What Does “Industry Leading” L&D Mean?

I know L&D isn’t exactly the most cash money subject for recruiters to read about. I too fell asleep just reading that sentence.

And I wrote it for goodness sake.

But when I eventually woke up, I read a report that found companies with innovative L&D programmes were better at retaining staff and had increased turnover.

In recruitment terms, that would mean the revolving door stops spinning long enough for people to realise they’re actually quite happy where they are.

And if turnover’s up, that means revenue is. And who generates all the revenue?

That’s right. You guys.

Consistency in recruitment’s the worst kept secret to success. Stay with a company long enough, and you’ll outlast your competition.

So it’s fair to say agencies that invest in their L&D programmes can expect to hang on to their top performers for longer. And they’ll bill more in the process.

But what exactly does a good L&D programme look like?

I talk to companies on Hunted that have enjoyed consecutive record breaking years and birthed million pound billers.

Both are rare and quite remarkable feats. And the companies that boast these sorts of achievements share a couple of common traits. Notably the fact they like their Consultants to come from a “structured background”.

What that means is their Recruiters usually cut their teeth at one of the big firms for two or three years. The kind of places where there’s a reliance on KPIs and a robust, classroom-based training programme.


We’ve written before about how the kind of training you can expect is largely determined by the size of the company. Not an exact science by any stretch but the typical rule is:

● Big companies have greater scope to invest in their L&D programme, so you can expect outsourced, modular, classroom-based learning

● Smaller companies usually opt for a more adaptive approach by way of a mentoring scheme or continuous on-the-job training

There’s nothing wrong with either approach, although what you get out of it will depend where you are in your career. Regardless, there should be a range of learning activities, from classes and exams to roleplays and real-time assessments, including listening to live calls.

And given the knock on effects this could have on your billings – and therefore your personal wealth and track record – training and development should be a key consideration when you’re interviewing with a new company.

And that’s free advice you can pass on to your candidates as well.

If you were given the option to choose, the smart money says you’d start at a larger, structured company before moving on to a smaller one. Get the basics first, then refine what you’ve already got once it’s second nature. This is why successful companies hire from structured backgrounds:

Because they know what they’re getting. 

And then it’s up to them to take it from there and fine tune the basics.


Fledgling Consultants typically benefit from a learning environment that mimics an educational setting, particularly if they’re just out of school or uni. Because it’s familiar to them and so the lessons should be easier to digest.

Admittedly, they’re less effective on people that have been in the game for a decade or so. The last place they want to go back to is school, or anything resembling it.

It goes without saying but there are some things you can’t be taught. Like sealing a tricky negotiation. Or getting better at delivering presentations.

Pitching a retainer is something you can prepare for. But you won’t learn it until you’ve done it.

So what’s important is creating a culture of constant learning. So that you’re never in danger of leaving anyone behind. Or being left there yourself.

Building A Learning Culture

Ariel Hunsberger, Head of L&D at Slack, talks about their “big, hairy, audacious goal” (BHAG) of building a culture of learning, based on four key principles:

1. Let employees choose their own path and remember learning is social

The only mandatory L&D programmes are security and compliance training. By choosing what they want to learn, staff are more engaged and retain information better. There’s also the social/team bonding aspect to consider: a big plus for morale.

2. Tap into the natural passion employees have to be teachers and mentors

Nominating team members to take a leadership role in delivering training is good for personal development. It also lightens the load on the L&D team. Leveraging internal experts is key to enabling a culture of learning that everyone can access.

3. Create a high bar for transparency and feedback

All L&D materials and follow up discussions are held in public at Slack. It’s the easiest way to learn what works and what doesn’t. And it gets people engaged and participating when they otherwise might not have done.

Matthew Gollop, Managing Director at Hunted Partner ConnectedGroup, says:

“Slack has encouraged us to create channels to share information that may not normally be propagated. One example is that we created a ‘learning’ channel for sharing of recommended books, articles and videos that encourage personal development.”

4. Make sure learning is not too far away from everyday work

Slack “think about work as learning and learning as work”. This is undeniably true for recruitment as well. Because good recruiters never really stop learning. Especially when they leave billing behind.

At Slack, management are accountable for driving L&D and the team make sure to incorporate chats concerning it into every review meeting.

Overall, L&D’s a big ongoing process.

Like learning, it takes years to do it properly. And there’s plenty of changes that need to happen along the way.

Worth noting as well that Slack are arguably one of only a handful of companies that can legitimately call themselves “industry leading”.


Modern L&D

Have a look at Lynda.com for an example of a modern, online L&D resource.

Platforms like it are a far cry from classic recruitment sales training. The 140 page laminated binders. 2 weeks locked in the board room with the windows shut. And when you do finally get let out, a phone’s cellotaped to your face and you have your chair taken away from you.

Because there are better approaches now. And better topics to equip Consultants with.

How to be an entrepreneur. How to manage an offer. How to be mindful. A human. How to look after yourself. And your mental health.

These are arguably knowledge gaps that can do with being filled in todays workplace. 

Technology’s one thing that’s making a lot of old-school recruitment training redundant. And in it’s place, online courses on how to handle stress. Exercises on listening. And open workshops on communication.

Arguably subjects that are more important now than they have been before.

And it all comes down to choosing the right agency in the first place.

So if you’ve been with your current company for a while now, you’ll have a good idea of the standard of L&D function at your disposal. Check out the 5 Best Learning and Development Programmes in Recruitment to see how your place compares. 

You could be missing out on a long stay with a great company and more than you took home last year. Just because the L&D programme’s genuinely industry leading, instead of merely claiming to be.

And if you aren’t great at retaining knowledge in general?

Fake it.