How to Rock Learning and Development in 2018

Learning and development (L&D) leaders always face changes: Employees come and go, companies expand their business offerings and develop new products, new training tools and technologies become available, and so on. Does this mean that L&D managers need superhuman powers to keep up with changes in the industry, and keep employees aligned with the company’s goals through effective training programs?

According to Brandon Hall Group research, learning and development serves as a key business driver in a lot of companies. Figures show that 73.4% of companies see L&D as a crucial means that should be aligned with business needs. Moreover, 43.5% of organizations link the completion of corporate goals directly to employee training.

Companies need strong, agile and proactive leaders to stay competitive. However, Deloitte findings show that 56% of companies are not ready to meet their leadership needs. Even worse, 21% of organizations don’t have any leadership programs at all.

The right learning and development strategy is what to start with

Organizations that don’t apply an ongoing L&D strategy often experience productivity difficulties and stagnant revenue growth. Therefore, it’s very important to plan and adjust your training strategy to keep it current with your company’s needs and to make sure your strategy is designed to work specifically for your company.

  • Build strong leaders

The Global Good Fund, a leadership development enterprise, believes that developing leaders is the most effective strategy for solving challenges. The development of leaders within your company can’t be sporadic or held on a yearly basis. Developing leaders requires an ongoing and structured progression. Companies need a clear understanding of how training and developing their leaders will contribute to achieving the company’s business goals. Likewise, L&D professionals should know how to bring out the best in employees–including leaders within the company–to meet both the company’s goals and leaders’ professional needs.

  • Emphasize communication and collaboration within your leadership team

Success is built on open communication. Any challenges can be overcome through open, honest discussion and cooperation. These two basic principles should be at the forefront of leadership training and development. Coldwell Banker, a large international real estate company, has designed a training program for leaders that allows them to share their most effective practices and resources through live meetings and social networking. Capital BlueCross, a health insurance company, offers its leadership training program to seven employees every year. The training focuses on a series of challenges that their leaders are usually faced with. The leadership training is held in collaboration with their managers; the employees have to find relevant solutions to the real-world issues.

  • Value efficiency

The L&D strategy should be efficient – time, money, training resources and tools, all these components are not limitless. That’s where technology will come in handy. Instead of spending money on printed manuals or classroom training, think of how your employees can get training when they need it, and how they need it. Involving employees in L&D planning can be also time-saving. Who will know better than employees themselves what skills and knowledge they need to cope with tasks?

How can L&D leaders stay on top of the situation in the future?

To get ready for the future there’s no need to reshape your whole L&D strategy. The following tips will give you some insights into what L&D professionals have to do now to be prepared for what’s coming next.

  1. Know the business from the inside out to understand company’s goals and KPIs.

L&D managers can’t come up with a good training program by being secluded from “the rest of the world.” They should know the industry the company works in, new trends in business, how their company’s services or products meet their customers’ daily needs, the company’s objectives for the next year, each departments’ tasks and responsibilities, and the company’s plans for further development. For example, if an executive wants to increase revenue growth by 15% by the end of the year, the L&D manager has to understand all the components that will contribute to meeting that goal. What changes can be made to increase the customers’ satisfaction? What additional skills should be developed to improve customer retention rate, and which employees need them–sales staff, customer service staff, delivery staff? How can the L&D team deliver information about the new products to employees so that they can answer all the customers’ queries?

  1. Prioritize an individual and design training for different learning preferences.

Personalized training is not new anymore. This practice is widely used now as it takes into account individual employees’ needs, allows employees to learn using their preferred style and pace and to learn only relevant to their jobs material. This, in turn, saves time and improves both productivity and overall job satisfaction. Learning is integrated into work. Digital Ocean, a cloud infrastructure provider, has its employees draw up a plan of what they want to achieve each year, aligning their professional development goals with the company’s business strategy.

  1. Coach your employees.

Here’s what Amber Yust, the privacy engineering manager at Google, says about her role:

The single most insightful concept I picked up during Google’s training for new managers was how to be an effective coach. One non-obvious key to getting that right is letting the person you’re coaching discover their own answers. That takes a lot of active listening and very little speaking. In the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot better at resisting the strong temptation to just tell someone what they should do, and I’ve already seen how it pays off in the long run by helping others sharpen their own instincts and become more self-guided.

Being an L&D manager means not only providing training resources but also facilitating their acquisition. Learn and use the most effective ways to guide employees. Don’t tell them what to do directly. Instead, let them ask questions and come up with their own answers. Coaching means concentrating on the employees’ development, and that will lead to effective task completion and skills improvement. Research from Bersin & Associates proves that companies with leaders who perform well as coaches see an improvement in business results by 21%.

  1. Give on-demand feedback and support.

People want to know that what they do makes difference. They want their efforts to be valued and appreciated. Even if you think that training goes well without you standing over the shoulder, make sure you don’t lose track of the situation. Learn to listen to the employees, and be quick to provide effective feedback when it is needed. Speaking about her experience as a manager, Amber Yust comes to the following conclusion:

After becoming a manager, you might expect others to spend more time listening to you. My experience so far is that the best results come from doing the exact opposite: spending more time listening to others. I try to spend as much time as possible in my one-on-ones, listening to what my team members have to tell me. Meanwhile, I try to keep my own feedback and advice to them as concise as I can.

  1. Work hand in hand with technology.

According to the research, the mobile learning industry will grow to $37.60 billion by 2020. And by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. This generation favors training that delivers short chunks of relevant information when they need it. So, go mobile! Don’t restrict your employees’ training to a fixed time and place at their work desktops. Besides, material immediately put into practice ensures a higher rate of retention of information. Use smart technologies that will deliver training at the right time and let you see clear data about the employees’ training performance so you can modify their training right away, as needed. Laura Overton and DR Genny Dixon in conjunction with CIPD quote a senior manager who defines what L&D professionals need: “Social learning and collaboration tools. Ability to facilitate learning rather than deliver learning. Using analytics to understand performance improvement. Curating content that exists already rather than buying new.”

  1. Learn how to measure training needs and training effectiveness.

Mapping out a perfect training program doesn’t mean it will work the way you expect it to. The material you teach should meet trainees’ needs. Three questions will make the whole training needs assessment clear:

  1. When should the training be delivered?
  2. Which training material should be given?
  3. How will this training material be presented to the employees?

Figures based on CEB Research show that 57% of employees want to see their training on a just-in-time basis. L&D leaders need to know what challenges employees deal with so that the training they provide will help the employees to show greater performance results while not falling behind in their tight work schedules. Also, make sure that you are armed with appropriate tools to measure the effectiveness of the training you are giving.

  1. Be proactive and make continuous learning one of the core values of your organization.

Why should training be considered as one of the cornerstones of your company’s success? According to IBM research, 90% of companies don’t have all the skills required to be successful; 65% of the respondents say that talent and leadership shortages are the company’s #1 business challenge. The most interesting fact is that cutting-edge companies provide decent training to 84% of their employees. Why? Relevant training programs lead to innovations, increase productivity, raise the level of competitiveness, ensure employee retention and job satisfaction, create talent within the organization and attract new talent. So be the change you want to see in your organization in 2018.

L&D leaders’ effectiveness depends on being proactive and the ability to understand the business and the trainees’ needs, the ins-and-outs of the industry, and the company’s business goals. By constantly updating your employees’ knowledge, facilitating the right kind of training, and giving feedback on the employees’ training performance, the future of learning and development in your company will be secured.

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