Developing an effective L&D Strategy

Learning and Development or L&D is a function, which should provide value to business in 3 separate ways, which I prefer to call the MAC Way:

  1. M - Meeting the Value - By increasing learning activities efficiency and meeting compliance requirements

  2. A - Adding Value - By implement business strategies by converting objectives to development activities

  3. C - Creating Value - By developing new capabilities for organizations to achieve different or stretched goals

Let us look at these components of MAC, individually.

M - Meeting the Value:

A couple of examples of this can be the mandatory training of the employees around Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH), which is conducted to sensitize the employees at the organizations, or a decision to centralize / decentralize the development activities, or to outsource it, for different levels.

A - Adding Value:

The activities pertaining to performance improvement for the Sales or Operations team will fall under this header. The business strategy requirement of developing a talent pipeline could be converted into a program for the High Potential employees. The development of these type of interventions should not only take input from the top, but also the end users. This will be inputs from both individual as well as team levels.

C - Creating Value

One of the most important function of L&D will be this part, where it does not works as a support function only, rather it builds value for the business as a whole. This is the part, where L&D function builds capabilities enabling the business to explore different goals or achieve stretched business goals, keeping the future in mind.

In today's world, for most of the organizations on the growth path, the leaders state that they clearly understand the need for a two-way integration of the business strategy with the people development strategy. One of the business leader states - "The L&D function's role, in our organization is to help the company to learn, adopt and grow."

The key areas that the L&D function impacts are:

  1. Attracting and Retaining Talent

  2. Developing People Capabilities

  3. Building a value-based culture

  4. Creating an employer's brand

  5. Motivating and Engaging Employees

Attracting and Retaining Talent: In today's corporate world, organizations are focused on retaining the talent, as long as they add value. The employees have become in-charge of their professional growth and development themselves. This is why, the Learning & Development opportunities are ranked as one of the top reasons for choosing a company over another.

Developing People Capabilities: With the rapid rate of change in the VUCA Corporate scenario of today, L&D requires ongoing investment of both time and money to ensure that the learning and development being provided retains it's value. Companies that invest in developing effective leaders during transformations increase their performance achievement by 240%.

Building a Value-based culture: As the workforce gets spread beyond cities, states and countries, L&D plays a vital role in developing a value-based organization culture, which contributes to the welfare of the society. The young workforce, specially the millennials look forward to working for such enterprises.

Creating an Employer's Brand: One of the most important asset of any organization is it's brand. Investment in L&D helps the organizations in enhancing the brand image and boosts it's reputation in the market. As the workforce, who are nearing their retirement and with shrinking talent pool, organizations can choose to portray their explicit brand strength by providing an employer value proposition.

Motivating and Engaging Employees: An important aspect of motivation and engagement factors today is the way, an organization provides learning and development opportunities to it's employees. As stated by John Coleman, "Lifelong learning is good for your health, your wallet and your social life." With high levels of engagement, employees feel energized by new and challenging opportunities, which results in their satisfaction level with the organization, that they are a part of.

Framework for a successful L&D Strategy:

The important components developing the framework for L&D strategy are:

  1. L&D goal alignment with Business Strategy

  2. Ownership by the Business and HR Teams

  3. Assessment of Capability Gaps (Now)

  4. Have a clear vision of the required Capability (Then)

  5. Designing the Learning Path from Now to Then

  6. Using the E-3 model (Education / Exposure / Experience)

  7. Implementation & Broadening the coverage

  8. Evaluation of impact on business

  9. Integration of L&D and HR processes

L&D goal alignment with Business Strategy: The primary goal of L&D is to design learning initiatives and have goals, which are aligned to the business strategy. The goal and initiatives should focus to plug the capability gaps and provide professional development of the team-members. Another goal of these should be to build organizational culture and ensure that the employees are living the company's values. One of the researches done by Brandon Hall Group shows that only 40% of the organizations say that the learning strategy is aligned to the business goals. A few of the reasons of this could be due to the L&D function being out of sync with business, outdated approaches or budgets based on previous Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) rather than present requirement, such as digital transformation. The L&D leaders must be re-looking and innovating ways to device the contextual people-capability matrix, which aligns with present business needs.

Ownership by the Business and HR Teams: With the rapid pace at which the changes

are happening today with emerging technologies, role of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Gamification and micro-learning, the companies need to become agile with the readiness to adapt to new business processes. One way in which the leadership from both Business and HR teams can achieve this is by L&D function building a governance model, where they co-own the responsibility to define, prioritize, design and get the budgets for these capability development programs. The top business executives must embed the learning interventions as a part of the organizational culture. As is said, whatever is measured and audited, gets delivered. Therefore, this act of the top executives will also help in building a learning culture as a part of the organization. Making learning as a part of Key Responsibility Area (KRA) will ensure that this takes prominence in execution as well.

Assessment of Capability Gaps (Now): Once the business priorities have been defines, the next important step for companies is to verify if the employees can deliver on that with the current skill-set. Mostly the organizations do not focus on spending time and money on this front. The companies which are more successful follow a systematic and process-oriented approach in this regard. Once the required set of competencies are identified, the companies should assess and implement ways and methods to assess the level of the skill-set in their employees.

Have a clear vision of the required Capability (Then): The organization after the previous step is now aware, where the employees stand. The competencies are also clear. The next step would be for the organizations to define the level of proficiency on each of the competencies for different levels keeping the future in mind. This would be the vision, where the desired competencies would be required by the business, to deliver results, in some time from now.

Designing the Learning Path from Now to Then: Providing an immersive learning experience to the employees and the leaders is a basic requirement for the L&D function. Most of the organizations should make use of a blended approach of having digital learning content, On-Job-Training and Instructor Led Training (ILT) today to build that experience, instead of only ILTs. The traditional ILT format, though still effective needs many other requirements like - logistics, travel time and higher costs. The gap between 2 ILTs also affects the learning of employees. Thus, having smaller learning modules, social learning, digital learning, coaching and mentoring should be included to make the learning path more effective and efficient.

Using the E-3 model (Education / Exposure / Experience): As the tradition mode of training is changing from ILTs only to blended learning, it is important to make use of the E-3 model for development of employees. Here, the Education part, which is focused on ILTs and digital learning modules should be around 10% of the learning. The Exposure, which makes use of interactions, work-with and similar collaborative learning should be around 20% of the intervention. The remaining 70% of the learning should through on-job projects or working in a similar role, which has the maximum impact on learning of individuals.

Implementation & Broadening the coverage: The successful implementation of L&D initiatives on time and with the budget is critical to build and sustain support from the business leaders. The L&D leadership needs to have an ongoing discussion with the business leaders about the initiatives and priorities to ensure the required support. If an intervention is planned for a specific segment in the organization, then it should also be explored if the organization can benefit by rolling out that intervention for others, or by broadening the coverage of the intervention for other role-holders.

Evaluation of impact on business: The implementation of the learning strategy for any organization should be followed up with it's evaluation on the Key Result Areas (KRAs) or the business impact it is creating. The first KRA should look at how closely are the interventions aligned with the business priorities. The second KRA should be how these interventions are impacting the behaviors of employees and their performance. Another KRA should be focused on the optimum utilization of budgets and resources for learning & Development.

Integration of L&D and HR processes: L&D and HR ideally should be partnering in the employee life-cycle. The involvement of L&D in all aspects like talent acquisition, employee on-boarding, performance management, promotions, skilled workforce planning and succession planning should be as much, as that of the HR function. There should be a close co-ordination between the HR and L&D leaders to be inclusive in the organization development.

By using the suggested approach, the organizations and L&D leadership team will be able to develop a successful strategy, aligned with the business priorities as well as have the required inclusive approach in the planned interventions. This will be a good way to partner the business for success.



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