Board execs who don’t see the link between developing people and their businesses’ profits should look for new jobs, writes Barry Johnson

We read much about the chaos of change, uncertainties in the markets, the advancing technologies, financial crises and international competition and… we could just go on. But the two base solutions are sitting there in companies. One, that it’s people who make the profits. And two, those people need leaders that recognise that the most important investment in every organisation is the development of employees’ soft and hard skills, expansion of employees’ knowledge and enhancement of employees’ attitudes.

We have people sitting on the boards who understand the elements of their function – be that finance, product or the competition – but, and it is an important but, all of those board directors must understand that success relies on people who have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to do their jobs, and that takes investment. Board members are failing if they are not investing in the L&D of their people and helping them apply themselves to the business of producing a profit in a happy organisation.

Learning requires money, and the L&D team won’t secure that funding if the board doesn’t understand that investing it in the skills, knowledge and attitudes of its employees is crucial to long-term success.

If the CEO isn’t doing that now, they need to be replaced with someone who can lead this requirement. Where to invest, how to invest, when to invest, who to invest in and the why is obvious: it is that people make the profits. And I don’t just mean those at the top of the organisation, or the professionals, but also the skilled people, the semi-skilled people and all those in between right the way through to the lifters, shifters and broom pushers. It is all people, working effectively and efficiently together, that make profits.

I suppose my view and belief comes from experience. I was lucky to be the training manager of a business that had an MD who understood the link between L&D, people and profit. Incidentally, he is now the CEO of a major national organisation and has a knighthood. Later, I worked for a North American corporation, where the executive vice president of its learning institute was in the office next to the CEO, and they were in daily contact about the importance of learning to the business’s success.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see many people currently being headhunted for the top jobs that indicate the requirement for developing the directors, managers, professionals, skilled workers and all other employees. Isn’t it time that changed?

Barry Johnson is a non-executive director at Learning Partners