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Learning and Development Process: How to Create the Right Objectives and Activities

Category: B2B News
What is learning and development?

Learning and development is an extensive process designed to help employees increase their value and keep them highly engaged and productive. This HR process involves assessing them for potential and building on those potentials, including upgrading the skill sets of employees and onboarding new ones.

Workplace productivity worldwide is in a state of decline. Because business organizations fail to successfully keep up with the many changes in today’s workplace, employees feel unvalued, which makes them disengaged. In turn, this adversely affects their productivity. At the core of employee engagement and productivity is the learning and development process.

A highly productive workplace is one that supports and values employees. When employees feel that their organization values them, job satisfaction and engagement occur. By making learning an essential part of every employee’s job, everyone becomes empowered to grow and develop.

An effective learning and development implementation always starts with creating the correct objectives and activities. This important initial step is the focus of this article to help you start any L&D program the right way.

learning and development process

The modern work environment is in constant flux. For previous generations, learning has been a traditional, formal process. Now, Millennials and Generation Z see learning with a totally different mindset, in terms of approach, expectations, and connection.

Today, learning should be innovative, mobile-friendly, bite-sized, and well-designed. It must also be on-demand and relevant to address the changing needs of the new workforce.

What’s more, a 2019 LinkedIn survey found that 76% of Gen Z workers say that many of the past generations’ skills are already irrelevant in today’s work environment. Likewise, nearly half of these new generation employees would rather have independent, totally self-directed methods for learning.

Top 3 reasons why Gen Z employees want to learn at the workplace

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Source: LinkedIn 2018

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Along with corporate learning, employee engagement continues to remain as HR’s primary focus, which further elevates the importance of learning and development. However, what must a business organization do to help guarantee the success of their L&D programs? This is where having the right learning and development objectives and activities come into play.

First, you must ensure that your learning and development strategy is founded on the correct goals. Next, you should implement the correct programs and activities, including the deployment of suitable LMS tools that genuinely support employee learning and development.

What is learning and development process?

A widely-accepted learning and development definition is that it is a systemic process aimed at improving the performance and outcomes of employees within a business organization. Also called training and development, it is generally considered as a strategic tool to help businesses achieve continuous growth, improved productivity, and better employee retention. 

A core function of HR, L&D, is designed to enhance employees’ knowledge and skills to boost their individual and group performance. It comprises key elements of a company’s talent management strategy. And to be truly effective, it should be designed to make individual employee objectives and performance parallel with the company’s overall goals and vision.

And while employers understand the value of an excellent learning and development process, many don’t have the knowledge and mechanisms to create and implement a learning and development plan of action. Also, when companies fail to address some key challenges, learning and development can even result in some adverse outcomes.

What is the role of HR in learning and development?

At the heart of any L&D initiative is a company’s human resource unit. Aside from encouraging the staff to manage their own career growth, HR also makes certain that the company provides employees the opportunities to be more effective in their existing jobs. Moreover, HR must ensure that the various learning and development benefits are clearly communicated to all employees and managers.

Studies indicate that employees who actively seek opportunities to learn and develop are more likely to achieve more. In the real world, however, without a compelling incentive, managers will complain about training costs and wasted work time.

Furthermore, employees will be less passionate about L&D programs if they never perceive any improvements in their career opportunities and job performance.

This is why gaining employee support for learning and development is a serious HR issue. In fact, a 2018 LinkedIn study found that persuading employees to make time for learning is HR’s greatest L&D challenge. Moreover, neglecting some of these challenges will make the L&D process inconvenient to the business and could become discouraging to employees.

Top employee learning and development preferences

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Source: LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report

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What comprises learning and development process?

The learning and development process is an essential activity for employees and their organizations. The skills that employees gain via training become organizational assets. As employees expand their skill sets, so do their job security and their opportunities for career growth. Overall, the process generally involves the following steps:

1. Determine the need

No two individuals have the same needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all program. Whether those needs involve departmental or individual needs, HR must identify those needs before designing an L&D program.

New employee learning and development must first provide an introduction to the policies, procedures, and culture of the company. And for the second phase, they should be given job-specific L&D, which will involve various training programs. Finally, current employees who are moving to a different position or are cross-training must be given job-specific programs.

2. Plan the learning and development process

This step involves deciding the specific learning and development content that will be delivered. First, align existing managerial and organizational goals to the learning and development process. Second, design the new employee hiring and training process, which should include onboarding and evaluation of the organizational procedures and policies. Finally, create the L&D content or course materials for L&D programs for job-specific employee training.

3. Implement the L&D plan

Before implementing it, ensure first that the L&D plan has both digital and printed copies. Next, share and communicate the L&D plan across the organization, in all physical offices, and all available channels. And remember, everyone should be involved in the plan to guarantee success.

4. Monitor and measure the progress

The key to an effective learning and development program is follow-up. Begin monitoring an employee the moment she/he completes her/his initial L&D activity. Monitoring allows you to know whether the employee understands her/his roles and what the employer expects from her/him. It also provides you with the needed feedback on the L&D process, to help you determine if there are areas to be improved.

In addition, the learning and development activities of current employees who underwent new training programs should also be monitored. Finally, HR should measure learning outcomes, such as via KPIs, to continuously determine how employees respond to the programs. Some of the most effective L&D KPIs include:

  • Training Completion Percentage Rate
  • Job Role Competency Rate
  • Departmental Job Competence Rate
  • Average Time to Completion
  • Compliance Percentage Rate

Through learning and development, you can help your workers can increase productivity, reduce employee turnover, and decrease the need for supervision. In fact, another recent LinkedIn survey found that employees who spend more time in L&D activities tend to enjoy their work more and perform better in their jobs.

Effects to employees who spend more time learning at work

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Source: LinkedIn 2019

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Why align your L&D objectives with your business goals?

The 2019 Speexx Exchange survey indicates that only 22% of organizations have their learning and development goals completely aligned and contribute to their companies’ long-term objectives. The same survey found that less than a third of HR professionals believe that there’s a slight connection between their business goals and HR KPIs.

So coming from experts, the business case for the need to have L&D and HR goals integrate with organizational objectives is unquestionable. Such integration should be a mandatory condition for every HR program or policy to make it authentic and compelling.

Why align your L&D objectives with business goals?

The achievement of strategic business objectives is quite clearly related to the people who work in the business. Their knowledge, skills, and motivation to learn are key to increased sales, improved brand reputation, efficient production, and competitive advantage.

This is why training—along with its alignment to strategic business objectives—becomes so important. By cascading the strategic vision and mission down to training and development goals, employees can see them operationalized. They become real, they become tangible, and they become meaningful in relation to their own jobs and tasks.

Because when training programs are designed and developed toward business strategy, employees can better understand how they personally contribute to the achievement of business objectives.

And this understanding leads to their buy-in and reduces their resistance to training. This is why every training program should be practical and relevant to the roles and responsibilities of employees and directly assist them in achieving their performance goals.

Why do objectives have to be SMART?

When you write an objective, it should observe certain conditions that have been proven to be effective, such as the SMART method. This is an efficient approach to help you easily examine the objectives you’re creating. Likewise, it allows you to be more focused on the task, providing you with an easy-to-use listing of important considerations.

  • Specific. Your L&D objective must be specific. It should be clearly stated, while its meaning is easily understood by all stakeholders.
  • Measurable. The objectives must be measurable. Everyone can concur whether the learner satisfies a learning goal or not.
  • Achievable. The learner can actually reach the objective.
  • Relevant. The objectives must be relevant; they should be valuable both to the learner and the organization.
  • Time-bound. It must have a specific element of time. Adding schedules to L&D programs makes it more relevant and challenging to the learner and the trainers.

What are the steps for aligning L&D with business strategy?

The challenge for businesses now becomes: how do you achieve this alignment between L&D and business objectives? Aligning training with business strategy requires little more than six simple steps, followed in a logical order.

1. Identify your strategic business goals

Begin by recognizing the strategic business goals that everyone in the company should be working to achieve. This could be associated with actual hard objectives, such as increased productivity, profit, or revenues. Or this could be related to softer business objectives like organizational culture, customer experience, or brand image. But whatever the objective is, you must ensure that it can be measured.

2. Establish the performance outcomes required to achieve them

To achieve the strategic goals set in step 1, you must establish the performance outcomes that will demonstrate the learners’ success. Some examples of this can be:

  • a considerable decrease in the number of customer complaints, which could indicate an improvement in customer experience
  • some revenue increase due to higher sales

3. Identify the competency areas, tasks, and roles where this performance will be measured

You can now begin determining the particular skills, knowledge, tasks, and job functions that will help the company to perform the correct way. For instance;

  • How can remote teams use their technical expertise to better assist clients in their questions?
  • How marketing might help to achieve increased brand awareness by optimizing their lead conversions?

4. Evaluate the gaps and determine related learning goals

After establishing what competencies, tasks, and job functions can help a business reach its performance outcomes, the next step is to assess where do the skills gaps exist. For every job function, evaluate the degree of capabilities, skills, and knowledge.

Moreover, set the learning goals in job functions with gaps so that you can close them. For instance, if there is a gap in collaboration skills among remote staff, then the related learning goal can be to “enhance the collaboration skills among remote employees.”

5. Communicate these goals to learners

It’s clear as daylight that learning initiatives are meant to boost the market value of employees. However, never assume that your employees share the same understanding that it will also help the business reach its goals.

As such, clearly communicate to employees the value of attaining these learning goals. Likewise, inform them how their achievement will allow them to make a meaningful contribution to organizational strategy. This will likely motivate them that aside from helping themselves by learning, they can also help the company.

6. Design and develop the L&D program to reach learning objectives

With a clearly-defined direction, you can now design and develop training that is clearly aligned with broader strategic business objectives. It will be easier for learners to work toward their learning goals when you first design the L&D program specifically to address the identified skills gap. Nowadays, HR use technology tools like LMS platforms to facilitate this demanding task.

And when they achieve the learning objectives, employees will be better equipped to perform their duties. Ultimately, a highly-performing workforce can facilitate the achievement of business targets.

Docebo dashboard

An LMS like Docebo facilitates the aligning of your L&D objectives with your business goals. With a single, highly-accessible view of all relevant L&D elements, HR can easily connect organizational goals with any HR activity, including training.

How to design effective L&D activities?

It is clear nowadays that learning and development is not a siloed function. As a core HR function, it should be integrated with other business goals like revenue creation and other HR activities like performance management.

An effective L&D strategy is one that delivers on all fronts, from employee learning and development outcomes to business results. Here are the steps that HR professionals must follow:

1. Conduct an L&D needs assessment

The initial step should be to evaluate the performance-related issues of employees to gain a better understanding of the actual situation and determine if L&D is the best course of action. If indeed learning & development offers the best solution to the problem, then it’s time to begin a basic needs assessment. Those steps are:

  • Determine a clear business objective that the L&D program can support
  • Identify the jobs the employees must perform to help the business reach that objective
  • Recognize the L&D activities that will help the employees learn to perform the identified jobs
  • Use performance appraisal software to determine employee learning traits and behavior that will help enhance the L&D process.

2. Always use adult learning principles

The employees that need learning and development are adults, and they share certain special traits that make L&D work for them. If your L&D respects and appreciates these adult learning principles, your programs will likely be more successful. However, if it disregards these principles, you’re just wasting precious business resources and time.

Here are some of these learning principles. Adult learners:

  • are goal-oriented and self-directed
  • come to L&D activities with a lifetime of existing views, experience, knowledge, and skills
  • learn when they know the actual value of L&D to them
  • want to be and feel respected
  • prefer learning that is relevant and task-oriented.

3. Design learning objectives

As discussed earlier, any L&D objective—and every HR goal, for that matter—must align with the company’s mission, vision, and overall targets. It’s the obligatory part of any L&D plan and activity.

In essence, learning objectives are a list of things the workers must be able to do after the training is completed. L&D goals are the ultimate reason for the entire program. Without goals, you’ll have a motor vehicle moving at full speed without a driver.

4. Develop learning and development materials

Designing L&D materials is like planning any other human activity. It’s the critical stage to prepare for everything that will come, so make the best out of it. So as you design your materials, remember the following key considerations:

  • Make preliminary designs and test them first before developing L&D activities
  • Integrate adult learning principles and use blended learning methods
  • Prioritize what your employees really need, not what’s convenient
  • Always create L&D training content and assessments that align with learning and development goals
  • Split L&D sessions into smaller, bite-sized activities to make them easier to digest
  • Integrate case scenarios and storytelling
  • Because people learn more by doing, use as much simulation or hands-on practice as possible
  • Allow learners to be in control of the learning process whenever possible
  • Provide enough opportunities for feedback

5. Develop your L&D materials

After designing your L&D materials, its time to develop them. It’s like you’ve written a new computer program and are ready to test how they run and determine if there are bugs in it.

You can create a wide array of L&D materials using various technology tools during this phase. Here are some choices:

  • Elearning tools for creating computer-based learning and development modules
  • Training materials for role-playing or hands-on activities
  • Common office programs for writing learning content, making handouts, and creating training outlines and notes
  • Presentation tools for hand-outs and in-class projections

These are only a few concepts. And keep in mind that technology continues to bring new possibilities every day. In fact, many L&D professionals already use new technologies like augmented reality as a learning and development tool to enhance employee training.

6. Implement the L&D program

A most important aspect when you’re already implementing L&D activities is communication. Ensure that you inform your employees about the complete details of the L&D programs they’ll undergo. In addition, communicate with them in advance so they’ll have plenty of time to adjust their schedules and perform any pre-training requirements.

The implementation of actual L&D activities can take various formats. It may be:

  • paper-based hand-outs or digital content for individual reading and study
  • classroom instructions
  • the completion of computer-based elearning modules
  • on-the-job skills-based training
  • practice opportunities like small group assignments, case studies, focus groups, or role-playing exercises
  • a combination of some or all of the above.

To accomplish most of your L&D activities, you only need to deploy a learning management system. An LMS is a software solution for assigning, delivering, tracking and reporting L&D programs.

A good sample LMS solution that supports these L&D activities is Docebo. By deploying this smart LMS platform, L&D professionals are empowered to more efficiently create the right learning and development goals and activities. Docebo’s AI-powered learning technology provides powerful automated learning management and helps both learners and organizations better reach their objectives.

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7. Evaluate the L&D process

After implementation, you must verify whether the L&D activities were efficient and successful in meeting the goals. An effective method involves evaluating the effectiveness of your training at four different levels. These are:

  • The reaction of employees to the L&D process
  • Actual learning that employees gained
  • Post-training job behavior of employees
  • The measurable business outcomes

After evaluating, you can now ascertain whether the training was as effective. But if the results were not that good, you need to make the appropriate changes in some aspects of your L&D plan, test, and apply them again.

Docebo dashboard

Docebo’s AI-powered automation can instantly provide learners with relevant L&D topics to ensure they have the relevant skills and knowledge in their jobs.

Things we’ve learned

And there you have it. You’re now more informed about some crucial, underlying aspects of the L&D process and how you can create the right objectives and activities.

Because every employee and organization is different, it takes considerable time and effort to study, test, and apply the suitable L&D plans and activities for your specific context. But by understanding and following the abovementioned tips and guides, you’ll discover that your L&D programs will be much more effective. And this will result in an increased L&D ROI, a happier workforce, and attained business goals.

Finally, in case you’re in the market for a robust LMS to help ensure better outcomes in the design and implementation of your L&D objectives and activities, it’s always best to test one first. In that regard, it’s a learned decision to try one of today’s best solutions and avail of Docebo‘s awesome free trial offer.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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