We contributed to a new Open University report into how learning and development impacts employees’ wellbeing.

Produced in partnership with TrainingZone, the report L&D’s role in employee wellbeing comes amid rising concerns of an over-extended workforce[1] and the cost-of-living crisis.

The report featured expert comment from our Workforce Lead Kris Ambler, who stressed that investment in people creates greater motivation, award and achievement, and makes them feel special and valued.

Mental health boost

Kris said: “As thought leaders in workplace wellbeing, we were delighted to contribute to discussions around the implications of L&D’s role in employee wellbeing.

“Times are tough, and at a time of rising costs and less certain trading conditions it would be easy for businesses to side-line learning and development and focus on the bottom line.

“This research shows that this would be a mistake, demonstrating that learning and development (L&D) not only boosts mental health but achieves significant return on investment (ROI) benefits, including increased employee engagement, retention and improved mental health management. 

“How does this relate to workplace counselling? It's vitally important that BACP are involved in discussions with the business community about the wider benefits of investing in workforces.

“Organisations that invest in their people, through L&D, are more likely to understand the value of investing in their mental health and counselling.

“Moreover, businesses that understand the connections will power up the value of their ROI.

Workplace counselling

“Investing in mental health training alone will return benefits, but combined with workplace counselling the organisation can seriously boost resilience, productivity and creativity.”

The Open University report found that more than one in four (28%) organisations see an immediate improvement in overall wellbeing as a benefit of longer learning and development programmes, such as apprenticeships.

And more one in three (36%) see better stress and mental health management too.

The survey of 564 organisations found that while wellbeing training was traditionally used as an intervention for employees’ wellbeing, short-term and long-term skills-based training can provide a similar impact. The right training can help plug the existing skills gap and alleviate workplace pressure employees might face.

Investing in staff

It stressed the importance of investing in staff development, and its role in employee engagement and providing staff with a career path for the future.

It revealed that twice as many organisations that invest in longer learning and development programmes – members of - reported greater employee engagement, confidence and an improvement in overall wellbeing than organisations without the same investment.

More than 800 UK organisations are in the 5% Club[2] and are committed to recruiting 5% of their workforce to earn and learn positions. Almost twice as many members of The 5% Club report positive impact of training and upskilling on employee wellbeing, engagement and retention in comparison to typical organisations

Results included:

  • 42% of typical organisations said they saw greater employee engagement as a result of running long-term skills development programmes, while 94% of The 5% Club said they saw this benefit 
  • 38% of typical organisations said confidence improved as a result of their investment in these programmes compared to 71% of The 5% Club respondents. 
  • While 42% of typical organisations aid retention improved as a result of these programmes, 92% of the 5% Club respondents saw this as a benefit. 
  • When asked about the benefits of programmes like resilience training, wellbeing days, mental health awareness training and team building, 46% of standard respondents said better stress and mental health was a benefit, while 94% of The 5% Club respondents said they felt this was a benefit. 

Mark Cameron, CEO of The 5% Club, said: “We’re delighted to see that our members report more positive impact of training on employees’ wellbeing. Companies with a strong ESG agenda and L&D offering, will attract and retain employees - there is a commercial benefit to be had.”

But while almost all respondents (96%) saw a link between L&D activity and wellbeing, the survey shows many organisations cutting their investment in L&D over the next 12 months.

Positive mental health

Phil Kenmore, Director, Corporate Development and Partnerships at The Open University, said: Employers know that wellbeing needs to be addressed. That could be from how they help staff cope with cost-of-living crisis or personal challenges. Programmes need to be put into place to respond to a crisis, or a difficult time.

“However, wellbeing also needs to be addressed at a cultural level within the organisation. Positive mental health goes hand in hand with an engaged and loyal workforce. Our new report shows exactly how training and career development can have a proactive impact on wellbeing in the workplace.”

To find out more, download the report L&D’s role in employee wellbeing.

[1] According to The Open University’s Business Barometer 2022, 72% of organisations say the skills shortage negative impacts staff wellbeing as it increases workload on other staff.

[2] The 5% Club represents more than 800 organisations in the UK that aspire to achieve 5% of their workforce in ‘earn and learn’ positions.