As we head into 2023, the talent shortage is one of the major concerns for organizations. Looking to anticipate competitors, companies are redefining their employee experience. e.g., by adding to their value proposition a four-day week, flexibility, and appealing learning and development opportunities.
In this context, there has never been a more important time to have a clear and strong learning and development strategy in place. A good strategy defines the actions a business should take and the priorities, acting as a guiding principle to achieving the expected goals.
“A good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals.”
Watkins (2007), Demystifying Strategy: The What, Who, How, and Why, Harvard Business Review.
A learning and development strategy (L&D strategy) is an organizational plan that aims to promote professional development within an organization whereby employees develop their knowledge, skills, and competencies through corporate training and other educational initiatives.
As an organizational plan, it should be cost-effective, time relevant, add value for the stakeholders, and align with the business strategy.
L&D strategy outlines the aims of an employee development initiative, ensuring they align with broader business goals.
Defining a corporate L&D strategy establishes a synergy between leadership and HR to help design training courses and personal development programs for employees throughout the organization.
L&D strategy is a critical part of an organization’s wider business strategy. It outlines the competencies the company requires from its workforce so that L&D staff can focus their efforts on a specific strategy.
Successful L&D strategies produce effective employees with the knowledge, skills, and capabilities required to improve the organization’s performance.
While L&D strategies are critical for businesses operating in evolving markets, they also produce significant employee benefits:
Even though there are significant benefits, research shows only 40% of companies say their learning strategy is aligned with business goals. Given that more than half of businesses fail to connect their learning initiatives to their objectives, companies that take the time to develop an explicit L&D strategy can see significant benefits.
When an organization aligns its L&D strategy with corporate goals, it can:
While there is overlap, the benefits produced by implementing a successful corporate L&D strategy can be separated into those for the employee and the employer.
While the L&D team is likely responsible for designing, implementing, and assessing a new strategy, other key stakeholders are involved.
The specific stakeholders will depend on the chosen goals and the scale of the operation, but generally, they can be separated into three categories:
The employees are the ones learning new knowledge, skills, and capabilities to apply in their work.
Organizations should clearly communicate L&D strategies to employees, informing them of the aim and expected outcomes.
It is also helpful to receive feedback and learn how employees like to learn. Ultimately, the learners will experience the development programs and undergo the planned transformation, and their input is valuable.
Organizations must convey the importance of new L&D strategies and the potential benefits for employees. They also need to demonstrate they are willing to invest time and resources to help them acquire the new capabilities.
While many L&D activities will be mandated and scheduled (such as courses, workshops, etc.), others will need to be performed independently, and their success depends on the learners’ enthusiasm.
Line managers are crucial stakeholders who, depending on their attitude, can hinder or enhance an L&D strategy.
Buy-in from managers and supervisors is critical to the success of an L&D strategy. They are the people closest to the employees and will be able to provide critical information about specific employee development programs as well as assess the impact of particular educational content.
It is also important to remember that managers should also be considered learners. An effective L&D strategy includes learning objectives and new skills for managers to develop.
While other stakeholders offer ideas and operational factors influence L&D strategy, it is leadership that will define the goals of an organization’s corporate training program.
Additionally, they set the organization’s learning culture, and their actions are an example for everyone below.
Generally speaking, two main factors influence L&D strategy, which in turn are the starting point for the strategy. They are 1) your business goals or strategic direction and 2) existing operational factors. In short, this is the idealized version of what you want to implement and, realistically, what is possible.
The company’s strategic direction and goals should form the foundation of your L&D strategy. This includes both internal context (e.g., previous business performance) and external context (e.g., market conditions).
Examples could include:
Some of these may include the entire organization, while others require focusing on particular departments.
Your business’s strategic direction should be the starting point for designing employee development programs and reskilling initiatives.
Your business goals will define the scale of your L&D overhaul, the investment required, and the level of employee engagement or buy-in you need to engender.
The final L&D strategy filters business goals through existing operational factors.
This includes the workplace culture and learning ecosystem already in place to determine if they are conducive to the new L&D plans or whether a fundamental change in L&D focus is needed.
Operational factors to consider when creating an L&D strategy include:
Every organization requires different outcomes from its L&D efforts. Therefore, you cannot simply copy others or implement generic training programs with the hope of creating meaningful benefits. Instead, organizations wanting to maximize the impact of employee training must design their L&D strategy that fits their needs.
However, you can take several steps to help create an effective and successful L&D strategy
The first step is to consult with key stakeholders, clarifying their requirements and establishing their expectations regarding the learners’ behavior post-training.
That means discussing L&D goals with employees, managers, and leadership and learning the most impactful outcomes for each of the main parties.
Next, you should analyze stakeholder requirements and find a solution capable of delivering compatible business outcomes.
L&D is most effective when it is directly tied to your broader business strategy.
Therefore, you should set these requirements against what you hope to achieve and identify attainable goals you can accomplish via a new L&D strategy.
Setting goals from the outset informs every subsequent decision you make. Will this get the organization closer to our goals?
With clearly defined objectives in place, you have an outline to fall back on when making potentially tricky decisions.
These goals should also be communicated to all stakeholders for approval before implementing new L&D processes.
Skills gap analysis is the process of assessing employees to determine the gaps between their existing capabilities and what you want from them in the future.
Using this technique, you can focus on the areas you hope to improve through the new L&D strategy. This could be performed company-wide or by focusing on the areas most closely related to the outcomes defined in step two.
Once you understand your existing workforce and where their weaknesses are, you can begin to develop training programs and specific learning experiences to enhance operations and achieve your goals.
Successful L&D programs tailor content to be as impactful as possible for each employee while also allowing them to learn in the manner that suits them best.
Essential factors to consider when planning learning experiences include:
Learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement with L&D
This is where the L&D strategy goes from theory to practice and the training is delivered.
A lot has to go right, including developing the right content for your employees and having instructors capable of engaging and informative sessions.
When building a new learning culture, it is crucial to establish how training and continuous education will become part of the workplace routine.
Learn How to Build a Learning Culture to enhance the overall learning experiences.
The first two steps establish what stakeholders hope to achieve with a new L&D strategy. The final stage of the process is to track employee performance against these outcomes and assess the effectiveness of the training program.
By tracking, monitoring, and evaluating employee performance, organizations can measure the impact of an L&D strategy and prove its value. Part of this is understanding employee performance before implementing a new L&D strategy.
Without a baseline in place, organizations struggle to establish meaningful learning metrics that reflect the real impact of a training program.
Tracking performance and evaluating training effectiveness is a difficult task. You can ask for feedback and incorporate employee assessments to determine what was learned.
But it is more challenging to measure behavioral changes and determine whether the new capabilities were efficiently applied in the workplace.
Discover 10 Valuable Training Metrics to Know
There are many examples of effective L&D strategies for different types of organizations and various industries. Examples include:
All these steps can be improved by implementing effective online platforms for learning and development.
Online platforms act as a critical tool helping to ensure consistent delivery of content to employees based on the chosen strategy. They allow employees to learn on their own terms, accessing training material where and when they want to learn.
The application of L&D online platforms includes:
With online platforms simplifying L&D processes, organizations can:
With the rise of work-from-home and hybrid models, online platforms for learning and development have gone from a bonus to a necessity. Training a dispersed workforce is only possible based on in-person interactions.
Now with the integration of online platforms, L&D staff can maintain operations and ensure teams are still developing new skills even when they are not in the office.
Online learning has become essential for the learning and development strategy. If you are interested in topics like employee experience, scalable onboarding programs, and learning analytics, book a Valamis demo, we are here to help.