3 tips to shape your 2018 L&D strategy
“An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” Jack Welch, American Businessman
Although dating back to the eighties, this quote from Jack Welch feels as relevant as ever and it reminds me how important our jobs are as L&D professionals. By shaping and building our organisations into a system of learning, we can have a significant impact on the success of our organisation and its ability to stay ahead of the competition.
It’s an inspiring thought, but how do we make that happen in reality? An essential part is being able to have a finger on the pulse for what’s happening now in L&D, as well as keeping an eye on what’s coming down the road and successfully translating that insight into a L&D strategy.
To help you with this, we’ve recently conducted research and a survey of 120 L&D Professionals. From this data, we believe the three biggest priorities that will make or break the effectiveness of your L&D strategy in the coming year are:
1. Your strategy has to align with business objectives
Almost every respondent in our survey rated this as moderately or very important. However, in the Corporate Research Forum’s latest research, they report that only half of organisations have an explicit learning strategy or formal approach to assessing learning needs. So, although there’s clearly a desire to be aligned to business objectives, there still appears to be some way to go.
You might find the CRF’s learning matrix a useful tool and start point for designing a strategy that aligns with your business objectives. The matrix helps you to consider where learning will have the greatest impact on performance and business objectives – at an individual or organisational level. Often a learning strategy focuses on improving the capability of individuals. Whilst this is a necessity to equip employees with the skills for their own role, for strategic change to happen, a learning strategy must also point the lens at a team or organisational level.
You can read the executive summary of the CRF research here or contact Harry Cloke directly to find out further details on the report by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Be clear on where your skills gaps lie
Addressing skills gaps was the second highest priority for L&D professionals in 2018, with 89% feeling this was important or very important. The ubiquitous organisational challenges of complexity, globalisation, technology, multi-generational organisations and employee mobility require heightened levels of adaptability, flexibility and collaboration. These skills will be vital for any organisation and should be a key focus for development.
The CRF’s learning matrix is again helpful here. Companies face the task of addressing the skills gap in delivering high performance for today, and at the same time equipping employees and leaders for the future. This seeming paradox requires L&D to consider the balance between productive and generative learning in their strategy. Productive learning is the learning you need to be to be effective in your current marketplace – for example, this might be improving the skills of your salesforce or investing in process improvements. Whereas generative learning is the learning you need for the future - for example perhaps you’ll need people with skills in artificial intelligence or groups who can identify the next gen business model to disrupt the market,
And don’t forget to consider your own skill gaps too. As well as developing the skills of your people, we all need to keep up to date with the latest thinking in L&D. Design Thinking is a skill we predict will become increasingly important for L&D professionals. In a world where uncertainty and complexity are the new currency, expertise in design thinking provides a set of tools and processes to create a robust and effective L&D strategy. After all, we are working with human beings and their needs. If you’re not already familiar with the tools of design thinking including value chain analysis and journey mapping, this could be an area for your own development in 2018.
3. Blended learning is as important as ever
Given the focus on digital in the media and the workplace, it could be too easy to forget the grounding of evidence and science on which L&D programmes have always been based. Combining digital media with traditional face-to-face learning will remain high on the agenda for L&D strategies in 2018. This was rated as being important or very important for 74% of L&D professionals who responded to our survey.
Of course, the concept of blended learning isn’t anything new; it continues to evolve and develop and it’s our job as L&D professionals to stay up to date with the latest trends. The key will be to blend channels of delivery, combine our deep understanding of how adults learn and produce a learning journey that results in a sustainable shift in employee performance and capability.
A good example of blending old and new is the use of the ‘Flipped Classroom’ approach, which has become increasingly more prominent within organisations, having been used widely within education2. It lends itself seamlessly to effective blended learning by reversing the traditional delivery method of learning. Instead, in schools, pupils explore and learn about a concept through recorded lectures, podcasts and other material and then use the time in the classroom to work through and understand the concepts with the guidance of their teacher. It’s easy to see how this can translated into learning and development in organisations.
Your L&D strategy can have a significant impact on the success of your organisation. As the new year approaches and your L&D strategy for 2018 starts to take shape, consider our three tips for staying ahead: align your L&D strategy with your business objectives, identify your skills gaps and continue to refine your blended learning.
If you’re interested in hearing more of the trends we identified in our 2018 trends research, take a look at our webinar which you’ll find here.
2Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™