When people think of learning and development, they often jump to the conclusion that their programs must simply be about helping the individual grow professionally. In the context of work, however, L&D is far more than one person’s development.
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To create a sustainable learning program – one that leadership will support through thick and thin – Human Resources leaders must align their business objectives with the learning they are providing to employees. This was the main message delivered by speakers at the most recent Corporate Learning EMEA online event.
Using this framework to determine L&D strategy is vitally important during an economic downturn because learning programs are most at risk when cutting budgets. To avoid a lag in learning in lean times, HR leaders should consider the advice of the speakers:
Make Learning Easier
Employers ask a lot of workers. Therefore, they must provide accessibility and ease when it comes to opportunities to grow professionally. Erika Ullmann, Director, Learning and Development at Virgin Media – Ireland, said that learning in the professional sphere should not be like school. She stressed asking the important question of why people at the organization want to learn because she believes that the response leads to understanding about what to learn next. In addition, she is all about simplifying the process.
“Life is complicated enough,” said Ullmann. “Try to make it as simple as possible for everybody, so that learners don’t have to go look for another tool.”
Consolidate Learning Delivery
One of the biggest challenges of learning and development today is the fact that many organizations offer a number of applications for delivering education. As a result, employees must keep tabs on all the places that they can find skillset building. The more applications, the harder the task.
In the session by Pretyush Sharma, Digital Adoption Expert at Whatfix, audience members revealed that nearly 70% of them experienced employees using five to 10 software applications on a daily basis.
“This is troublesome because they cannot remember all the applications or what they are supposed to learn,” said Sharma.
Instead, he proposed a digital adoption platform (DAP) that can help facilitate and simplify the experience by linking apps and putting everything in one place for user access.
Use Data for Leadership Buy In
In a session highlighted by practical advice and a couple of references to Formula 1, Jonathan Kettleborough, Senior Lecturer Information Systems Strategy at Manchester Metropolitan University, made the case for properly using data to make the case for L&D. His take is a refreshing one that screams practicality.
“One of the things I want to do is change the data story from L&D leading and telling somebody, ‘This is what you’re going to get because it’s good for you,’ to sitting down with the business and asking them and starting to get strategic alignment, ‘What are you worrying about? What’s keeping you up at night?'”
Once L&D leaders have a sense of what kind of learning can help solve the problems weighing on leadership, then they can move from operational data, like completion rates, toward performance and impact data, like what kinds of results are generated post skills building. Kettleborough’s parting message for the audience was to know KPIs and look for areas of performance, impact, and positive behavior.
“Deliver results,” he said, “not just reports or reflections.”
Learn from Your Mistakes
Francesco Mantovani, Global Learning Technologies and Innovation Director at Procter & Gamble, offered a dynamic session during which he discussed mistakes he made in building learning ecosystems. One of the biggest ones was always relying on the learner to determine how and what to learn.
“What we learned is that what the learner wants is not necessarily what they need,” said Mantovani.
He also reminded the audience that most people can find time for the things they want to do, so no one should simply accept that no one has time for learning. Learning leaders must confront the biggest challenges to learning, including hepling people realize they have time, giving them guidance on what to learn, and showing them where to find learning opportunities.
Mantovani’s team implemented a badge system, similar to the one IBM uses, to help motivate people and offer guidance on the skills they should pursue next. Similar to Kettleborough, Mantovani had warnings about using data and securing support for L&D.
“The strategic objective has to be related to business, not related to HR strategies or to learning strategies,” he said. “The reason for that is very simple. The external environment today has an enormous amount of opportunities. Many of them are glossy and fantastic. You will fall in love with them in 5 minutes because they are the best user experience or another one is the best AI application that makes magic stuff…Even if you don’t have the best stuff on the market, you must answer the business questions.”
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