Learning and Development

What Impactful Learning & Development Programs Have In Common

A learning and development program provides employees with the necessary resources and training to advance their careers and close skill gaps in the company. In this article, we unpack the nine components of an impactful learning and development strategy.

Nick Saraev

July 19, 2022

It's hard to believe that, once upon a time, the conversation about employee learning and development was nonexistent. The main priority for CEOs and leaders was profit, and little thought was given to the notion that an investment in employees would result in a better, more profitable company. 

Thank goodness those days are behind us! Forward-thinking leaders have begun to embrace employee learning and development as a means to improve not only their employees' skills but also their bottom line, and over time, the practice has become commonplace.

Nowadays, it's rare to find a company that doesn't have some sort of employee development program in place. But not all of these programs are created equal. What makes some L&D programs more impactful than others? 

To discover what makes an effective learning and development program, keep reading as we explore the ins and outs of impactful L&D. 

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What is a learning and development program?

In the workplace, it's crucial that employees have access to learning opportunities that will help them grow professionally. A learning and development program, otherwise known as an L&D program, is a framework that provides employees with the necessary resources and training to improve their skills.

93 percent of employees only want to stay with their current company if they are offered learning and development opportunities.

There are many different types of L&D programs, but most share a few common features. Generally speaking, L&D programs should offer employees access to:

  • Learning opportunities that are relevant to their job
  • Training and resources that are up-to-date and aligned with the latest industry trends
  • A supportive environment that encourages employees to learn and grow
  • Resources and materials presented in an engaging way that suits employees' learning styles

Though ticking all of these boxes can cost a bit more than a slapdash learning and development program, the benefits of investing in your employees will be evident in your bottom line. 

Not to mention that opportunities to learn are high on the priority list of the best and brightest employees. To attract and retain top talent, an impactful L&D program is essential. 

But aside from attracting new talent, L&D also grows your existing workforce.

Developing the talent we already have is critical

Did you know that new hires cost an average of 18 to 20 percent more than internal promotions? That's a significant investment, and it's one that many companies are beginning to rethink in light of the current economy. 

What's more, we’re currently facing one of the biggest talent shortages in history. A survey collected by NFIB at the beginning of 2022 found that 47 percent of companies have job openings they cannot fill. This – combined with the high cost of recruiting and hiring new employees – means that businesses can no longer afford to neglect the talent they already have.

The most effective strategies start at the top, where leaders decide what skills and roles the company needs in order to thrive.

Learning and development programs are growing more crucial by the day, and there are several key facts that support this: 

  • LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report found that 93 percent of employees only want to stay with their current company if they are offered learning and development opportunities.
  • The majority of workers aged 18 to 24 will be more drawn to a company that offers learning and development opportunities than to one with better pay.
  • The WEF predicts that 50 percent of employees will need to undergo skills development by 2025 if they want to keep up with the changing job market.
  • When employees feel valued and purposeful in their jobs, their engagement and productivity increase

These points cover just a fraction of the research surrounding employee development programs. It's clear that businesses can no longer afford to neglect the talent they already have, and investing in employee learning and development is one of the best ways to maintain a competitive edge. 

What is an L&D framework?

We've defined what a learning and development program is – but how exactly are these experiences delivered to employees? This is where the L&D framework comes in; it's the approach your company takes to designing and delivering learning and development opportunities

The most effective strategies start at the top, where leaders decide what skills and roles the company needs in order to thrive. Then, the strategy trickles down to the employees and is shaped by their needs and goals. An outstanding L&D framework will constantly evolve in order to keep up with the latest industry trends. 

A well-designed L&D framework should be: 

  • Customized for your company and its employees 
  • Flexible enough to change as your business changes 
  • Inclusive, so that everyone can participate 
  • Measurable, so you can track the progress of your employees 

Finding alignment between what skills employees want to grow in and what the company needs is the sweet spot; it's not about pushing employees into roles they're not interested in or making them learn things that don't apply to their jobs. 

On the contrary, a good L&D framework should be tailored to meet the unique needs of both the company and its employees

Examples of successful learning and development programs to inspire your own

When setting out to design your own L&D program, where should you look for guidance? Fortunately, many companies have gone before us and have shared their insights into what works – as well as what doesn't. Here are three examples of companies with successful L&D programs, along with some takeaways on what you can learn from them.

1. Allstate

An Illinois-based insurance company, Allstate is proactive about skills and leadership development. They offer many rotational development programs. Their main program, the Technology Leadership Development Program (TLDP), aims to develop “versatile technology leaders by providing cross-functional experience." 

Allstate delivers TLDP through a series of rotations that allow employees to see the company from multiple perspectives. Participants tackle projects pertaining to technical skills development, people management, client-facing work, operations, strategy, change management and project management. 

The key benefits of their programs include:

  • Thorough preparation for a range of contexts and challenges within the business
  • Opportunity to work on projects that actually contribute to the company's success
  • Exposure to different parts of the business and the chance to learn from leaders in those areas
  • Room to innovate and think outside the box
No matter how comprehensive your learning and development strategy is, it needs to involve an element of collaboration. Why? Because workplace learning is more effective when it’s a communal experience.

2. IBM

When it comes to employee development, IBM is a company that has remained on the forefront for many years. Their culture of learning can be traced right back to the '20s; the company's key players always had a strong belief in investing in their employees. 

IBM's current L&D system is called 'Your Learning.' It's an ecosystem designed to deliver the right skills at the right time, allowing employees to direct their own learning paths. 

"Your Learning uses demographic information to personalize messaging via Spotlights; exploration of relevant, related materials via Programs and Resources; and social proof of learning with Recommended Badges," explained one of their blog posts from 2019.

The key benefits of their programs include:

  • A wide variety of content that can be tailored to the individual
  • The ability to learn on their own schedule and at their own pace
  • An engaging and comprehensive learning experience
  • Maintains a strong culture of learning and development

3. Intuit

At Intuit, investing in their employees is a top priority. Learning and development is delivered across three 'pillars' – Leading Inclusively, iLead Forum, and Intuit Manager Accelerator. 

  • Leading Inclusively involves curated workshops designed to create awareness and champion Intuit’s strategy around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) within their teams. 
  • The iLead Forum is a platform that enables managers to excel through peer community learning, panel discussions, workshops, coaching from senior leaders at Intuit as well as outside-in-learning.
  • Intuit's Manager Accelerator "enables managers to develop the skills, mindset and confidence they need to manage and develop their teams effectively". Upon graduating, the managers join an alumni community for further growth. 

With these three opportunities combined, Intuit has created a comprehensive, holistic and customized learning experience that benefits everyone involved.

The components of an impactful learning and development strategy

There are a few key components that every impactful L&D strategy should follow. This isn't to say that all strategies must be cookie cutter, but rather that organizations should aim to include their own iterations of the following when creating or enhancing their L&D programs.

Courses in a Learning Management System (LMS)

LMS software systems are used to deliver, track and manage learning content. It's essentially an online course catalogue that your employees can access from anywhere with an internet connection.

The great thing about using an LMS for your courses is that employees can access them at any time, which is perfect for those with busy schedules. Additionally, most LMS include features that allow employers to track employee progress, test results and generate reports. 

One caveat is that having an LMS doesn’t mean you have a successful L&D strategy. We explain this further in our article on the weaknesses of E-Learning at work.

A learning stipend

One of the best ways to encourage employees to take courses is by offering a learning stipend – a fixed amount of money that employees can use to invest in their own personal development.

This type of incentive is especially beneficial because it allows employees to choose the courses they're most interested in, which means they're more likely to actually complete them. Plus, it shows your employees that you're invested in their professional growth.

Mentorship

In February 2022, our State of Coaching and Mentoring Survey found that most HR professionals view coaching and mentoring as key enablers of performance. This makes a lot of sense; mentorship is incredibly enriching, as it can give employees the skills and guidance they need to grow into their roles.

Mentorship doesn't have to be one on one, either – it can also be done in a group setting. Either way, it's important that mentors are given the proper training and resources so that they can help their mentees reach their full potential.

Live discussions

A mistake that many companies make is neglecting the social aspect of learning. After all, humans are social animals, and we learn best when we can engage in discussions with others.

That's why live discussions are so important – they allow employees to share their thoughts and experiences with one another, which can help them learn from each other. Not to mention, they're a great way to build team spirit and camaraderie.

With Together’s Live Q&A Platform, your employees can post their most pressing questions and draw on your whole organization’s collective expertise for answers.

High potential leadership program

You may have noticed that all three of the examples we explored in the previous section placed emphasis on leadership or at least included it as a key component.

This is no coincidence – leadership development is essential for any organization, as it helps to create a pipeline of future leaders. The best L&D strategies include a high potential leadership program designed to identify and develop the skills of future leaders.

Internal knowledge hubs

In today's digital age, it's more important than ever for employees to have access to internal knowledge hubs. These are basically repositories of information that employees can access whenever they need to.

The great thing about internal knowledge sharing platforms is that they allow employees to find the information they need without having to go through a middleman. This can save both time and energy, which is especially helpful for those who are under pressure to meet deadlines.

Employee development plans

Every employee will have individual goals, learning styles, and development needs. You can best cater to these by creating employee development plans, which will outline the specific training and development activities that each employee should undertake.

Development plans can be updated on a regular basis to ensure that they always reflect the latest changes in the workplace. They're also an effective way to keep track of employees' progress and ensure that they're getting the most out of their L&D programs.

Job shadowing

Similar to mentorship, job shadowing involves learning from a more experienced employee. However, while mentorship is more long-term and focused on teaching the basics, job shadowing is more short-term and designed to give employees a taste of the role they're interested in.

Job shadowing can be done either in person or online, and it shows employees that you're willing to invest in their future. Plus, it can help them decide if the role they're interested in is a good fit for them.

Upskilling programs

When we think of L&D programs, upskilling is probably one of the first things that come to mind. It's the process of teaching employees new skills that they can use in their current role or in a future role.

Upskilling programs can be delivered in many different ways, but the most common is through online courses. More and more employers are offering online courses as part of their L&D strategies, and for good reason – they're convenient, affordable, and they allow employees to learn at their own pace.

So, there you have it – the essential elements of an effective L&D program. Keep these in mind the next time you're planning a training or development initiative for your team. Don't be afraid to give them your own spin, either; the best L&D strategies are the ones that are tailored to fit the unique needs of each organization.

Level up your L&D program today

No matter how comprehensive your learning and development strategy is, it needs to involve an element of collaboration. Why? Because workplace learning is more effective when it’s a communal experience.

At Together, we've created a way to pair your employees with the best mentor for their needs and goals. Employees can learn in a way that is both personal and tailored to their professional development, and mentors can benefit from the opportunity to give back and share their expertise.

Get in touch with us today to see how we can bring your L&D strategy to life. From designing your program to tracking employees' progress, we've got the whole process covered. 

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