7 Tips for a Winning Learning and Development Strategy
The beginning of the year is a perfect time for a fresh start, not only when it comes to personal goals, but also in the context of corporate objectives. This is usually where most companies begin their employee goal-setting cycle. And what better time than to set the L&D direction for the year as well?
Still not there yet? Unsure how to go about it? Don't worry. In this article, we offer seven practical tips for creating a learning and development strategy.
Table of contents:
What is a learning and development strategy?
7 essential components to an L&D strategy
Tip 1. Map out your learning plan to suit your business goals
Tip 2. Shape your plan from the top down
Tip 3. Research current trends
Tip 4. Gather employee feedback
Tip 6. Identify learning priorities
Tip 7. Design a Learning Strategy roadmap
What is a learning and development strategy?
A good L&D strategy is a treasure map that leads the organisation to reach higher profitability through employees development. It can be used as a tool for improving productivity and motivating staff. A learning and development strategy is essentially a plan or roadmap for your employees to learn new skills and develop their talents. It is meant to help your business grow by optimizing the abilities of your workers.
Who should be involved?
Ideally, Learning and Development strategies should be created by several people, not just one person.
Let's start with the L&D team. While it might be tempting to take on the role of creating and implementing a company’s L&D strategy, a solo approach can lead to many problems. For example, team members may feel as though they aren't being listened to or that their ideas are not being taken seriously – which could result in frustration in the team and a dip in motivation levels. By inviting everyone, you ensure they have been included in the process. The team will benefit from some fresh ideas, and members will be much more invested and interested in carrying out the L&D plan.
That being said, if you believe some of the team members might find this challenging or are perhaps too junior or new to the company, then you might want to limit the group to the L&D leadership team or more senior employees.
Apart from L&D, you also need to align with some key figures in human resources, like the HR Business Partners, Talent Acquisition, Organisation Development, and others. Each of these roles will give you a unique perspective of the business, its strategy, vision, and mission.
And speaking of the business, remember to include them as well. After all, your plan will heavily involve them, so it is only fair that they have a say too. Consider including in the process formal and informal leaders, managers and supervisors, and, of course, a representative sample of employees.
7 Tips for a Winning L&D strategy
1. Map out your learning plan to suit the business goals
A good training strategy is not only about learning, it is also about performance. So, before you start planning any training and development activities, you need to identify how they will contribute to achieving your company's business goals.
To do this, start by asking yourself:
What are your company’s business goals? - Have these been communicated already by Senior Management and do you fully understand them? If not, it's worthwhile to sit with a member of HR or Management, if possible, and go through them to make sure you fully understand where the company is heading and how it will get there.
What are the individual departmental business goals? - You don't need to go into details here, but it's helpful to understand what are some of the big-ticket items for each of the major departments in the company. For example, does Customer Service plan on introducing a new tool for messaging clients? If yes, that would mean the affected staff will need to be trained.
How do goals translate into employee success criteria? - What skills or knowledge would be needed for employees to be able to complete their individual goals successfully? If productivity needs to be raised by X%, then employees would benefit from productivity training or tools to help them achieve that.
Now that you know what needs improving and why, it’s time to map out a plan that will help us get there.
2. Shape your plan from the top down
Work with your leadership team to set the right tone. The best way to get your learning roadmap off the ground is by setting the right expectations and culture cascading from the top down.
This means getting as much feedback as possible on your designs from both the Leadership team and HR. And then, of course, incorporating that feedback. Remember that they are not learning experts, so be prepared to defend your ideas or push back where you need to. At the end of the day, they are your customer - it is their employees you are designing the L&D roadmap for, so listening to their suggestions and concerns is important, but it is you, who should take an expert position and consult them accordingly.
3. Research current trends
Take some time to understand what is happening outside the organization. Not just in general or in the industry that your company operates in, but also in the realm of L&D specifically. Are there trends you need to be aware of? New technologies you might want to look into? Or developments in L&D that may be attractive to current and potential new employees?
Introducing (or at least researching) new learning trends should always be a pillar in your strategy, especially if you want to keep up with the times and become or remain a competitive employer.
4. Gather employee feedback
When employees are made to feel that the company not only listens to them but implements their suggestions, it makes them feel empowered, motivated and engaged. The voice of your learners is extremely important, especially if you want to inspire them to learn. Consider introducing an annual learning survey to ask what they'd like to learn, how they prefer to learn, what they see as obstacles to learning, etc. Similar to an employee engagement survey, it can show any areas of concern and give you ideas on how to improve your current learning portfolio.
5. Define success metrics
Whenever I am tasked with a big project and wonder where to start, I tell myself, "start with the end in mind". In other words – know what your ideal outcome should look like and reverse-engineer the steps to get there. And to be able to define and measure this ideal outcome, you would need some metrics. They will help you assess whether you're on or off track.
Some metrics you might want to observe are:
Learning/training satisfaction - how happy your learners are immediately after the learning event
Return of Investment (ROI) - what was the business impact compared to the money you put into the learning intervention
Learning cost per employee - how much it costs to provide learning opportunities to someone (these could be training, coaching, webinars, access to online courses, etc.)
Retention - do employees stay with the company because of development opportunities
Net Promoter Score (NPS) - would your learners recommend the learning intervention to their colleagues
You can get this data by introducing surveys pre- and post-learning, by conducting focus group interviews or by extracting it from your Learning Management System (LMS), if your company has one.
6. Identify learning priorities
Once you've done your research and initial analysis, you're ready to start creating a plan for the year. A guiding question here should be "What are the core learning needs of the business?"
Depending on how big the company is and how ambitious its business goals are, you might end up with a lot of learning needs that need addressing. How do you tackle this? The answer is - prioritizing. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
Start by looking for learning needs that have the biggest impact on the business and are the most urgent. For example, these could be areas with the biggest number of people needing training, the poorest performance results, serious performance issues, etc.
7. Design a Learning Strategy roadmap
No matter how good your strategy may look on paper, it's worthless unless you have a plan for how to turn it into action. Make sure you break it down into specific projects and assign people and timelines to each. Tools like Asana can help you visualize your plan better and keep track of all ongoing learning projects and contributors. You can start with a template and customize it to fit your needs:
You don’t have to go and sign up for yet another tool, though. Your L&D strategy can live on an MS Word document or an MS Excel sheet. As long as it has themes, actions, owners, and deadlines, it’s an actual strategy.
As you set out to create your company's learning and development strategy, remember it is crucial for helping employees reach their potential. A well-thought-out plan will help you support your employees’ development more effectively, which will ultimately lead them to perform better in their roles and boost your company’s overall success.