How to Build an Effective L&D Strategy in 2023
Over the past decade, organizations have adapted to an ever-changing corporate world by adopting new digital processes and technologies to become more successful, driving efficiency, productivity, and revenue through digital transformation.
To keep up with the “fourth industrial revolution” (or “Industry 4.0”), organizations must invest in a corporate learning and development (L&D) strategy to provide a framework for reskilling and upskilling their workforce to meet the demands of these new enterprise challenges.
In this article, we explore the world of learning and development, provide steps to create a corporate L&D strategy, showcase L&D’s impact, break down its key elements, and the factors that influence the success of L&D strategies.
What Is a Learning and Development Strategy?
A learning and development (L&D) strategy is a systematic and comprehensive plan that outlines how an organization trains and develops its workforce, improves employee skill sets, and fosters a culture of continuous learning. An L&D strategy is a strategic framework that aligns with an organization’s employee training objectives, identifies the learning-related needs of different employees, and outlines the actions and initiatives required to address those needs.
A well-crafted L&D strategy encompasses various learning methodologies, approaches, and resources to support employee growth and drive organizational success. It outlines the key L&D focus areas, learning objectives, training programs, and training evaluation methods to ensure the development of a skilled and engaged workforce capable of meeting current and future workplace challenges.
10 Steps For Building an Effective L&D Strategy
While every enterprise will have contextual needs that will shape their L&D strategy, there are core fundamentals all L&D teams must consider when building out their program.
Here are ten steps for organizations to craft an L&D strategy that is effective and engaging:
1. Understand your business strategies
As with all corporate programs, you must first understand overall business goals and align your L&D strategy to those organizational-wide goals. This gives direction to the L&D and HR teams tasked with creating your L&D strategy – and what types of upskilling and reskilling they’ll need to accomplish to achieve training ROI.
Tying business objectives, goals, and strategies to your L&D framework provides a blueprint to secure leadership buy-in and for them to invest proper resources into your learning strategy for developing talent.
2. Determine ownership of L&D between HR and individual department heads
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of developing your L&D strategy, you’ll need to define clear ownership of the project – which can be a major L&D challenge for enterprises, especially for those with less common organizational structures. Post-COVID, many larger organizations have created dedicated L&D teams and have invested a larger budget and more resources in that L&D strategy (LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report.)
For SMB organizations, learning and development typically falls under the HR umbrella.
You’ll need to create an ownership charter that clearly states who owns L&D – is it the HR department? Individual team leaders? A new, dedicated L&D department that reports directly to the C-suite?
No matter the ownership structure, be sure to create a cross-functional team incorporating individuals from various departments across your organization. This allows you to get input on upskilling and reskilling needs across different business functions – as well as secure buy-in from all leaders throughout your organization.
3. Set clear corporate L&D and training goals
After assigning ownership and understanding business goals, it’s time to set clear objectives for your employee L&D and training programs. These should be tied back to organizational development and be people-centric. Make these goals SMART (ie. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.)
Also, make your goals accessible and visible across the organization to improve transparency on the purpose of your L&D strategy.
4. Conduct a skills gap analysis
Once you understand the goals of your L&D strategy, conduct a skills gap analysis on the areas your L&D program will be focusing on. This will be different across business departments – and you may need to create a few different skill gap analyses (i.e., think of an analysis for the accounting team, the marketing team, etc. – as well as an analysis for leadership, manager training, etc.)
Once completed, you’ll have a better understanding of the depth of reskill training needed for different departments and individual employees. This will allow you to be hyper-targeted in your approach, create personalized learning experiences, and focus more resources on the areas of greatest need.
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5. Design contextual learning paths for different roles
With the skills analysis complete, use this information to create contextual L&D experiences for different team members’ ability levels. Try incorporating different employee training methods, as well as various multimodal learning formats such as video, audio, reading, and interactive training content to cater to different learning styles.
Repurposing L&D content into interactive, in-app experiences that provide employees answers to their problems in the flow of work is a major L&D trend in 2023 – and should be incorporated into your employee learning journeys.
With a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, L&D leaders are empowered with a no-code editor to create in-app content that overlays on their digital applications and processes. With a DAP, L&D teams can empower employees with a more engaging experience that walks them through contextual workflows and processes.
With a DAP like Whatfix, L&D teams can:
- Create contextual in-app guidance for different teams and roles, such as guided walkthroughs, step-by-step instructions, task lists, pop-up messages, field validations, and more.
- Provide self-help IT support for employees in an embedded self-help wiki that automatically crawls your knowledge repositories (ie. your company’s process docs, LMS, intranet, help desk, training materials, company handbook, etc.). This provides employees a searchable case management and knowledge support resource to find answers to their own questions.
- Analyze employee experiences, software adoption, and process engagement to identify dropoff areas, underadopted software features, areas of confusion in your tools or processes, measure license usage, and identify what employees or teams need a little more attention.
- Drive awareness and completion of L&D courses, initiatives, and programs with in-app pop-ups and messages that overlay on your team collaboration tools (like Slack, MS Teams, Zoom), company email, HCM (like Workday or SuccessFactors) or any other enteprrise software application.
- Collect employee feedback with in-app surveys that provide real-time feedback directly after your employees complete an L&D program or interact with an in-app element or widget.
6. Invest in your L&D software stack
Modern L&D tools empower L&D teams to author, design, and publish learning courses in different formats, as well as track progress, host courses, assess knowledge retainment, collect feedback, create in-app experiences, and more.
A few of the most popular tools in an L&D tech stack include:
- Learning Management Systems (LMS): A foundational tool in most L&D tech stacks, an LMS is used to manage, deliver, and track training content and courses. It provides a centralized platform for organizing learning materials, creating courses, managing learner enrollments, and tracking learner progress and completion.
- Learning Experience Platforms (LXP): An LXP focuses on delivering a more personalized and learner-centric learning experience. It often uses AI-driven recommendations to suggest relevant content and facilitates informal learning through user-generated content and social learning features.
- eLearning Content Authoring Software: Authoring tools enable instructional designers and subject matter experts to create and develop eLearning content without requiring extensive programming knowledge. These tools allow the creation of interactive and engaging multimedia content, such as videos, quizzes, simulations, and more.
- Employee Training Software: Employee training software allows HR teams, training facilitators, and people managers to create and assign role-based training and development courses, as well as monitor progress and track completion rates.
- Digital Adoption Platforms: Digital adoption platforms deploy training via in-app guidance such as product tours, walkthroughs, task lists, smart tips, self-help menus, and more to guide the user through every aspect of an application. This empowers organizations to find true ROI of their internally-used software applications and digital transformation, onboard users and customers to their products and websites, understand how end-users are adopting and engaging with applications, and create a more intuitive training experience for their employees, customers, and all end-users.
- Online Course Providers: Online course providers, sometimes called MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platforms, are websites that package learning content into self-paced online courses. They help professionals improve their current skillset and work on their professional growth by providing alternative paths for learning outside of traditional in-person classroom training sessions.
- Employee Performance Support Systems: With a performance support tool, leaders can create self-help interactive content such as in-app guidance, interactive walkthroughs, knowledge bases, smart popups, and more – all aimed at providing contextual resources to solve employee problems. Essentially, a performance support tool provides personalized, 24/7 support that provides answers within seconds within the context of work.
7. Implement the L&D strategy
Once you’ve crafted your L&D strategy, it’s time to implement it. Before scaling it to the entire organization, take time to present it to leadership and gather their feedback to help you identify areas to adjust and tweak.
You should also look to “soft-launch” your L&D program with certain, limited audiences – such as one or two pre-selected teams. A beta launch will allow you to work out the growing pains of an initial launch and make those changes before you have a full-scale L&D launch to the entire organization.
Once launched, be sure to actively promote and drive awareness of your L&D initiatives and programs. Explain to your workforce that you’re investing in their growth – and that you need their buy-in to succeed. Enlist the support of L&D advocates in key roles across your organization to help drive the adoption of your development programs.
8. Measure the effectiveness of your L&D strategy
A major employee training challenge facing enterprises is how to measure ROI.
Using L&D software equips you with the tools to measure the effectiveness of your corporate training programs. Set learning KPIs such as course completion rates, training progression rates, assessment scores, lowering skill gap analysis, improving proficiency or productivity for different teams, improving digital adoption rates, etc.
This will allow you to find trouble spots in your L&D program and correct them as soon as they’re made apparent. You’ll also be able to benchmark your learning and development progression, set future goals to target improvement and identify training gaps.
You should also overlay business performance with your L&D program to see if there have been any improvements in overall business KPIs that can be tied back to employee learning and development. This can be difficult to tie correlation to causation – but big data mined from your team’s L&D software stack can help pull out insights.
9. Gather employee feedback
Outside of gathering data on the effectiveness of your L&D strategy, also collect qualitative data from team members who are taking part in your L&D strategy. This highlights areas of need and helps reveal if your employees are finding value in your initiatives and programs.
If team members see your L&D strategy as an HR mandate, time-consuming, or not helpful, you’ll not be able to achieve the objectives you’ve set, as employee buy-in will drop.
Look to gather feedback from different stakeholders and team members at various times, including:
- In the moment of learning with in-app surveys.
- Post-training surveys after key courses have been completed.
- In 1-1s and performance review.
10. Take an agile approach and always refine your strategy
Be flexible in your L&D approach. You’ll need to take initial learnings, training progress, team member feedback, new business objectives, and more all into account – and use them to refine and improve your L&D strategy continuously.
Fostering an agile approach to employee learning and development will allow you to take new data and insights and pivot to new learning opportunities.
Benefits Of an Enterprise L&D Strategy
A well-crafted L&D strategy drives growth and positively impacts every area of an enterprise. Here are a few of the major benefits organizations experience with a strong L&D strategy in place:
1. More proficient and skilled employees
A well-designed L&D strategy equips employees with the knowledge, skills, and capabilities they need to perform their roles effectively. It addresses skill gaps, improves job proficiency, and boosts overall employee performance, leading to increased productivity and quality of work.
2. A culture of knowledge sharing
An effective L&D strategy promotes a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration within the organization. It encourages employees to share insights, best practices, and lessons learned, fostering a continuous learning environment and creating opportunities for innovation and improvement.
3. Adaptability and agility
Continuous learning and development enable employees to stay up-to-date with industry trends, technologies, and best practices. This fosters organizational adaptability and agility, allowing employees to adapt to change, embrace new and emerging trends, innovate, and meet evolving business needs more effectively.
4. Employee engagement and retention
Investing in employee development with robust L&D fosters a sense of value and investment in employees. It demonstrates a commitment to their growth and career progression, leading to higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction, and increased retention rates.
5. Succession planning and leadership development
An effective L&D strategy includes succession planning and leadership development initiatives. It identifies high-potential employees, provides them with targeted development opportunities, and prepares them for future leadership roles. This ensures a strong talent pipeline and supports the organization’s long-term growth and stability.
Key Stakeholders Involved In an L&D Strategy
A well-designed L&D strategy involves various stakeholders who play critical roles in its development, implementation, and success.
- Senior leadership and executives: Senior leaders provide strategic direction and support for the L&D strategy. They establish the vision, goals, and budget for employee development initiatives and ensure alignment with the organization’s overall strategic objectives.
- HR department: HR professionals are instrumental in the development and implementation of the L&D strategy. They assess training needs, design and deliver programs, manage learning platforms and resources, and monitor the effectiveness of the strategy. HR plays a key role in talent development, performance management, and succession planning.
- L&D professionals: L&D professionals, such as instructional designers, trainers, and facilitators, contribute their expertise in designing and delivering learning initiatives. They collaborate with subject matter experts to develop engaging and effective training programs aligned with organizational goals and employee development needs.
- Employees and learners: Employees are the primary beneficiaries of the L&D strategy. They actively participate in learning initiatives, apply newly acquired knowledge and skills to their work, and contribute to a culture of continuous learning. Employees provide feedback, insights, and suggestions for improving the L&D strategy based on their experiences.
- Subject matter experts: Subject matter experts (SMEs) possess specialized knowledge and expertise in specific areas. They collaborate with L&D professionals to ensure the accuracy and relevance of training materials. SMEs provide insights, contribute to curriculum design, and may even serve as trainers or facilitators in their respective domains.
- External trainers: Some organizations engage external training providers or vendors to deliver specialized training programs or access industry-specific expertise. These providers may offer off-the-shelf courses, customized training solutions, or access to subject matter experts not available internally.
What Factors Influence an L&D Strategy’s Success?
Here are some factors that influence the design and development of an L&D strategy within an organization.
1. Organizational goals
The L&D strategy must align with the overall goals and strategic direction of the organization. It should support key objectives such as improving performance, driving innovation, or enhancing customer experience. Understanding the organization’s priorities and long-term vision is crucial in shaping the L&D strategy.
2. Workforce needs and skill gaps
Assessing the current and future skill requirements of the workforce is essential. Identifying skill gaps and understanding the specific learning needs of employees help determine the focus areas and content of the L&D strategy. This analysis ensures that the strategy addresses critical development areas and supports the organization’s talent development objectives.
3. Industry trends
Keeping up with industry trends, emerging technologies, and market dynamics is vital in designing an effective L&D strategy. Understanding how the industry landscape is evolving helps identify relevant skills and competencies that employees need to remain competitive and adapt to changes in the market.
4. Budget and resources
The availability of financial resources and dedicated L&D personnel influence the scope and implementation of the L&D strategy. Budget constraints may require prioritization and careful allocation of resources to deliver impactful learning initiatives within the organization’s means.
A well-crafted L&D strategy is a powerful tool for organizations seeking to unlock the potential of their workforce and drive sustainable success. With the rapidly changing business landscape and evolving workforce expectations, investing in L&D strategies has become more critical than ever.
Implementing a digital adoption platform plays a crucial role in supporting an organization’s L&D strategy by providing on-screen guidance, interactive support, and personalized learning experiences with digital tools and software.
By simplifying complex processes, reducing learning curves, and offering just-in-time assistance, DAPs enhance user proficiency and engagement, thereby accelerating the learning process and driving the success of L&D initiatives.