A Guide To Learning and Development: What It Is and How To Get Started
Learning and development (L&D) programs are an integral part of employee engagement, retention, and performance management. Learn more here.
Today’s business environment is changing at a rapid pace. Jobs that are everywhere now didn’t exist ten years ago. And jobs that are here today will probably be gone in ten years. That’s why learning and development (L&D) initiatives have become so critical.
A SHRM 2022 survey found that 46% of employees say learning opportunities were a factor when choosing their current company. Plus, 76% of employees say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous L&D programs. But what makes learning and development such a crucial tool, and how can you use it to your company’s advantage? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is learning and development?
Learning and development (L&D) is a process within an organization that empowers employees to grow continuously, perfect their skills, learn new things, and improve their performance.
There’s no right or wrong way to provide L&D programs. You can choose to do in-person training for the entire company on general topics that will benefit everyone, delivered through online teaching modules.
You can create programs to help groups of employees develop or improve specific skills. And you may choose to offer individual support, through mediums like online courses.
How do you know which option is best? The answer depends on your goals. For instance, if your goal is to reskill some employees to prepare them for a different position, your focus will be on helping them learn new skills and knowledge.
If you’re simply trying to stay competitive and support your employees so that they can be the best at what they do, you’ll need to focus on their overall development instead of a single skill. This program will be a long-term one, and will ideally be tailored to each person’s needs and learning style.
What to consider when creating a learning and development strategy
If you’ve never thought about L&D beyond onboarding, creating a good strategy might feel hard. Many look at the company’s niche and create one to two courses that everyone needs to enroll in. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it isn’t the best approach.
Here are a few points to consider.
Different learning styles. Accommodate various learning styles. Some might learn best through something practical, like a hands-on workshop. Others learn best by reading on their own, while others need a mix of the two. Offer as many options as possible to make it easy for everyone to participate.
Company goals. Don’t create an L&D program just for the sake of it. Look first at what your goals are, and align your strategy so that it helps the organization reach those goals quicker.
Company budget and resources. Learning and development programs require some investment. A low budget doesn’t mean L&D is cut out, but you’ll need to adapt. What is the bare minimum you can offer on a low budget? Start from there and gradually build up your program.
Why is learning and development so important?
Employees want to learn new things and develop their careers. When given this opportunity, employees are more likely to perform better and less likely to quit unexpectedly. But that’s not the only reason L&D programs are important.
A good learning and development program will keep your employees sharp and current in their expertise. They’ll be productive in their work, and more engaged.
Plus, when you give people the chance to learn new things, they often want to learn even more. It keeps them motivated, curious, and constantly trying to improve.
A solid L&D program will help you attract top talent. Learning and development is a critical component to strategic talent acquisition. These programs usually start with the onboarding phase, but don’t stop there. By continuing L&D throughout the employee lifecycle, you’re continuously helping employees upskill and/or reskill.
Through learning and development, you can also help teams stick together and create a sense of community. Even if your employees are working remotely, workshops, training, and other learning sessions are a great and fun way to bring them together. They’re also a good way to reinforce business values and company culture.
Analytics and learning and development
Most companies choose to use learning management systems (LMS) to assess and report on the efficacy of their L&D programs. The problem is an LMS often lacks the capacity to see the truly important aspects of learning and development, such as its downstream impact on employee performance and retention. It can help you see the cost of training if people are indeed taking part in the training, and how much they’re learning.
Analytics, on the other hand, helps you take things further and evaluate your L&D program as a whole by answering some critical learning and development questions.
Is L&D truly helping you retain employees? Retention is often one of the key goals of L&D programs. An LMS will not necessarily show you if you’ve reached this goal. With learning analytics, you can.
Who needs L&D the most? While everyone will benefit from L&D, some might be better suited than others. Look at the high performers, those who improved the most after the last L&D program, and other factors to help you choose the best employees.
Is any L&D program not working as expected? Some programs simply don’t work. Perhaps you targeted the wrong individuals, or the skills you’re trying to teach are not useful for your employees. Analytics allows you to see what’s working, what isn’t, and why so that you can create the best programs in the future.
5 benefits of learning and development strategies
Learning and development strategies can help you reach your goals and be a true force in your sector. Here are the major benefits.
1. Boost engagement, satisfaction, and retention
When you continuously give employees the opportunity to learn, they’re happier and more likely to stay with your company. Recent statistics prove it, and we can expect this trend to continue in the following years.
This goes beyond employee satisfaction. By investing in your employees’ growth, you’re proving you value them. When employees feel valued, voluntary attrition rates drop, and engagement increases.
2. Create a culture based on values
Often when discussing L&D, we’re focused on the exact skills people will learn. But these strategies can go further than that. They can create a value-based culture, bring people together, and offer a sense of community.
All of this will benefit the company long-term, ensuring you can attract the right people, help them integrate quickly, and ensure they feel welcomed right from the start.
3. Enhanced innovation and adaptability
If your employees are always in tune with the latest discoveries and trends in their fields, they’ll be more innovative, bringing ideas that could help push your business forward. Your company will have a clear competitive advantage, and a workforce that is constantly seeking improvement.
Plus, the business environment isn’t always linear. There are many unpredictable factors that could influence your next steps. When you prioritize L&D, your workforce is prepared to face new challenges, helping the business navigate through hard times.
4. Improve manager effectiveness
Employees are not the only ones who benefit from learning and development strategies. Managers win, too. By offering learning and development programs to managers, they can improve their leadership skills, understand their teams better, and form stronger relationships with them—increasing overall manager effectiveness.
You may have heard the saying “employees quit bad managers.” It’s not just a cliche, it’s actually true. Managers can make or break teams, so when you have strong leaders, the entire company wins.
5. Improved succession planning
No matter how strong your retention strategies are, sometimes employees leave the company. They might retire, move to another state, or simply want something new. Whatever the reason for their departure, you need to be ready to replace them.
A good learning and development strategy will help you prepare employees to take over different roles, switch to a different department, or take on a leadership position. These transitions will be smoother and will minimize hiring costs.
Learning and development is a key component to a company’s success. It can boost employee motivation, engagement, productivity, and performance. It can also help you attract and retain top talent, and improve your managers’ leadership skills.
Plus, you can use it as a tool for succession planning and to create a culture based on values, with a strong sense of community.
Visier’s Learning Analytics is a tool that helps you deliver the most effective L&D programs with minimal effort. You can measure the impact of your current program and optimize it so that you can get the results you want.
Like your employees, you need to learn all the time. L&D programs are not a one-and-done deal. You’ll need to improve them constantly, learn from your mistakes, and create better programs.
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On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and reskilling employees. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices how to create a strategic compensation strategy, metrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.