How to Succeed in the Future State of Learning and Development

March 10, 2017

To build a great learning and development (L&D) program moving forward, you need to do these five things well.

An accurate and inspirational quote by Brian Tracy: “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from. All that matters is where you are going.”

For learning and development professionals – or any professional, really – this couldn’t be more true. Regardless of if you’ve run the most successful L&D program in the world or the least successful up to this point, it doesn’t matter anymore.

All that matters is what you do next.

To help, we consulted with two L&D experts – Britt Andreatta and Todd Dewett – as part of our Workplace Learning Report and asked them what L&D leaders need to do to be successful moving forward. They said it comes down to these five things:

1. Don’t just take orders. Identify real training needs.

Gone are the days where a department head comes to L&D and says they need communication training, so L&D sets up a course on communication. Whenever you get a training request, dig deeper to uncover the root of the issue so you can develop a more strategic solution. Here’s a full playbook on exactly how to make that happen.

“Too many training dollars are misspent because they do not address the right skills at the right time,” Dewett said in our report. “We often apply off-the-shelf information instead of thoughtful knowledge. Transitioning to a learning consultant begins with mastering the art of listening.”

Additionally, work to start getting predictive with the training you offer. Andreatta suggests using the Greiner Curve, for example, to determine the training your company will both need today and moving forward.

2. Deliver modern learning experiences to meet expectations of modern learners.

If you are offering just in-person training and not embracing digital, mobile, on-demand learning, you are not meeting the expectations of the modern learner.

Here’s research on when professionals learn. You’ll see the most common time professionals want to learn something new is at the time of need, i.e. when they have to learn something new. On-demand learning supports that; in-person training does not.

“When employees are stuck, they need the answer quickly,” Andreatta said in our report. “It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute. They are more inclined to engage in learning if they can watch a short video that they have access to 24/7 on any device.”

It’s not to say you should abandon in-person training, it still plays a critical role. But even in-person training can be strengthened by assigning online learning ahead of time, so those in-person sessions become more about discussion.

3. Develop a tightly executed communication plan.

Communication is a huge part of L&D. The best L&D departments have strategic communication plans for their own team members, end learners, department heads and even potentially customers.

The better job you can do of communicating the L&D solutions you offer and the importance of those offerings, the more effective your program will be. Which leads into point four.

4. Report value to the individual and the business.

To get both executives and employees to prioritize learning, you need to show the value to both groups. For employees, it’s about showing them what’s in it for them – will learning increase their chances of getting a promotion or is it a key part of their performance reviews, for example.

For executives, it’s about showing the business impact learning has. And that comes down to measuring the right things – attrition, manager effectiveness, strength of your internal leadership pipelines – that your learning programs can improve.

5. Build a culture of learning, one that rewards growth.

Here’s really what it all comes down to. You’ve probably heard by now that the future of work is changing faster than expected and your people need to constantly learn to stay up-to-date with that change.

Your L&D program needs to lead here, by creating a culture of learning. Here’s an example of a company that did that, but it comes down to doing the past four things really well and instilling a culture where people are always questioning what they need to learn next.

“The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture,” Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, said.

There’s a lot of evidence out there that he’s right.

*Image by Asher Isbrucker 

Click here to download our 2017 Workplace Learning Report today, for free.