A comprehensive yet robust learning and development strategy can empower learners, teaching them skills needed to navigate the challenges of the workplace and the world.
Learning and development has become a core strategy for organisations worldwide to acquire, develop, and retain talent.
Through education and skill development, ambitious organisations aim to tap into the potential of their new and existing employees. A strong learning and development strategy benefits the employees and the entire organisation.
While employees learn skills they can use throughout life, companies benefit from performance improvement. It can also address the UK’s talent shortage, especially in technology.
What Is a Learning and Development Strategy?
A learning and development strategy provides the framework for organisations looking to enhance their employees’ knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
The primary goal of such a strategy is to enable employee growth and improve performance.
It also accounts for the adoption of new technologies in the workplace. As new technologies emerge, it’s the function of the learning and development teams to ensure employees receive appropriate training to use them.
But, why create a strategy for learning and development?
For most organisations, investing in the education and upskilling of their employees is an investment. And any investment requires a sound strategy.
You may not know the most efficient way to solve a problem without a strategy.
With a strategy in place, you can also prioritise tasks according to their impact while managing your budget.
Most importantly, a strategic approach can deliver measurable results.
Key Components of a Learning and Development Strategy
Here are the critical components of a learning and development strategy in organisations:
Assessment of Learning Needs and Skill Gaps
It’s vital to assess the current learning needs of your employees. It will help you identify the skill gaps that exist in your organisation.
This can be achieved through performance evaluations, surveys and interviews with existing employees.
Communicating directly with the stakeholders is the best action to discover what people want to learn. For instance, in a software development company, employees may lack expertise in an emerging programming language.
It may also help to assess the skill requirements for the projects the company may take on in the foreseeable future. Similarly, it’s also beneficial to assess industry trends, especially in technology and what skills are necessary to keep up with them.
Establishing Goals and Objectives
Any initiative without a goal won’t produce desirable results. As learning and development is an investment, setting goals and objectives is imperative.
The goals should be specific and ideally have a timeline. For example, with a learning and development strategy, the goal of a retailer could be to improve customer service.
Through training sessions with employees on the store floor, the objective could be to bring down customer complaints.
Similarly, an organisation dealing with frequent conflicts amongst team members may aim to impart conflict resolution techniques.
These goals can be revisited as circumstances within the organisation change. Similarly, the goals should be updated regularly, per the organisation’s and its employees’ needs.
Alignment with Organisational Goals
The goals the organisation aims to achieve with its learning and development strategy should be tied back to its business goals.
Ultimately, it’s the organisation’s investment, so it only makes sense to align it with the business goals.
In a survey by the Brandon Hall Group, 87 percent of respondents said that aligning learning and development strategy with business strategy is important.
This ensures that all the investments and efforts made to develop talent ultimately help the company reach its near and long-term objectives.
Educational Content and Delivery
This part of the learning and development strategy addresses how the knowledge or skills are imparted to employees.
Depending on the business niche, the educational content delivery may vary. In corporate settings, training workshops and seminars are frequently used to develop employees.
Delivery through online courses has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the widespread adoption of hybrid work models.
With online courses, employees can learn from anywhere and are not required to be present in the office.
In some industries and organisations, hands-on training or education may be necessary. For instance, machinery operators in industrial facilities will require practical on-site training.
When choosing the mode of delivery of educational and training content, consider convenience and effectiveness. The goal is to encourage employees to work on their professional development.
Allocating the resources for the purpose of learning and development is a core component of the strategy.
This includes setting aside funds for the purpose of education, skill development and training of employees. Organisations can dedicate a specific portion of their annual budget toward this purpose.
In large organisations, it can be beneficial to have a dedicated team for managing the learning and development of the employees. It can be an independent department or an arm of the human resources department.
The personnel in the learning and development team will be responsible for planning and delivering growth and development projects within the organisation. The dedicated funds can go toward the payroll of this team and outsourcing any teaching and development jobs.
Work with Different Business Units
In enterprises with various departments and teams, it’s important to involve leaders from different units in the strategising phase.
As team leaders, they have a direct influence on members and understand their requirements better. With the involvement of managers and team leaders, learning and development can be made more personalised.
More importantly, team leaders can provide insights into what works with their team and what can drive success.
Every department and team has functions that are exclusive to them. While it’s important to foster collaboration, it’s equally important to ensure teams do well at jobs specific to their department.
Evaluation and Measurement
It’s important to measure the effectiveness of any learning and development initiatives. To do that, key performance indicators (KPIs) can be set.
The KPIs vary by the niche and scope of the business. Again, looking back to the business goals can help guide the KPI-setting process. For example, a software development company can measure the performance of its learning and development initiatives through time-to-market for a product.
If projects are finished on time and the product reaches the market, the initiatives have proven successful.
The KPIs can be even more specific, especially in the context of the learning and development initiative. Using the same example, the number of reported bugs in code can be a more specific metric for measuring the success of learning and training programs.
With KPIs, companies can discover which development programs have shown the most impact.
Feedback and Improvement
As mentioned before, the involvement of all the stakeholders is critical for the success of learning and development efforts.
To improve learning and development strategy, companies should consistently collect employee feedback. After training workshops or conferences, employees can answer surveys on their satisfaction. They can also be interviewed for more one-on-one feedback.
Feedback allows for improvement going forward, as teams responsible for overseeing employee development initiatives can incorporate suggestions and make even more impact.
Learning and Development Approaches
Once you’ve nailed down a strategy, you can explore the different options you have for delivering knowledge, up and reskilling, and enhancing the capabilities of your employees.
Of course, the approach depends on what you’re trying to achieve. However, some approaches are better in certain circumstances.
For instance, the development of teamwork skills may be more effectively achieved through team-building exercises than a PowerPoint presentation in a conference room.
Here are some of the common approaches to learning and development in modern organisations:
With this approach to learning and training, you utilise the manager of the department or team. It’s an effective approach for engaging employees and pushing them to improve.
This approach can come in handy for developing soft skills in teams, such as interpersonal skills or time management.
As managers know their team members better, they can deliver knowledge and training in a more personalised fashion. However, it’s important to acknowledge that teaching and training aren’t skills all managers may possess.
So, before enlisting a manager to take on the training role, it’s helpful to provide some coaching training to them.
This is also a learning and development initiative, as managers develop into more impactful leaders capable of imparting knowledge to the people they manage.
Training sessions are the most popular for the development of employees, especially when it comes to acquiring or improving skills.
With training sessions, an expert can educate and deliver hands-on training on the subject matter. This expert can be from within the organisation (if available) or outside.
Training sessions can be delivered in-person or online, depending on the type of skills being developed.
The sessions should ideally be short and have very specific content. It’s important to engage employees by offering incentives.
One form of skills development is social learning, where people learn from one another.
This approach can be particularly beneficial for the development of new hires. For instance, a new employee can shadow an existing team member to see how they do things and learn from them.
Collaboration is an important aspect of social learning. As a result, any form of social learning encourages open communication and sharing of ideas.
Employees can also be encouraged to teach things to others. For instance, an employee who already has education and experience regarding a specific job can train others.
Courses and Certifications
Having employees take courses and complete certifications is another way of empowering them with more knowledge and skills.
Both online and in-person courses can be beneficial for acquiring new skills. Employees should be encouraged instead of forced to take such courses.
Many courses and certifications are paid, so significant investment may be required on the part of the employer.
However, one study has shown that employees who are trained and developed are more likely to stay with their company.
To sum up, a comprehensive learning and development strategy is vital for the relevance and success of any modern organisation.
By continuously enhancing the knowledge and skills of their employees, companies can essentially bridge the skill gaps while also giving employees incentives to stay and perform better.
One-on-one and team coaching, in-person and online courses, certifications, seminars and webinars, and podcasts are all different forms of development initiatives for employees.
Learning and development of employees is also essential for businesses to navigate an ever-changing landscape of technology.
What are the elements of a learning and development strategy?
A learning and development strategy provides a framework for organisations to develop, upskill and reskill their employees.
The common elements of a learning and development strategy are:
- Goals and outcomes expected from initiatives
- Communication and collaboration between business team leaders and learning and development teams
- Assessment of skill gaps and their impact on performance and growth
- Allocation of budget and resources
- Setting metrics for measuring the impact of training, coaching, courses, etc.
What are some learning and development examples?
There are many ways organisations can pursue the learning and development of their employees. The most commonly used methods include online courses, mentoring, coaching, certifications and job shadowing.
Why is learning and development important in an organisation?
Companies that invest in developing their employees essentially invest in their own growth.
Employees who receive training and development perform better at their jobs and are likely to stay with the company longer.
Learning and development also allow companies to tap the potential of their current employees without necessarily hiring new talent.
It can also be beneficial in times of talent shortage, especially for specific skills.
What is Google’s learning and development strategy?
Google, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, uses a one-on-one employee development strategy, which they call Googler-to-Googler.
Most of their learning activities are delivered through employees, often with one-on-one interaction.
It allows employees to get first-hand knowledge about different fields or skills within the organisation. This strategy has developed a culture of collaborative learning at Google campuses.