As a kid, I struggled with classroom learning because I've always had trouble focusing. I hated being stuck at a desk all day, so I was constantly cutting class. As a result, I ended up failing grade 8 and never graduated high school. Eventually, I dropped out of college, too.

Clearly, school wasn't my thing. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the value of learning. In fact, I've made a concerted effort to keep developing myself as a business leader. I attend Birthing of Giants every year at MIT, always seek new knowledge from peers and experts, and I take every opportunity I can to try new things. I see ongoing learning as pivotal to my growth -- professionally and personally.

Learning and development (L&D) benefits everyone -- not just the c-suite. It increases knowledge and confidence in people who will become even better at their jobs, and ultimately, it's a platform for innovation. Unfortunately, few companies are prepared to offer the same opportunities to everyone from the entry-level to the executive team.

Your business is only as good as your employees. Here are 4 reasons why L&D is the most important investment you'll ever make.

1. You'll Attract (And Keep) Top Talent

There's a serious misconception that if you train your employees, they'll take their new skills elsewhere. The reality is the polar opposite.

Access to learning and development opportunities is a top priority for today's workforce (second only to work-life balance). Two-thirds of millennials say they'd quit their current job for a new one in the next couple of years. And a whopping 71% say they'd leave because of a lack of L&D programs.

We've made L&D a key focus of our business because we can't afford not to. Our all-star staff is always striving to strengthen their skills -- and if we didn't help them do it, they'd find a company who did.

2. You'll Create A-Players Who Do Awesome Work

Our hiring processes are hyper-streamlined to ensure we hire great people from the start. For us, that means passionate and motivated individuals who are hungry for continuous improvement. We're also all about promoting from within -- so by investing in their development, we're grooming future leaders within the company.

From our onboarding seminars to our A-Player Development Program to our Leadership Way -- we have various programs designed to take our staff from great to exceptional. Our workshops focus on various aspects of leadership and development, where people learn and grow together to reach their full potential.

We've built learning and development into our employees' day-to-day -- because the better our people, the better our business.

3. You'll Give Employees a Sense of Purpose and Value

Investing in employees on a professional level goes a long way for your business. But it's important to take a genuine interest in their personal growth, as well. Supporting their learning outside of the office will show your employees that you truly care about their futures.

Our 101 Life Goals initiative encourages our employees to actively pursue their personal goals. We share our aspirations through the entire office and support each other towards achieving them. Years ago, our head of IT revealed that he wanted to overcome his fear of swimming -- so we paid for his lessons and now it's tough to keep him out of the pool!

When you challenge people to do things out of their comfort zones, it's amazing what they can accomplish. By supporting everyone on a personal level, we've fostered a culture of learning that goes beyond our office walls. We get to watch our team grow as people -- not just as employees.

4. You'll Develop Leaders Who Can Take Over Some Day

The employees you train today will be the leaders of tomorrow -- so developing their skills is absolutely critical. Training or no training, there will always be those who stay and those who go. But helping people grow is always more productive than holding people back.

Three years ago, Travis joined our team as an email marketing specialist. As he developed with the company, he worked his way up to manager in charge of his own team. His experience at our company inspired him to launch his own business, and he recently moved on to pursue the opportunity full time. We don't regret our investment or resent his leaving; Travis' contributions were pivotal in the development of our business. And we're proud to have supported the development of a new entrepreneur.

Our culture of learning has inspired a team of forward-thinkers who are passionate about their improvement for now and for the future. We're always looking ahead to where we're going -- as a business, an industry, and a team. The upfront investment in learning and development is always worth the long-term reward.

Published on: May 9, 2017