Professional development is an integral part of talent management. It makes your employees better at their jobs and improves the company’s overall performance. Top companies understand the benefit of a learning and development strategy. According to the Association for Talent Development, companies are investing more in employee development year after year to the tune of nearly $1,300 per employee.
What is Learning and Development?
Learning and development is a specialized function of your HR department. According to HR Technologist, it is defined as the process of empowering employees with specific skill sets to drive better business performance. These skills may improve an employee’s performance in their current role or set them up for a new position, possibly promoting them to a future leadership role. Coaching, mentoring, webinars, conferences, job shadowing and online training courses are all types of development learning.
Why is Learning and Development Important?
Learning and development provide many benefits. Not only will your employees’ performance be improved, but so will their overall job satisfaction and employee experience. Consider this simple equation: Happy Employees = Happy Customers = A Successful Company.
- Happy Employees. Dedicating resources to your employees and developing formal training makes them feel valued as individuals and as employees. Valued employees will be loyal to your company because they will feel you’ve invested in them, even when other opportunities present themselves.
- Happy Customers. Properly trained employees are better equipped to help your customers with your products and services. That’s essential to maintain a strong consumer base and build brand loyalty; 71% of consumers ended a business relationship due to a poor customer service experience.
- A Successful Company. When you reduce turnover costs, you can focus on your company’s long term goals instead of continually working to hire new talent. Your employees will stay longer because they'll be invested in your company and will want to contribute to its success. Your company also benefits when you develop your current employees to lead your company in the future.
Key Objectives of a Learning and Development Program
Developing a learning and development strategy should be based on some key objectives. Do you want to improve your business’ performance, engage your employees or improve your recruiting efforts? Building your development program around your company’s individual goals will allow you to focus on meeting your objectives. According to HR Technologist, these objectives can be classified in four different categories.
- Business Performance. Development plans are commonly put in place to improve a company’s overall performance. The idea is the better trained an employee is, the more he or she’s performance will improve. If your company is facing reduced outputs, lost sales or is seeing employees jump ship to the competition, development can improve those circumstances. Providing formal training helps employees increase their volume of work and capitalize on new opportunities that benefit the organization. According to SHRM, development also allows companies to remain competitive and adapt to changing business structures. Developed employees will strive to out-work the competition and easily adjust to changes in technology and economic upheavals.
- Employee Satisfaction. Increasing employee retention rates is another driving force behind learning management. More and more employees want their companies to invest in their careers. One in four baby boomers and gen X employees, and nearly half of millennials, say they’d leave their current jobs for one that offered professional development, according to Gallup. Employees who have high job satisfaction will stay with your company longer, reducing costly turnover, and be less stressed because they’re more confident in their skills.
- Employer Branding. Because development is a priority for most employees, demonstrating that your company is committed to learning naturally attracts more candidates. Training and professional development are quickly falling into the benefits category for potential hires. A robust development program can give you an edge to bring in more entry-level recruits and even keep promising up-and-comers within your organization. Include it in your talent acquisition strategy and you’ll draw higher-quality candidates allowing your company to fill new roles faster.
- Employee Fulfillment. Encouraging skills training and development makes your employee feel more fulfilled with their job. Gaining new skill sets helps them reach their personal performance goals, balance their workload and improve their employability. By encouraging your employees to further their skill sets, not only are you developing a more diverse workforce but you’ll be addressing the converging market where you need employees who can be proficient in more than one field. This will benefit both you and the employee - they will develop a new skill set and you will reap the rewards of a highly skilled employee.
Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development
Learning and development can be a powerful tool to meet your company’s goals but if it is not done properly, or for the right reasons, it can set you back. Without the above key objectives in place, your development strategy can flounder. There are several ways a company go wrong with learning and development.
- Forcing all employees to learn at the same time. According to Harvard Business Review, employees learn best when the training is tied to real-world situations instead of being tied to the company’s schedule. Development is most effective when it is relevant to your employee’s role.
- Forcing all employees to learn the same thing. Some mandatory training is necessary to keep your company compliant, i.e., sexual harassment training or product training. But sending employees to conferences or forcing them to sit through webinars that have nothing to do with their skill set, will only turn them off of future training opportunities.
- Not capitalizing on new skills. If an employee shows interest in a new skill set, it won’t benefit your company if you don’t allow them to use it. Closing the skills gap is a main reason for employee development. If you’ve invested in new training, make sure you have plans in place for employees to showcase those new talents.
- Not choosing development plans that scale with you. There’s a big difference between training five employees versus 50 or even 150. As your company grows, your HR processes will need to adapt to match that growth or your entire company's foundation could suffer. Having a system in place that easily adapts from 50 to 1,500 employees means you can offer more training without missing a beat.
Best Practices for Creating a Learning and Development Strategy
- Consider the requirements of all your workers. Each generation learns a little differently and your development strategy should reflect that. Professional development drives millennials and they want to be coached by their managers. On the flip side, Gen Xers value autonomy and prefer to work independently. Give them options to complete their training on their own. Integrate all types of training methods including hands-on, mentoring, instructor-led and online courses, to appeal to your entire workforce.
- Make sure learning is mobile. Using a learning management system ( LMS ) with mobile capabilities lets employees review their assigned courses and course history anywhere their mobile is located. Employees who are stuck at home without their laptops or sitting in an airport waiting on a flight day can take training courses or simply access company resources.
- Invest in customizable solutions. No company is alike and each has its own objectives for developing employees. Your LMS needs to allow you to upload customizable content as well as cover the basics. It should include standard training courses like sexual harassment prevention and cybersecurity and offer multiple formats so you can upload courses specific to your employees’ skill sets, products and services.
- Integrate succession planning into your LMS. Succession planning keeps your talent in the pipeline. It looks at the skills, knowledge and practices employees gain during development and identifies how they can be used to fill other roles in the company. Succession planning keeps your workforce developed and reduces risks associated with talent gaps and employee turnover.
- Use an easy-to-use LMS. Employees will be more engaged in professional development if the process is simple and user-friendly. Investing in a good LMS is paramount. BirdDogHR’s Learning management System features a centralized location for all training through its employee portal which can be used for other core HR functions like performance reviews and onboarding. The dashboard allows employees to see their learning plan, progress and history. Automatic emails alert employees when they have new assignments or when a deadline is approaching. And the system is entirely cloud-based, so your employees can access it at any time, anywhere, on almost any tech device. No special technology is required, and no special apps need to be downloaded.
Improve your employees’ and the company’s overall performance by implementing a learning and development strategy with the right LMS. Schedule a demo today.