L&D is in constant demand to keep organizations up to speed with the learning they need. But what are the key areas to focus on? And how can you establish a strategy that’s flexible enough to meet an organization’s changing demands
If L&D is to keep pace with demands from employees and the organization to upskill and reskill, it needs to be agile. Agility means providing learning that is responsive and which recognizes learners’ real needs. It necessitates moving learning closer to the environment in which it’s to be applied.
The days where L&D just provided courses and administered learners are numbered. Increasingly learners are using the technology and resources widely and freely available online to serve their own development. L&D’s role is changing from that of learning management to learning facilitation.
The challenge for L&D goes beyond providing good quality content. Rather it means creating a learning infrastructure that places learners at the centre and supports continuous learning.
For L&D to step up and meet learners’ expectations it needs to develop a more comprehensive, strategic approach where training becomes part of the workflow. It has to develop the fundamental skill sets that help future-proof businesses by providing the human resources that can take the organization in new directions. These critical skills also enable employees to progress their careers.
Building a skill base
Modern workers require a broad skills base. L&D’s task is to identify the key skills that need developing and bring the greatest benefit and ROI to the organization. These skills should be readily transferable to be applied whenever a situation demands. L&D in key areas creates a flexibility that allows employees to have the knowledge and core abilities to carry out multiple roles and responsibilities. That’s not to ignore the need for some specialization, but these skills are fundamental and essential.
The benefits of creating a broader skill base will be felt not just by individual employees who are better equipped to advance their careers, but also across the organization as the general skills level rises and makes the organization more effective and in a better place to benefit from change. Training in these core areas represents a tangible investment in the organization’s future.
Let’s look then at some fundamental areas of learning that will deliver that necessary skills base.
Start as you mean to go on. Onboarding is a key component of any internal training program and an area that every new hire will be exposed to. A poor experience of onboarding is often cited as the reason employees quit their new jobs. So, it’s important to make a good impression. You can use onboarding to introduce the organization’s ethos on learning and development and set the tone for the way the organization regards L&D in general.
Onboarding needn’t be just an administrative process to tick boxes. It can and should be about making employees feel that they are ‘on board’, that they belong and that this organization offers them the opportunities they want.
Onboarding can be made more rewarding, engaging and efficient if you facilitate new hires onboarding themselves. You can increase onboarding’s effectiveness by allowing it to take place in the workflow as employees are starting to take up their new role. Extend onboarding’s reach by offering access to resources as and when employees need them. Allow learners to determine when they’re fully on board.
This approach represents a more effective way of delivering onboarding and sets out a vision of how the organization regards learning in general: as continuous, accessible, learner-centred, and as part of the workflow.
2. Effective communication
We’ve so many tools and apps now through which to express ourselves that the importance of good, clear communication has never been more critical. Communication is now instantaneous, across the globe. With so many channels open there’s huge pressure to add your voice and respond, immediately. The result is often confusion rather than clarity.
Having the skills to do so in a constructive and intelligible way is vital for mutual understanding and in ensuring that important information isn’t lost in the chatter.
Effective communication is essential to better collaboration. Increasingly we work across projects and geographies. To work effectively we need to make sure that communication lines are clear.
Good communication requires the ability to frame the question or answer, to order your thoughts, which is a key skill in planning, organizing and knowing how to strategize. Any leadership or management role will require excellent communication skills, so it makes sense to focus on effective communication as a top area for internal training.
3. Project management
A lot of work we do is as part of a project. As employees become more experienced, they’re often asked to lead projects, but don’t necessarily have the training to do so. Many employees recognize the benefits of having project management qualifications and decide to sign up for external project management courses and classes.
From an organization’s perspective, it makes more sense to ensure that project management training happens in house. Offering practical project management training that focuses on the needs of the organization will ensure that you have a number of people who can take up project management roles when you need them to.
Project management training teaches you personal time management and gives you an insight into how to manage others’ skills and times effectively. It provides you with an understanding not only on how projects are run effectively, but how teams are constituted and work together. PM skills are needed for numerous job roles.
All organizations need leaders. Focussing on practice over theory, your leadership training needs to develop leaders that understand your organization and adapt to the context. Put in place a leadership program and develop leaders from within.
Leadership programs can provide a pool of talent from the level of team leaders right up to senior managers. Leadership training can create a pipeline so as people move on and new leadership positions arise you have the people trained and ready to go. And those people will be in the best position to articulate the organization’s business goals and to embody its ethos and culture.
Leadership training, though, is more than about equipping people to lead. It’s good for morale as it presents employees with career opportunities, recognizes talent and achievement and lets people invest their futures in the organization. You can establish a virtuous circle whereby as you develop leaders, they use their training to provide positive feedback and reinforcement to their teams and encourage other employees to become leaders.
5. How to learn
This is more a strategy than a defined area of knowledge but learning how to learn is vital to establishing a broad skills base and has been made easier by the development of ICT.
Increasingly we’re expecting employees to switch tasks, work independently and develop their skills themselves. With modern technology, we can increase access to training resources so that they’re available 24/7 wherever they’re needed via mobile devices. But simply providing resources doesn’t mean they’ll be used effectively.
So, that means we need to train people on how to train themselves. L&D can use its experience to coach learners how to learn and give them guidance on evaluating resources and how to use them. Encouraging learners to think independently and access resources for themselves will find a receptive audience for a generation that has grown up with online search, Wikipedia, YouTube, and social media. L&D’s pivotal role here is in offering direction and quality assurance to learners and in curating and recommending learning resources.
Introducing microlearning assists independent learning by providing information in a way that can be absorbed quickly within the workplace. It works for refresher training or for acquiring a clearly defined piece of knowledge. And its bite-size content provides for quick updates and reference. L&D can curate the microlearning assets (for example, within an LXP) as part of their role to enable learners to develop themselves
Part of a learning culture
Taken together these five areas broaden an organization’s core skills base. They provide a springboard for other, more specialized learning and enhance the human resources that are key to any business’ success.
They also offer the basis for the development of a learning culture. In delivering these core internal learning initiatives, L&D should emphasize that learning is not a separate entity, but is integral to effective working and essential to the development and prosperity of the organization. A strong, secure base on which to build.
To read the rest of the blogs in this series, download our free ‘L&D for the 21st Century’ eBook now.