With a multigenerational workforce, workers leaving their jobs at an unprecedented rate, a global talent shortage and a rapidly digitizing workplace, reskilling and upskilling have become critical for businesses that want to stay competitive.
Established frameworks for designing comprehensive learning and development (L&D) strategies have been in use for years, and their components continue to provide an effective model for the design of more contemporary methods. Even so, the need for a more robust learning and development program is a top priority for people leaders.
The ever-evolving workforce landscape necessitates that companies re-evaluate their approach to L&D to fit the skills needs of a modern workforce and prepare for future disruptions. Let’s take a look at the foundational components of an effective L&D strategy and share tactics you can implement today to ensure your people are equipped with the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.
The learning and development strategy framework
Successful L&D programs often share these qualities:
Effective L&D programs are nimble — shifting and adapting as different needs arise. This means you should be taking stock of your program’s success rate regularly, and making adjustments when necessary.
- Adequate resourcing
Employees should have access to sufficient educational tools to equip them with the skills needed to thrive within their position. This is likely going to look like a combination of on-the-job training and digital learning solutions.
- A personalized approach to learning
A one-size-fits-all approach is rarely successful when it comes to learning and development. Employees of different roles, abilities, educational backgrounds and learning styles have a variety of learning needs. Programs should be strategically designed with these varying needs in mind to ensure that every employee is able to take advantage, no matter where they are in their learning journey.
- Stakeholder assessment
Even the most well-designed L&D strategy needs both executive and employee-level buy-in to be successful. L&D can’t exist in a silo, and if leadership’s not on board, no program will work.
In many organizations, learning programs have traditionally been viewed as a cost center. Luckily, modern tools and measurement methods allow us to better understand the value of a robust L&D strategy. As a people leader, it’s necessary to leverage these tools to illustrate how L&D benefits the business overall, with a holistic strategy that clearly supports broader organizational goals.
On the employee side, engagement is equally important. This means talking to your people — ask them what they feel their most pressing learning and development needs are and see if you can tailor your program to meet those needs for maximum engagement. Getting all parties behind a common goal builds the momentum you need to set your initiatives up for success.
Developing a learning and development strategy for a modern workforce
Now that we’ve covered the basic framework of a winning L&D strategy, let’s talk about how you can elevate your existing efforts for improved results.
Focus on the learner experience
The best L&D programs pay close attention to the full learner journey, from the first moment that an employee expresses interest in a program to the day they complete their degree, course or credential. If the employee learning experience is not a positive one, even the most robust and well-thought-out program will not yield the long-term workforce results you’re looking for.
To reap lasting benefits, optimal learner experiences build professional capacity and help your employees to reach their full potential within your organization. For strongest engagement, ask your employees what they need personally and professionally from a learning experience, map how L&D might offer a path to career advancement and together shape opportunities that align with their goals. And then give them the support and resources they need to be successful in the learning process.
Remove barriers to learning and education
Removing barriers to learning is equally as important as the content of the learning program itself. L&D is competing with the responsibilities of a full-time job, family obligations and a desire for work-life balance. Employees want to know that committing to learning and development is going to be worth the time and effort. It’s imperative that employees are given accessible options that allow them to integrate learning into their already busy lives.
In addition to personal limitations, many employees simply don’t have the financial means to take advantage of certain L&D programs. For example, traditional workforce education programs, such as tuition assistance or reimbursement, require that employees pay upfront and receive reimbursement weeks or months later. These programs typically also come with a handful of requirements and stipulations that can deter employees from participating. Instead, consider implementing a direct bill model that takes the financial burden off the shoulders of workers.
Look at your L&D programs from the lens of your people — are you making it simple for them to take advantage of these opportunities? If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Offer a breadth of learning options and formats
No two learners are the same. Your employee base comes from a variety of educational backgrounds – ranging from postgraduate education to no high school – and requires different support in order to make the most of their careers. All need learning options that align with their previous experience and where they’re looking to go. The most effective L&D strategies integrate training, on-the-job learning and workforce education with an array of resources employees can use for their unique learning needs.
Consider introducing stackable credentials — short-term reskilling and upskilling courses that allow employees to build competencies and implement them at work, while they work, while also building towards a higher degree or certification.
Take advantage of online learning solutions
As an increasing number of companies move towards a fully remote or hybrid workforce, there’s a growing need for businesses to modernize their learning and development initiatives. That’s why online learning has become one of the most efficient and effective tools for updating employee skill sets.
Aside from the remote work benefits of online learning, it also enables your L&D programs to expand beyond geographic limitations that traditional in-person learning is often bound to. Many leading academic institutions have designed robust curriculums that are entirely online and proven to drive outcomes for virtual learners.
Learning and development is the future of work
The goals of your business and the needs of your workforce will help define the approach of your L&D strategy. Across the board, successful L&D programs are prioritizing the learner experience, offering flexible, supportive opportunities geared directly for personal and professional growth — and for the growth of the company as well. Implemented thoughtfully, L&D programs equip employees with the in-demand skills needed to excel in the wake of future disruptions and propel your business forward.