Ask any CEO about the importance of learning in the organization and the answer will be: it is nothing less than great. It’s commonly acknowledged that L&D is crucial in any business, that it can drive positive results, innovation and higher employee engagement rates.
Ask what the learning strategy is, and you will easily see that it is more or less like a fire department procedure – always ready to get up, light up the sirens and carry out an intervention with as little damage as possible.
Because everything in the corporate world seems to be shifting and transforming beyond recognition with incredible speeds, learning specialists appear to have become part of an emergency unit, constantly there to assist when needed.
There’s a need to strategize
While the ability to design and deploy rapid interventions is something to be desired in the current business environment, this approach can’t really lead to qualitative results concerning both learning and the way it is perceived by employees.
It’s true that the L&D team is primarily a support unit but in order to be really successful it needs to not only re-act but also to act by creating medium- and long-term learning strategies aimed at supporting organizational goals and driving employee engagement up.
Learning is a continuous process and even with so many possibilities for getting information, good structure is still needed. It’s the job of learning professionals to come up with a strong frame on which they can then build.
4 Important questions for building a good strategy
Four questions need to be answered when constructing a good organizational learning strategy:
Where is the organization at the present time?
The answer to this should provide a clear picture of the state of things learning-wise. A lot of the issues that occur come from the fact that managers have little control and even less communication with the L&D departments. So, in establishing a starting point, it is important to get the input of all the stakeholders, compare current actions towards organizational objectives and see if they are connected, identify the strong and weak points of programs going on at that time.
Where does it want to be?
This is probably the easiest step because generally, projection comes naturally to people. Managers and employees will be more than happy to give their opinion about where the company should get to and the numerous benefits of any improvement. It’s crucial, however, to make sure that at the end of all discussions some very concrete and coherent objectives are laid down. Ambiguity can do nothing but damage any attempt of building a strategy.
What are the best means to get there?
If up to this point there were several people and different departments involved, once all the information is gathered and organized, it is time for the L&D specialists to take up the reins and identify the most efficient methods in which learning programs can help the organization get better results and reach its objectives.
How will progress be measured?
Last, but by no means least, comes the evaluation question. Figuring the KPIs by which the strategy will be considered functional, successful or excellent is not an easy task but a very important one. Since we are talking about a long-term journey, there ought to be some checkpoints along the way, just to make sure that everything is on the right track. Timelines are as important as palpable objectives.
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The learning strategy and employee engagement
It’s very common for managers to try and use learning interventions as a temporary cure for employees who are less productive, demotivated or downright unhappy with some of the projects they have to work on.
Sometimes they get enrolled in modules meant to increase productivity by brushing up on relevant skills, other times they end up in personal development or well-being interventions aimed at giving them some sense of accomplishment or self-growth. For a limited period of time, these can even work.
However, corporate learning should be about a lot more than isolated and unrelated episodes. The first goal ought to be the creation and curation of a genuine learning culture in the organization. The second should be showing and acting on a genuine concern for the needs of the employees.
What generates engagement
It is clear to everyone that the new generation of employees doesn’t work solely for the paycheck. They need purpose, meaning and social implication. It’s increasingly difficult for HR specialists to create deals that are truly valuable to millennials. Here are some things to be taken under advisement, both by recruiters and L&D specialists:
- There is a need for an organizational culture of empowerment. People need to feel that they are trusted to make decisions about their work, about how and when things get done.
- Employees look for leader authenticity. This has to do mainly with internal communication and the way in which leaders present themselves and the company’s goals.
- Acknowledgement is paramount. People need to know that they are valuable to the organization and feel they deserve recognition for their efforts and positive results.
- Accountability needs to be visible so that it’s clear to everyone who has done what and what the standards are.
Developing an excellent learning strategy is one of the most important factors for business success. This comprehensive plan has to touch on all essential aspects: onboarding, mentoring, leadership development, knowledge management and succession planning.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.