Change is a certainty. We all experience change in every aspect of our lives – some are driven by outside forces, while others are initiated through our own decisions and actions. What happens next, and often what defines our success, is how we embrace that change.
In this article, I hope to provide a brief look at what you can do to create a successful in-house learning and development program that will not only improve your corporate brand but ensure employee loyalty and success.
To remain competitive, companies are always evolving. Unfortunately, many people are afraid of change; as such, they don’t always embrace change. As a result, organisations may struggle to implement “change”, regardless of its form: new tools, strategies, products and services, and, of course, talent. Investing in new tools, product development and other tangible assets usually come out of a budget; however, it’s rare that we see a balanced investment in our team – the asset that makes the difference to an organisation’s bottom line.
I doubt I’ll find many that will argue the value of a skilled and knowledgeable team. But, how do we develop the skillset and knowledge of the individuals that form this team? For most employers, it’s probably unrealistic to expect that new employees arrive with every ability they need to thrive in a position and to sustain their responsibilities as the business grows. Therefore, it’s vital to invest in learning and development. However, there are factors to consider ensuring an acceptable ROI. Here are some challenges I’ve experienced:
Failure to allocate the appropriate budgets and resources
Limited experience in delivering training programs
Failure to adopt the training program or methods
Failing to acknowledge these and a slew of other factors can lead to the loss of time and money, which makes change through learning and development a somewhat risky venture. That’s why it’s important you spend time creating a program that is well thought out and relevant.
I believe that learning and development should headline a corporate strategic plan. It shouldn’t just be a paragraph thrown in under a Human Resources heading somewhere. Highlight TRAINING. Put it in BIG, BOLD letters. Remind yourself how important your team is to your organisational goals and the bottom line of your company. It’s not a causal idea. It needs to be ongoing and requires not only your commitment but the commitment of your entire team to make it work.
Continuous improvement and innovation are at the heart of corporate culture, and training is an integral part of that. Companies are always looking for ways to get as much as they can from their investments, so they should do the same for learning and development. Organisational leaders that are committed to ongoing training and improvement create a confident and efficient workforce, which supports business growth. This makes the investment in long-term training extremely worthwhile.
Don’t expect much from your learning and development initiatives unless you’ve budgeted accordingly; that means committing resources and funds for the long-term, not just for today.
Training programs, like other assets, need to be maintained to ensure they remain relevant and current. This requires ongoing funding. If you plan only for the short-term, what will happen later? Change doesn’t stop, but your training will stop being relevant.
While a learning and development budget may be a strain on finances and a hard sell to the coffers, I’m confident that, if you do it right, you’ll reap the rewards – maybe not tomorrow or next month, but in time, your more productive team will help you increase profits and improve efficiency.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be spending money like water. There are a lot of resources that can help mitigate expenses and cost-effectively deliver training. One such example is e-learning technologies. Look to see what is available and determine whether the delivery methods for your message and end goals are suitable. Remember, don’t get boxed into repeating the old ways of doing things. With e-learning, you can rely on the best practice methodologies. And if you’ve chosen a great training provider and a suitable learning delivery method, you can rest assured that your program will be relevant and up-to-date.
Once you’ve recognised the importance of regular training and earmarked a budget, it’s time to plan it out.
During the planning phase, think about how you will implement the program and measure its success. These are vital components that shouldn’t be ignored, and they often represent the biggest hurdles. By overcoming these obstacles, you will be well equipped to build an effective and measurable training program.
Here are a few points to get you started:
Realistically identify the skills your team already has and the training they need. Don’t assume. Ask them!
Think about your program and content. How is it delivered? Does it need to be tailored to different departments, levels of seniority, etc.? Do language, gender, and cultural differences need to be considered
E-Learning is accessible and cost-effective. Look to see if digitising your training material aligns with your budget, timeframes, and overall needs.
Ensure your program reflects the latest trends and problem-solving strategies. Look to the future and anticipate the skills and knowledge needed for tomorrow.
Make sure your plan is not overwhelming or repetitive. You need your team to buy in. If the program is boring or too much to manage, then you’ll quickly find that it’ll all be for nothing.
Most importantly, you need to develop a framework that measures the effectiveness of your training and ensures it’s aligned with your overall organisational goals.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to get team buy-in. Engage your team and colleagues. Understand what drives them. Learn what they want to gain from a training program and discuss what you want to achieve. Communication will drive the buy-in you need, so don’t be shy!
Let’s face it, this is probably going to be a tough sell. I mentioned the challenge of convincing the powers that be for a suitable budget, but the sell may be even tougher to your team. Training takes time – time that could be spent doing work. You will, no doubt, receive a lot of excuses and eye rolls when you suggest a new learning and development program. So, you need to make sure that the skills you are helping your team develop will save time and money in the long run and provide a benefit to them that is relevant today, tomorrow, and the foreseeable future.
It’s crucial that you keep your training focused and in-context around your team’s responsibilities, needs, and goals. Make sure everyone understands:
Why, as a leader, you’ve brought about organisational change that requires learning and development
Your expectations of them individually, as a team, and their contribution to the overall success of the business
The benefits they will gain from improving job efficiency and effectiveness
Keeping focused is key. However, be careful not to ignore the value of diverse skillsets, interests, and abilities. The more varied the training opportunities you can offer, the stronger the knowledge base you create. That, in turn, can be passed on from team to team and from mentor to mentee.
Review, Manage, Measure
Your final challenge, and perhaps the one that may prove to be the most difficult, is understanding if your training program has made a difference. How do you know what value, if any, it has created for your team and your organisation? This step could be integrated into your planning phase, but you also need to have measurable goals, KPIs, or other criteria that will tell you if the program was successful or not.
Depending on the type of training, final tests resulting in a pass or fail, license, or certification may be all that’s needed. Yes, these are great ways of ensuring that the content has been delivered effectively and that it has been understood. But what about programs that take a more holistic approach? Honestly, I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule for this. Ultimately, it will depend on the skill-set (hard or soft), your organisation, and other factors. There are far too many variables to cover in a single article. But if you’ve made it this far, it’s evident you are committed and that you will, or at least should, have a good idea of what you want to gain from the program which will give you some measurable goals.
The main reason to get behind learning and development is to see actual improvement in your team’s performance. How much your employees retain from the training and the amount of replication in the workplace will reveal how effective your training is.
We live in a highly competitive world, with businesses and individuals all striving to get ahead. Because of this, business leaders should continually look for ways to differentiate and improve not only themselves but also their organisational processes. They can do this by adopting tools and, more importantly, having the ability to understand how to manage best and lead their teams.
It’s people that make the difference between a successful company and one that’s failing. People create and sustain organisational value; this why it’s essential you invest in them, as you would invest in any other business asset. This, in turn, helps build loyalty and positions your organisation to attract outside talent. What does all this amount to? A robust and healthy talent pipeline.