, more CAs across Australia and New Zealand are making learning and development (L&D) a priority.
  • New research shows lifting investment in L&D has financial benefits.
  • Firms that make L&D a priority are better placed to win the war for talent.

As the world recovers from the impact of COVID-19 and a war for talent emerges in financial services, CAs across Australia and New Zealand can benefit from boosting professional development.

That’s the message from Dr Matt Beard, ethicist and program director at the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, who says after two years of business “disruption and uncertainty” it’s more important than ever for CAs to refocus on skills and training.

Learning and development (L&D) is empowering employees through developing their knowledge, skills and capabilities in order to drive better business performance.

Beard says organisations that lift investment in personal and organisational ethics and other “soft skills” will reap the benefits – both financially and culturally – for decades to come.

A productivity boost for firms

Beard points to new research report by DeakinCo., which shows that every A$1 invested in learning and development per employee is associated with A$4.70 in business revenue per employee, on average. 

Beyond the financial benefits, the report finds learning and development helps productivity, as well as staff loyalty and retention, with leading firms in the space reporting an average attrition rate of 14%, compared to almost 25% for those that don’t invest in L&D.

Investment in L&D is already growing, with respondents expecting an average 19% lift in training this year, compared to pre-COVID levels.

Even so, the report concludes that most firms can still do better in the space, finding that 87% of businesses could do more to improve L&D and citing just 13% of businesses as “leaders in the space”.

“Coming out of the pandemic, with extra economic pressures, it’s very easy for investment in the ongoing building of skills and the abilities of your existing people to be deprioritised,” Beard tells Acuity, adding that it’s a danger now as firms across Australia and New Zealand jostle for talent.

“Coming out of the pandemic with extra economic pressure it’s very easy for learning and development… to be deprioritised.”
Dr Matt Beard, Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership

Winning the war on talent

According to the ethicist, firms that make L&D a corporate priority are better placed to win the war for talent in the period ahead as skill shortages intensify.

L&D will help to counteract this challenge, increasing employee innovation and productivity and preparing businesses for the future of work.

“Some organisations are struggling to retain or recruit the people they need,” Beard says. “Organisations need to show there is room to grow and a place where workers can experience a supportive environment – or they’re going to go somewhere else.”

Beard believes the need for extra L&D is even greater in financial services due to the spotlight on the sector by authorities keen to ensure ethical conduct.

Highly regulated organisations in the sector, including CA firms, have expectations, KPIs and codes of conduct. Workers often need to “make complex ethical decisions usually in a short timeframe, and usually despite competing pressures both internally and externally.” All of this is underpinned by good L&D, says Beard.