How To Develop Winning Learning and Development Strategies

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How To Develop Winning Learning and Development Strategies

Learning and Development (L&D) strategies impact an organization’s business decisions by highlighting the development of the specific skills required to expand to new markets or remain competitive within your industry. 

Training can be costly for the business and takes away time from employees doing their daily tasks. As such, it is essential to align your L&D strategy with your organization’s overall strategy for maximum ROI. 

What is a learning and development strategy?
Key areas that learning and development strategies can improve
Types of learning and development
Steps to develop a learning and development strategy

What is a learning and development strategy?

A learning and development strategy outlines employees’ capabilities and how they can be cultivated to help meet company objectives. It forms part of the overall business strategy.

It is influenced by factors like company goals, stakeholders’ needs, current skills gaps, designing and choosing the appropriate learning methodology, measuring L&D’s effectiveness, and how this becomes a policy. 

A sound learning and development strategy is particularly vital during a tight labor market or recession. By providing employees with higher development opportunities, they are more inclined to stay with a company because they know there is room for growth. A Deloitte study revealed that a strong learning culture increases retention rates by 30 to 50%.

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And if employees continue to advance in their skills relevant to changes in the business environment, they’ll likely continue to be successful and beat competitors. Research conducted by Deakin University in collaboration with Deloitte found that every $1 invested in Learning and Development per employee was associated with an additional $4.70 in business revenue per employee on average.

The role of HR in learning and development 

More often than not, L&D initiatives are often the responsibility of HR, especially within smaller companies. However, larger organizations will have an L&D department responsible for these activities. 

In these instances, it is important for HR and L&D employees to work together to avoid confusion or redundancy when: 

  • Identifying the skills needed for hiring new staff
  • Upskilling/reskilling existing workforce for internal hiring and promotion opportunities
  • Managing performance for low-performing individuals

For example, succession planning facilitated by an HR manager can involve implementing managerial training for existing employees, which could also be an L&D activity.

Furthermore, HR professionals are responsible for the following L&D initiatives:

  • Design and execute L&D programs to support the entire employee life cycle. This includes onboarding, career development, succession planning, and management and leadership development
  • Monitor and evaluate L&D programs’ effectiveness and make adjustments accordingly based on employee performance
Types of L&D Initiatives HR Can Consider
Learn more about different types of L&D initiatives below.

Key areas that learning and development strategies can improve

1. Attracting and retaining top talent 

In a joint study by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence, 89% of employees surveyed are motivated to improve their skills in 2023. Gen Z and Millennial talent, in particular, are interested in joining companies that provide training and upskilling. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report also found that companies excelling at internal mobility through upskilling retain employees for an average of 5.4 years. This is almost twice as long as companies that do not, where the average retention span is 2.9 years.

2. Employee engagement

Employee satisfaction increases when employees get the chance to progress their knowledge. It’s natural for people to become more engaged when they learn something new. In a Udemy study, 80% of employees indicated that learning and development opportunities would help them to feel more engaged at work.

3. Employer branding

An employer brand represents the company’s image to the candidates and employees. One of the best things you can do to boost your image is to show that you are invested in your employees’ development through L&D. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, candidates still value upskilling as one of their priorities when searching for the right job fit. 

4. Workplace culture

In a study by MIT Sloan, almost 30% of employees indicated corporate culture as the most important reason for staying with their employers. Additionally, nearly 30% of those employees mentioned learning and development as essential to their desired workplace culture. Tech advancements require constant upskilling, so employees want to work for organizations that appreciate and promote a learning culture. 

Types of learning and development

1. Onboarding and new employee training

Onboarding aims to integrate a new employee into the company. It starts right after the job offer or on the first day of work and can last up to a few weeks or months when the employee is fully integrated into the position and the organization. 

Onboarding covers the following items: 

  • Setting expectations about employees’ roles and responsibilities
  • Completion of necessary paperwork (forms, benefits)
  • A brief discussion of the organization: history, background, goals 
  • Touring the office or work premises
  • Introduction of the members and employees of the organization
  • Discussion about learning and growth opportunities

A solid onboarding process can help your new staff acclimatize quicker into their roles so they can be productive sooner. 

As part of AIHR’s new employee onboarding process, new AIHR employees work through a course that provides them with an overview of the Certificate Programs available. It also includes training around the various concepts taught within the modules, such as understanding People Analytics, General HR, and Strategic HR. Additional learning is provided around where to access company information, the AIHR core values, and future product roadmaps.  

2. Technical skill development

Technical skills training refers to learning specific skills necessary to perform tasks or using job-related tools. It could be learning SEO or web analytics for marketing professionals. Or using ATS or CRM for recruiters.

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Amazon’s Technical Academy provides voluntary training to assist nontechnical employees in developing their existing skills and provide them with the ability to move into software engineering careers. Their Associate2Tech helps train employees who fulfill customers’ orders to develop the skills that will enable them to move into technical roles. 

It’s also crucial to consider employees learning styles and preferences for technical skills training to be effective. Use different methods and be consistent. For instance, you can combine instructor-led training with video demonstration and on-the-job training to maximize learning. 

According to Sonia Malik, Global Program Lead, Education and Workforce Development at IBM, it is essential to offer learning from a delivery modality that encompasses remote learners and learners in the office. She advises a blend of the face-to-face and the remote experience. 

Don’t forget to link skills training with your employees’ goals and interests so they’ll be more motivated to learn faster. And those individuals who are already competent in their jobs should still seek additional training to keep current with the latest technology and developments within their field of expertise. 

3. Soft skills development

Soft skills focus on developing traits that enable employees to communicate effectively and collaborate with their coworkers. Examples of soft skills are:  

  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Teamwork 
  • Leadership

Soft skills are essential in building a respectful and collaborative work environment. And they can be developed through teambuilding exercises, coaching, mentoring, and online classes. 

Adobe provides women employees an opportunity to be involved in the Leadership Circles program to help them build their leadership skills. Their Executive Shadow programs create the means for employees to make connections across the company. 

4. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging training

Conducting DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) training can help address workplace biases and discrimination. These programs foster psychological safety for employees, so everyone feels safe and empowered and feels they belong to the organization. 

DEIB training covers:  

  • Addressing unconscious bias
  • Building an inclusive work environment
  • Equity literacy 
  • Trust building 
  • Hiring diverse candidates 

XPO Logistics launched employee resource groups for particular demographic and psychographic groups across its organization which has continued to yield good results. 

5. Managerial training

Untrained managers pose a considerable danger to the organization. They won’t be able to manage conflicts among their teams, provide effective coaching or motivate their direct reports. It could escalate to productivity and profitability loss. If you want to have productive teams, you need to train your managers.

Managerial training encompasses: 

  • Managing conflict
  • Coaching 
  • Performance management
  • Promoting teamwork 
  • Delegation 

Managerial training can be delivered via in-house training or by hiring external consultants. You can also consider mentorship, where senior managers can train newly-hired or promoted supervisors for the first six months to a year. This is a better option since senior managers know the company’s culture, processes, and challenges. 

Steps to develop a learning and development strategy

While every organization has different professional development needs, the following steps will help you build a strong foundation for developing an effective learning and development strategy: 

1. Align with business strategy

HR plays a strategic role in the organization by ensuring that learning and development strategies are aligned with targeted business outcomes. For example, if you are a tech company and one of your business strategies is to offer more cloud-based products in the market, then L&D will focus on providing tech-based training to equip people with the necessary cloud computing skills to make that possible. 

For your training programs to work, your L&D strategies should consider the following: 

  • Your employees’ skills and determine which are most vital to support the implementation of the company’s various business priorities
  • Your unique proposition as a business and your competitive advantage
  • Your customers – what they need and how it changes over time 
  • Business changes – competition, growth, and decline of your business and how technology impacts your business
  • Agility – how your company stays resilient and adapts to changes dictated by economic and technological developments

Senior executives should champion professional development and be given enough resources, budget, and support as their performance and leadership affect their teams, causing a ripple effect organization-wide. And check the alignment regularly to guarantee your employees always have the capabilities to support your company’s products and services. 

2. Define and design with business leaders

HR should involve business leaders in defining, prioritizing, and designing the L&D initiatives. 

In the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, L&D presence at C-Suite tables grew globally from 24% in March 2020 to 63% in March 2021. Leaders are becoming more aware of the importance of learning and development in the workplace. 

To get better stakeholder buy-in, engage stakeholders in the employee training and development process. Perform an internal stakeholder evaluation to identify their learning and development needs via surveys. Combine these surveys with one-on-one meetings to gain more in-depth guidance and feedback on the desired L&D project. 

Foster stronger stakeholder support by creating a system where chief customer experience officers, senior management, and business unit heads collaborate to immerse L&D initiatives into the company culture. 

3. Determine employee capabilities and identify skills gaps 

The next step is to align the business strategy with the current employee capabilities and determine where there are skills gaps. 

First, determine the essential competencies for various functions and responsibilities in alignment with the business goals. For example, a key competency for a cloud computing workforce could be further developing networking and programming expertise. 

Then, conduct a skills audit to evaluate existing competencies and knowledge in the organization and skills gap analysis to identify potential skills shortages or growth opportunities for an individual. 

Once you understand the skills shortages, you will better understand where the priorities lie when designing your L&D programs. 

4. Design learning journeys 

Focus on employee learning journeys to ensure continuous learning. The learning journey aims to help individuals develop the required skills and transfer knowledge of performing job-related tasks. They usually include immersive learning environments like gamification, virtual and augmented reality, and scenario-based training. 

For instance, offer programming lessons via online and classroom courses, coding boot camps, interactive tutorials, coding videos, and holding coding challenges and sessions.

The telecommunications and technology company Nokia has implemented MyGrowth Portal, which is a one-stop shop for L&D available to all employees. Jill Medhaug, Nokia’s Global HR Business Partner, explained at the Rethink HR Tech 2022 event that workers get training recommendations based on their current and desired roles.

For example, tech employees receive training suggestions based on whether they want to become people managers or want to further develop their technical expertise.

5. Implementation of L&D initiatives

The successful implementation of your learning and development initiatives starts with planning. Your plan should include the purpose of your training and the proposed deliverables. Provide a SWOT analysis to determine the most fitting learning program. 

State your proposed budget, detailing all the associated costs of running the program. Speak with your company’s finance department to understand the most impactful figures to include and how to best present them in your plan. Provide detailed information on the benefits of the learning and development program. Again, align these with business goals and objectives, so management can better understand the ROI, which could increase the likelihood of supporting and funding the program. 

Trial your program by conducting pilot classes. A trial helps identify weaknesses, so you can refine your training to reach the point it meets everyones’ expectations and objectives. 

As you successfully run your learning and development initiatives, incorporate the employee lifecycle to build multi-year L&D strategies, so you receive proper support and financing. 

6. Track performance

Tracking employee performance helps your company guarantee that the learning and development projects provided are engaging and help achieve company goals. Here are three common L&D metrics to analyze the effectiveness of your training programs: 

  • Training completion rate: The percentage of employees that enrolled and completed the course. Knowing this metric offers a glimpse of how effective the training program was, the complexity of the subject matter, the trainers facilitating the training, and the available resources. 
  • Assessment pass rate: Measures how many employees passed the training. A high passing rate could indicate the course was too easy, while a low rate could mean the program was too difficult. Understanding this KPI can help you adjust your training based on your employees’ existing skills and their current competency level. 
  • Training dropout rate: Measures how many employees did not complete the course due to learner lack of motivation, insufficient support from instructors or the time allotted to complete the course is not enough. Knowing the problems can help course developers to decide what needs improvement. 

7. Analyze effectiveness and make changes

Assess the overall impact of training programs beyond the L&D metrics by evaluating them on a company wide-level. Analyze the effectiveness and make changes based on the outcomes: 

  • How effectively were the learning strategies supporting the company’s goals and priorities?
  • How effectively were the learning and development programs equipping employees with the needed knowledge, skills, and expertise to become more competitive? Was there an improvement in the performance? Were the skills gaps addressed? 
  • To what extent do learning and development impact the whole company i.e. was there an increase in employee motivation, morale, engagement, and retention? Was the company culture strengthened or enhanced? Were business processes become more efficient? 
  • Were the L & D investments and resources used effectively?

More importantly, don’t leave out learners’ feedback post-training. Roll out surveys asking employees what they like about the training programs, what they think could be further improved, and their overall satisfaction and assessment of the training. Incorporating their suggestions helps design L&D programs to gain more participation and support. 

And don’t forget to revisit and adapt the learning strategy as the business strategy changes. 

To conclude

With technology advancing rapidly, investing in learning and development is more important than ever in developing and sustaining an organization’s competitive advantage. 

L&D leaders must learn how to create learning and development strategies that align with business objectives and address employees’ skills gaps to stay agile and have the human talent necessary to compete in the digital age. 

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