The Learning Curve is the Earning Curve

For many years I’ve been travelling around the world giving speeches and discussions on the future of corporate learning. One of the points I point out is the fact that today learning is part of economic survival for most of us. If we don’t stay current, up to date, and continuously re-skilled in our professions (regardless of what they are), we fall behind.


Thomas Picketty, the economist who wrote “Capital in the 21st Century,” (the hallmark book which first pointed out the tremendous income inequality  in the US) stated it clearly in the quote below. Over more than 300 years of history, the only predictable factor that drives individual earnings potential is “skills and knowledge.”

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics published the 2015 data on earnings as related to education, and the proof is here.


If you look at the data on income inequality, which is easy to find, you see a direct relationship between income gaps and education gaps. Today in the US, for example, the disparity in wealth is striking – since 1980 we’ve seen more than twice the wealth in our country go to the top 1%.


During this same time US education levels have dropped. This year we are 24th in reading and 36th in Math, so we have to believe that the enormous growth in economies like China (ranked #1 in both reading and math)

On a business level, our employment brand and ability to attract and engage people is now directly related to learning.  My analysis of Glassdoor ratings shows that “career opportunities” are twice as important (measured through correlation) as compensation in predicting whether or not an employee would recommend your company as a great place to work.

For Millennials, who are now becoming the core part of the workforce, learning opportunities are the #1 factor in selecting a job.

Just a reminder for all of you in L&D, HR, or just business professionals in general: this is something you can take advantage of.  Coach your people; spend money on quality on-boarding and career development; reward people for helping others in their jobs; create a great self-directed learning experience at work.

Today the quality, experience, and timeliness of your training and education is more important than ever.  Enough said.

(If you would like to browse “Ten Trends in Corporate Learning” please take a look at the following Slideshare.)


About the Author: Josh Bersin is the founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP, a leading research and advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, talent, learning, and the intersection between work and life. Josh is a published author on Forbes, a LinkedIn Influencer, and has appeared on Bloomberg, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal, and speaks at industry conferences and to corporate HR departments around the world. You can contact Josh on twitter at @josh_bersin and follow him at . Josh’s personal blog is at .

1 Response

  1. Shaz Wiltowsky says:


    What a great statistical post. I fully agree with constant learning for all generations. Learning is something that should never stop in any industry. I applaud companies who offer educational assistance to their employees and provide training and opportunities to learn.

    Thank you,