Your learning and development strategy cannot be a vague mission statement. A good learning and development, or L&D, strategy will result in an overarching vision that leads to clear courses of action and decision-making criteria. That vision allows you to determine what courses to add, which to drop, and how your offerings evolve over time.
First, the learning and development strategy should support the core business and its growth. Second, there should be a clear value proposition for the customer. Third, training needs to be tuned to reflect the marketplace. Fourth, it should include feedback with stakeholders. Fifth, you should start from the outside in. Let’s look at what each of these statements means when it comes to crafting an L&D strategy. We’ll also provide a few rules you can use to craft one of your own.
Support Core Business Processes
Supporting the core business requires listing everything that you consider your core purpose as an organisation followed by spelling out everything that entails. You should know what everyone does to contribute to that mission. Then you can determine what they should do better. Note that training must be accessible to all employees regardless of learning style and work patterns.
As they progress, you can start to figure out how they can grow in their role to take things to the next level. Whether this is improving the closing rate of telemarketers, or fixing problems faster in customer service, it depends on the people and their jobs. Always ask how training allows you to meet company objectives, be it reduced cycle time, fewer accidents, reduced costs, less waste or faster onboarding for new hires.
Have a Clear Value Proposition for All L&D
Always have a clear value proposition for the customer. How does this improve customer service or organisational performance to customer objectives?
Every training decision should be measured by its value. Compare its impact and capability relative to the cost. For example, you shouldn’t spend a fortune on online courses that only benefit a few people. Don’t pour money into training in the mere hope that it raises morale and eventually performance.
Take advantage of technology like online courses and learning management systems to reduce costs, standardise training, and reach those who may not have time to travel to attend a class. Use independent measures of effectiveness before you buy into programs. Search for proof that others had success with reduced error rates, greater productivity or higher customer satisfaction before you change your learning and development program.
The next step is measuring the outcomes of these programs. Did your new safety program actually reduce the accident rate? Has the revised training program helped the newest employees get up to speed as quickly as hoped? Are sales numbers improved? And how does all of this improve customer-centric metrics like repeat business, customer satisfaction and the company’s overall reputation?
Take the Marketplace into Account
Taking the marketplace into account would mean paying attention to what your competitors are doing and may want to do, too. Keeping up with customer expectations or adopting new technology allows you to remain competitive or even move ahead. You may find that they need training on the latest generation of your customer relationship management software or new technology rolled out on the shop floor.
Periodically evaluate the jobs people are actually doing and what they must know to do it well against the training they receive. This is called a gap analysis. When you discover a gap, research all the options for filling in this knowledge gap. Don’t assume you have to rely on your own team to provide training; you could save money and access higher quality resources by tapping into existing e-learning programs or hiring consultants to give specialised training. Or you may find new tools like virtual meetings and social media sufficient. Challenge assumptions like those saying people can’t learn from an online course or must attend team-building events to create a shared corporate culture.
Consider reading industry publications to learn about best practices you may want to implement. We suggest you check out the U.K. L&D Report: 2019. The L&D Report 2019 includes an L&D Benchmarking Survey which analysed how learning and development investment and the use of levy funds were tied to organisational growth and market leadership. It also provides feedback on how much other firms are spending on learning and development. Alternatively, you may learn that your methods for evaluating new hires and the skills of existing employees are no longer considered viable and switch to a better method.
Have Feedback with All Stakeholders
There are different ways that you can do this. One is asking your customers what they wish your company did better. You may learn that clients are unimpressed with your customer service or product quality.
Another is asking employees what they think they need. What training gaps do they see, and more importantly, want to fill? Alternatively, what training do they think should change or be dropped altogether? Talk to your business partners. Where do they think your business should do better? Have open dialogue between managers, employees, union leaders, suppliers and business partners. What training do they think your company should invest in? And where are there opportunities to learn from each other? Apprenticeships and mentoring are prime examples of this.
Know that communication must be a two-way street, and it needs to be ongoing. Ask employees their opinions of proposed new training programs, and solicit feedback once they finish training programs. Also answer questions they raise when you propose making changes.
Look from the Outside In
Businesses can refine their learning and development strategy by looking outside in. See the organisation as one large whole. Then begin looking at what the company can do to cultivate employees so they can do what the business requires. This prevents mistakes like only training eager employees and neglecting those who need to upgrade their skills.
Having a strategy for training everyone for their roles also improves new employee on-boarding and shortening their learning curve. But you can only achieve this when you have a program to train everyone as they enter the organisation. The productivity of the business is enhanced when you have clear processes for encouraging knowledge transfer, whether it is mentoring, departmental seminars, or interdepartmental job rotations.
Another thing you should concentrate on is cultivating internal talent first and foremost. Offer people training so they are prepared to be promoted into a higher role. This has a number of benefits for the organisation. The first is improved retention, since people see that they have a potential path for advancement. Overall, morale improves as they feel supported in their career. Companies that invest in their next generation of managers outperform other companies. For example, they’re much more likely to meet their performance objectives, and they tend to be much more profitable.
A major benefit of learning and development is that it is a recruitment tool. The constantly changing workplace many companies means people are constantly seeking to upgrade their own skills. This results in people preferring companies with learning and development programs. Conversely, a lack of learning and development resources causes people to leave. This is especially true of Millennials who prioritise a values-based culture. They’re also more likely to go to work for companies that have an employer brand.
A learning and development strategy is essential to your organisation’s long-term success. Focus on creating a viable, long-term and evolving L&D strategy to save money and improve performance across the board.
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