L&D specialists face the challenges of the modern business world every day. Markets evolve at incredible speeds, technology improves even faster, objectives and employees don’t stay the same for as long as they used to.
In the vortex of recruiting, training, developing skills, assessing competencies and identifying talent, learning and development departments hardly find the time to take a long hard look at themselves and weigh their own competence and added value to the organization.
As with everything, success does not come easily but there are a few things efficient L&D practitioners can do to get on the right path.
These best practices include: making sure they are aligned with business goals, get the top-management on board and provide personalized learning experiences. Let’s dive into each of them.
Aligning L&D with organizational objectives
Just as the organization’s objectives evolve, learning programs need to do that as well so they align with those new overall goals. And it’s equally important to put in place programs that build employees’ knowledge, competencies and help them meet their objectives. People are happier when they are more productive and perform at their jobs.
Unless the learning programs are providing effective training to the employees while at the same time supporting organizational objectives and priorities they are a rather useless expense with no benefits. That will definitely not look good at the next meeting about the budget.
The ultimate impact of any learning program should be related to either productivity or profitability so thorough investigation into what areas need to be addressed to achieve one of those goals is essential in establishing what the right L&D approach should be.
Just because the focus had been on revenue performance in previous years does not mean it constantly stays the same. Quality assurance can become more important as markets and customer demands change.
And most often, there are several very different areas that need addressing. Apart from the constant need to train new hires (especially with Millennials now making up most of a very volatile workforce) there is also a growing necessity to develop the leaders of tomorrow and ensuring a satisfactory level of competency among long-term employees.
Getting top-management on board
Just as L&D programs should support organizational goals, the organization should also support L&D programs. When it comes to new training programs, it is the task of L&D specialists to secure engagement from line managers and team leaders. They are the “critical agents” where corporate learning is involved.
Communicating with them right from the early stages, making sure they are aware of the learning objectives, the accessibility of the units, the time it will take to complete the program and most important, how all this will benefit the team is the right way to start.
Making use of their experience, asking for advice or feedback (basically asking them to act as subject matter experts) is another good way to go about it. You may find their input invaluable in terms of making the content as relevant as possible for the target audiences; their first-hand experience could provide new angles you would not have otherwise thought of. Line managers are uniquely placed to advise how best to market a certain training program to employees and how it will fit with what they have to do at work every day.
Managers who already have had some say in the creation of a training are far more likely to be enthusiastic supporters of it. Even if sometimes they will not have time to reply or give much feedback, the fact that they have been kept in the loop will greatly increase their engagement in the program.
Providing a personalized experience
A truly efficient training program can address great numbers of trainees while at the same time allowing each participant to have a personal growing experience. It sound utopian but in the light of new available technologies it really isn’t.
Starting with the recruiting process, it is best to hire people who have the same values as the organization and are motivated by the opportunity to grow. It is as important to make the employees aware of what they have to gain from a certain learning experience as it is showing managers what’s in it for the team.
Providing a wide range of modules that help develop similar competencies will give trainees the opportunity to work on the areas they feel need improving.
It is useful to also give them a “road map” or checklist of skills they are expected to master within a certain time frame. This helps both the employee and the L&D specialist in charge to track progress and be aware of future promotion opportunities. A clear structure of the program promotes accountability and helps learners know where they are vis-à-vis of meeting their own career goals.
Personalization does not mean designing a different training for each employee but developing a complex and flexible program that will benefit as many as possible. Since this is almost impossible to be done in classic classroom mode, e-learning is the answer. And quite a great answer it is.
All in all
Achieving success in terms of online training programs is not exactly a straightforward endeavor. L&D professionals need to find the right path to it, and it all depends on each organization’s learning needs and situation. However, aligning L&D with organizational objectives, getting top-management on board and providing personalized learning experiences for all employees are three L&D best practices that will get them on that right path.
Roxana is a learning and development professional with over 10 years experience in corporate training.