In today’s competitive and ever-changing business environment, it’s important that you and your people are developing in tandem.
Maintaining a high-performance company today means you need team members who are constantly learning advanced skills to face new challenges. The only way to ensure that this happens long term, is to facilitate and invest in your employees’ growth as part of your company’s core strategy.
A learning and development (L&D) strategy outlines how your organisation is going to develop its workforce capabilities, skills and competencies, whilst critically, driving the company to success and reaching your core goals.
Why do you need to invest in learning and development?
No one wants to be stuck doing the same repetitive tasks day in, day out - even if they are hyper-capable.
Many employees are eager to learn, aware of their own skill sets and take ownership of their career path. If your employees don’t feel that they have the opportunity to progress and learn within your business, it’s likely that they will soon move on to somewhere that they can.
Whilst reading this, you may be wondering - why should I invest in my employees’ learning and development, when they might gain these skills in my company then move elsewhere?
The answer is that by focusing on your employees’ learning and development, you show that you value them and want to support them in reaching their career goals.
Not only this, but by offering learning and development strategies throughout your talent pipeline, your employees are going to see how they can develop and grow within your company - allowing you to retain your top talent. And in this competitive business environment, that’s no easy feat.
After all, your employees are the mechanism that will drive your company to success; that’s why it’s essential that you create learning and development strategies that manage the development of people, in a way that supports business priorities.
The benefits of learning and development strategies also include:
Engaging employeesWhen you provide your employees with new skills, they become more engaged in their work and will challenge themselves to look for different ways to apply their newly gained skills. This helps to boost productivity, efficiency and quality of results - but also brings refreshed enthusiasm as your employees feel reassured that they are growing within their current role.
Attracting top talentA strong learning and development strategy not only engages your current employees - it also places your company above others when looking to bring in new talent. The motivated individuals that you want in your company place their personal and professional growth as a priority, so they seek out employers that allow for this in their job criteria. An L&D strategy can be the key to attracting the talent that you need to succeed.
Building your company’s reputationEvery element of your brand is important. When you add learning and development opportunities into your company’s strategy, you boost your company’s brand and reputation too. Placing priority on L&D allows you to display to others that you are financially and strategically ready to invest in your people and place in the market.
How should you develop your learning and development strategy?
If you don’t know where to start when building an L&D strategy, or if you’re reviewing your current one - you should start by taking a look at what other companies in your industry are offering. This will not only help you to know the expected industry benchmark but will also help to create ideas of what your employees will be interested in.
Follow these steps when developing your L&D strategy:
Conduct a skills gap analysis
Firstly, think about your organisation’s mission and vision. Where do you want to be in 10 years time and what it will take to get there?
Next, assess these goals against your company’s and employees’ current competencies to identify your present skills gap.
To ensure that you create a strategy which will bridge all knowledge gaps, you should start by conducting competency skill surveys of your current employees. This will highlight current levels of knowledge and display any areas for development.
Meeting with heads of departments and discussing how each team must develop in order to meet future business goals is also incredibly important. By planning ahead for the skills that will be required as your company grows, you will be prepared for future challenges, rather than having to act reactively, which may slow down your response-rate.
Your skills gap analysis will provide the base for your L&D priorities.
Find out what your employees want to learn
Knowing your company’s needs is the first step, but you can’t progress without engaging with your employees to find out how they want to develop.
Ask for feedback from your employees on the skills they feel are a priority for their development, whilst also finding out how they would prefer to learn and discovering more about their future career goals. By communicating with your employees - they have a say in something incredibly important - their career development. This will make your employees feel valued and more engaged in the process.
Although you may not be able to accommodate all the preferences discovered, this feedback can guide you in your decision-making process and allow you to explain to leaders and employees as to why you have selected certain L&D strategies.
Set clear objectives for your L&D strategy
As with any new initiative, you need to start out with clear, measurable objectives to track the strategy’s development and measure its success along the way.
Developing a clear, written L&D strategy based around organisational targets and employee satisfaction will also help you to gain better buy-in from both senior general management and stakeholders throughout the organisation.
Set a realistic budget and choose the delivery style
There’s no point in starting out with this strategy if it’s not properly resourced; this will just lead to your employees becoming frustrated with insufficient efforts. Make sure you’re realistic in what this will cost to be effective in meeting your goals.
It’s also important to be mindful of how you are going to deliver the training. Trying to cram training into one huge session will likely overwhelm your employees - instead conduct training sessions in short bursts. This ensures that your teams can absorb their learnings and solidify new skills in their day-to-day jobs, before taking on more information.
4 of the best learning and development strategies
1. Start with your leaders
Your workplace leaders and managers are the ones that will develop others and drive change in your business, so starting from the top down makes the process more efficient.
Investing in your leaders, by sending them to conferences and training sessions, not only aids their own development but they can also use their newly-gained skills to advance the rest of their team. By passing on their learnings to your teams in a way that relates to the day-to-day working of your business, you will quickly see results.
Moreover, one of the objectives of your L&D strategy should be to fit the right people to the right leadership skills. This will ensure that as your business grows and develops, your leadership team is strong and can scale in the right way. By focusing on your leaders, you can shape your business for the future.
Read next: 9 signs that your employees are disengaged (& how to re-energise them)
To reach a wide audience, e-learning is a cost-effective and accessible method. By offering learning modules online, you allow your team to carry out training in the way that works best for them.
As e-learning offers flexibility - your employees can complete the training at the speed that they prefer. They can take online lessons wherever or whenever they feel is best - removing any feeling of pressure that being constrained to a certain training schedule may add.
Although you are offering flexibility, an e-learning strategy also allows you the advantage of being able to see who is undertaking the training and track their progress along the way.
3. Outsourcing training through business schools
If you are an SME, often it can be hard to gain extensive skills from within the business or via conferences and training sessions. This means that to develop your company’s knowledge further, you may want to go beyond these methods and outsource training to business schools instead.
Not only will this be an in-depth source of learning for individuals, gaining professional accreditations for members of your staff can also help to boost your company's reputation. So if your company is in its growth stages, the entire business may vastly reap the benefits of this strategy.
A very simple L&D strategy, but one that is often overlooked, is on the job learning and shadowing.
By teaming up, your employees can share skills and advance each other.
Schedule in regular shadowing opportunities with different employees and different teams to allow your employees to build up a wealth of knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
This strategy not only helps to develop skills directly aiding your company, employees are also taught the desired standard from your leaders.
This allows your employees to put any theories into practice in an environment where someone is there to help, should it be needed., This time together will also encourage cross-channel collaboration, building stronger relationships and communication between your managers and employees.
A learning and development (L&D) strategy outlines how your organisation is going to develop its workforce capabilities, skills and competencies, in a way that drives the company to success and reaches your core goals.
Having a strong learning and development strategy helps to engage employees, attract top talent and build your company's reputation.
You should follow these steps to develop your learning and development strategy:
- Conduct a skills gap analysis
- Find out what your employees want to learn
- Set clear objectives for your L&D strategy
- Set a realistic budget and choose the delivery style
Drive employee engagement with appreciation
Celebrate and motivate your employees no matter where they’re working — in one building, remotely or across multiple locations.
- Create a culture of appreciation that engages employees wherever they are
- Boost productivity and employee retention