We’re now in 2022, and the landscape of society has changed dramatically. Many companies are grappling with how to adjust to a hybrid or remote workforce and all the nuance that, that entails. Employee learning and development is one area that is being impacted heavily by shifts in how we work.
Many companies have Learning Management Systems (LMS) filled with courses and certifications. They can mostly be done individually and are easy to track. But numerous studies show that this corporate e-learning strategy alone isn’t enough for employees. They need collaboration and social learning through mentorship and peer-to-peer coaching.
Learning with colleagues accelerates outcomes and makes it more engaging. Read on to learn more about how to create the perfect learning and development strategy in 2022.
What is a learning and development strategy?
A learning and development (L&D) strategy is a long-term plan compiled by management to improve the skills and experience of a business's staff.
The right strategy at the right time can help better meet the needs of the business, improve the business’s culture, develop employees as necessary, and keep employees motivated. It can, therefore, be an effective tool to help a business grow.
Let’s look at how to build your learning and development strategy.
9 steps to build a learning and development strategy
Before starting, assess what the motivations are for your strategy - starting with stakeholders, those people who are invested in your success.
This will help you to quickly identify which topics might be useful for the strategy.
The stakeholders, in this sense, include the business, the directors, the manager, and shareholders. However, many forget that the learner is also a key stakeholder, and this should be taken into account when drawing up the L&D strategy.
It’s good to be open to the thoughts and feelings of learners towards the strategy and their ideas about how it could be improved.
After all, it’s their learning, and to ensure compliance and motivation, they should be on board with the next steps.
Go over proposed plans for training beforehand and survey employees on upcoming learning. What they think is important may surprise you.
Identify gaps in knowledge
An efficient L&D strategy will focus only on what must be done rather than teaching what is already known. Testing employees on their knowledge and skills will help you identify which areas to target.
You can then conduct a skills gap analysis, like the one below.
This will help you see quickly and clearly which employees require which courses. There’s an additional benefit to this. Its holistic nature ensures that the unique challenges faced by each employee are pinned down and nipped in the bud. There’s no room for employee needs slipping through the cracks or workers feeling neglected when it comes to their learning.
Collecting this information and making it part of digital employee experience management will give you a better view of the gaps, but also each employee’s progress, as all the information will be in one place.
Find out how people learn
People learn in different ways. Some prefer listening to audio transcripts, others watching videos, and even more people like to learn on the job, as previously described. These are known as audio, video, and kinesthetic learners. Finding out which gap your employees fall into is critical to your L&D strategy.
You can send a quiz to employees such as this one.
Choose the form of learning
There are several different ways to teach and upskill the workforce - face-to-face learning, e-learning, self-directed, and the list goes on.
All of them have advantages and disadvantages.
The most expensive by far is face-to-face learning, which usually requires paying two sets of wages for the duration of the training. And when a business has a long to-do list of other costly things, such as “rent office space”, “buy a domain”, and “hire software analyst”, this can be off-putting.
However, the two other options, although more flexible and affordable, can make training more difficult to monitor. Managers can’t ensure concentration and compliance throughout, meaning that the plan could be compromised.
The right one will depend on the nature of the business and its needs.
However, they don’t need to exclude each other. Many recommend the 70/20/10 model. This dictates that 70% of training should be on the job, 20% peer to peer learning, and 10% formal training.
However, this can be modified depending on the needs of the business and employees.
Source the materials
In addition to deciding how the learning will be directed, it’s important to know whether this will be created by the company or purchased from an outside source.
Benefits to in-house employee training include easier access to information that is more specific to the job, as only those in the company know how it all truly works. On the other hand, outsourced training tends to be more comprehensive, as it’s created by people who have a knack for training up workers, and it avoids draining the company of the labor resources needed to create the training materials.
With AI sales applications at an all-time high, many companies that develop training materials are incorporating AI into their programs, making them highly interactive. It can therefore be a more attractive option than in-house.
Obviously, not all methods of teaching can be outsourced, and vice versa. One key training method is on-the-job development, which can only be done in-house. This has been shown time and again to be a great source of wisdom for employees.
As shown in the pie chart below, in a 2018 survey, it was found that 34% of US companies highly emphasized the importance of on-the-job training.
On-the-job training can be expertly tailored to the employee’s specific role and can make them feel more comfortable about their workspace and tools.
Decide on the right software for you
Come on. It’s 2022 - the year of wearable tech, the paperless law firm, and the driverless car. Your L&D strategy will likely be at least partly online. And when it comes to the software to do the job, there are broadly two main options.
A learner experience platform (LXP) is a platform that allows employees to have free reign over their learning. They can pick and choose when and how they learn, and they can also upload content for others to learn from.
Meanwhile, a learning management system (LMS) is more controlled. It’s hosted by admins and provided to rigorously train up the workforce on company systems and processes.
The above graphic illustrates the key differences between the two.
The fundamental difference, however, is the level of freedom. An LXP is a laissez-faire resource that can empower employees, but it can also demotivate them due to the drive to learn resting solely on them. LMSs are regarded as more traditional, as they are e-learning platforms that are more evocative of schooling.
Decision making can be difficult. Which option you go for will truly depend on your company culture and the attitudes of your employees.
Provide incentives to complete training
The question is, how do you know that employees will be motivated to achieve what is required for business success?
Offering incentives or recognition for employees could be one way of keeping them excited by new learning. Perhaps a bonus for whoever has the highest score on a test.
It’s also a good idea to show that training is the key to progression in the company. A lot of the time, workers are ambitious and empowered by career achievements. By highlighting that progression is easier when training is up-to-date and scores are high, you can encourage workers to be enthusiastic about their learning. This form of motivation is called career pathing. Leaders or mentors help employees outline a roadmap for their progression.
Mentorship can keep employees on the right track
We have to acknowledge the difficulties associated with employee training. Understandably, parts of your workforce may struggle to keep up with demands despite the incentives. This is where mentoring programs can be really powerful.
Introducing a mentorship program to your company can provide a great source of empowerment for both mentees and mentors alike. It has been found that 9 out of 10 employees who have a mentor are happy with their jobs. The below graph, from the same study, shows the stark difference between those who have mentors and those who do not.
Direct mentors can help employees by providing key one-on-one support for their daily role, helping them feel that they have someone to turn to with any issues they might have. Meanwhile, mentors from other departments of the business can help employees to develop into fields that they are interested in. This kind of mentorship aids retention because employees continue to grow internally rather than looking for other roles.
Mentorship program admins from The United Nations and The Forum unpack how to run world-class mentoring programs. Watch the full panel discussion.
Keep up with changes in the business and industry
Things change over time. The industry that you’re in may change after you’ve created your L&D strategy. Keeping your finger on the pulse will keep you ahead of the game.
You may think you’ve already got it, as you spend time looking up how to increase conversion rate ecommerce, among other things, but this is a whole different way of keeping up.
When the market changes, change your strategy to include the updated information. Having everyone up to speed with the latest technologies and innovations will avoid knowledge gaps before they even occur.
Observing competitors, tracking consumer trends, and talking to customers are just some of the ways to help keep up with upcoming changes.
And it’s not just industry specific. Society and technology morph over the years and leave all businesses scrambling to retrain employees on the latest attitudes and software.
Ensure equality and ethics
Learning and development strategies are fraught with risks related to equality and ethics.
The two are intrinsically linked, as training often involves advising employees on how to interact with others and handle complex social issues. It’s best that this is handled with the utmost sensitivity and regularly reviewed to ensure it keeps up with the changing times.
The key to employee learning is in collaboration
Overall, mentorship is the most powerful thing that a business can introduce, as it effectively hits two birds with one stone. Most employees require the guidance of another to help them feel more comfortable with the role. Also, mentorship reinforces learning by providing role models for those lower in the business to aspire to.
Furthermore, strong connections within a business promote better cohesion between employees and better employee retention.
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform and one of the leading RingCentral alternatives for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has written for domains such as EuropeanBusinessReview and DesignLike. Here is her LinkedIn.