Budget 2023: Understanding the Fundamentals of L&D Budgets


The Union Budget of India for 2023 was announced on February 1. In this backdrop, let’s take a look at how annual budget 2023 in an organization impact functions like learning & development. Annual budgets are an integral part of the overall planning be it for SMBs or MNCs. Everyone understands the value of prioritizing and distributing finances effectively.

However, budgeting is a rather complicated process, given the difficulties in assigning appropriate values to different priorities. This is true especially when it comes to business functions like L&D which has often struggled to quantify efforts in terms of ROI and business growth. With workplaces evolving rapidly and newer technologies emerging on a daily basis, business processes are experiencing major obstacles adapting to the changing skill demands.

As a result, L&D professionals are left in a quandary while zeroing down on budgeting priorities, especially as business leaders are demanding more returns. Moreover, learning budgets have evolved over the past few years, growing beyond the traditional LMS towards an array of technologies like AI, ML, reporting & analytics and so on. All of this essentially translates into inflated budgets, especially when L&D budgets are feeling stretched altogether.

According to a Brandon Hall study, organizations spend between $100 and $1000 per learner annually. Although this amount fluctuates depending on the size of the organization and training needs, it is still quite straightforward to estimate the annual expenditure over L&D. As a result, it has become increasingly critical for L&D leaders to get the most out of the assigned budget and look at innovative ways to further the talent development process.  

It is also important to understand that the L&D budget is affected by several factors, the most pressing one being the constantly evolving learning landscape. Organizations have already shifted from traditional training methods towards newer, technology-based experiences, resulting in a gap in the way learning is measured. For instance, companies could calculate how much ‘an hour of learning’ would cost, but now with micro-learning, video-based learning, the learning ecosystem has changed incredibly and the measurement scale just doesn’t hold up.  

On the other hand, L&D leaders need to assess the measurement methods and apply them to the ‘creation of learning experiences’. Thus, by assessing the time taken to create as opposed to time taken to consume, L&D leaders can have better clarity on their budgetary requirements. A nation’s annual budget also more or less affects the training and skilling demands of the workforce, especially in a country like India, where millions of individuals are seeking jobs.

This time, the Union Budget has brought some cheer by rightly identifying the need to boost efforts towards skill development and upskilling to make youth in the country future-ready. It includes seminal measures that will help in the advancement of the youth to make them more competitive. Union Budget 2023 has also set aside ₹1.12 lakh crore for education which is the highest ever till date and comes with an increase of around 8.2% as compared to last year. There have been some significant announcements such as the setting up of three AI Centers of Excellence to train youth on AI skills as well as a Unified Skill India Digital platform with a focus on Coding, AI, IoT and Robotics related skills.

These developments could prove to be tipping points for the SaaS and technology industry in the country. Bringing in digitization in skilling was an imperative and the Budget has addressed it. This will lead to more pathways for formal skilling, encouraging employers, especially SMBs, to introduce apprenticeships and entrepreneurship schemes. Taking into account the boost for skilling initiatives, it means companies engaged in developing e-learning platforms can step in to make skill development as engaging and productive as possible. It is time that government as well as private enterprises join hands and work together to not just provide the youth with the right opportunities but also empower them with suitable avenues for reskilling and upskilling. As India Inc feels an increased need to invest in skilling of its employees to bring them up to speed for the job at hand, the L&D industry can put their best foot forward to match.  

Over and above, be it an organization or an entire nation, as the learning landscape keeps evolving, it is critical to take a hard look at L&D budgets in order to meet the rising demands of the marketplace. Because, as older and traditional learning technologies are incapable of delivering more diverse and effective learning experiences, a limited and stretched L&D budget is incapable of keeping up with the growing needs of the modern learner.