The business world is getting tougher.
Employees have a steeper slope to climb if they expect to climb up the corporate ladder and it is littered with obstacles and challenges. As industries consolidate, the competition is getting fiercer and customers are becoming a lot savvier on what they expect from their suppliers or vendors.
Couple the changing business landscape with the talk of an imminent economic slowdown, many companies are considering drastic actions from rightsizing staff to moving roles around the globe in search of better costing structures. We see this across the board from tech giants (Google, Amazon, HubSpot) to brick-and-mortar businesses (T-Mobile, UBS, Vodafone) to name a few. Check out this link here to see some major announcements in the business world regarding layoffs in 2023.
Therefore, as a business, how can we strive ahead against these headwinds and remain competitive? How do we get the most from our employees? It’s in this climate where investments in learning and development (L&D) are critical to success. L&D is a proven engine to reskill and upskill for business growth but from a cost perspective, it is a lot more cost effective that layoff and rehiring.
From a Malaysian standpoint, there is a clear need to upskill for progress as it also aligns to where the country is heading to with the latest release of the New Industrial Master Plan (NIMP) 2030. If you’re not aware of the key goals and objectives of the master plan, check out our article here where we summarise the key facts with respect to the corporate training industry.
Key goals of the NIMP 2030: Click Here
Sadly, only 12% of employees globally believe their organisation’s L&D strategy is effective in developing their skillsets for the future.
How do we change this? What’s an effective plan for employees to upskill or reskill for future business needs? Where do we start? This is where an L&D strategy helps.
What is a Learning and Development (L&D) Strategy?
A learning and development (L&D) strategy is a holistic plan that outlines how an organization trains and develops its workforce, improves employee skill sets, and fosters a culture of continuous learning. This should be based on the future goals of the organisation in respect to their financial and operational goals. In terms of learning formats, this will differ for every organisation but the key objective here is to fit the learning formats to the culture of the organisation.
In Malaysia, we do observe a high preference towards running physical learning programmes rather than creating digital mini courses which often tend to have lower retention and completion here. In other regions of the world, this might not be the case but from a local Malaysian perspective, this seems to be the preferred approach when possible.
The goal ultimately is to find a format that fits the organisational needs rather than having a spray and see approach. Defining a holistic L&D strategy is really the start of any effective L&D initiative and as mentioned, it has to be consistent to the key goals that the organisation needs to achieve in the next 3-5 years. Learning takes time and therefore the strategy should ultimately reflect that. A good description on why L&D strategies matters can be shown below.
Why have a Learning and Development (L&D) Strategy?
It’s clear that we need to upskill for the future, but why do we need a strategy for L&D? The image below encapsulates the question of why.
Image courtesy of Valamis: Source here
The 10 steps of a good L&D Strategy
A picture is worth 1,000 words, and so the image below showcases the steps required to get to an effective L&D strategy.
Image courtesy of Whatfix: Source Here
As mentioned in the previous section, step 1 is all about understanding the key business goals. This really has to be set from the top of the organisation where there is a lot more clarity on what the business needs to achieve success in the next 3-5 years. Leadership buy-in to these goals is imperative so that every business unit leader can see the alignment clearly to the L&D strategy.
If we think of the OKR framework, this is really the “O” or objective in the framework. There is a clear path from objectives to key results. If you’re not familiar with the OKR framework, do read the following article.
Step 2 and 3: Ownership and SMART Goals
Sometimes, ownership of an L&D strategy can be a tricky proposition for HR leaders as the overall strategy might fall under the HR purview but ultimately the main objectives are driven from the business unit leadership. Ultimately, you want to have as much alignment as possible to the goals of the businesses and therefore, business leaders play an important and critical role to ensuring a strong and successful L&D strategy.
Identifying these ownership structures early is very important so that you have full responsibility across the organisation in developing a holistic L&D strategy. Another tactic would be to form a cross-functional team that you support and brainstorm through the goals and key results required from L&D.
Set the right L&D goals. If we measure financial results by clear measurable results, why not in L&D? Goals should be SMART (ie. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.) Link these SMART L&D goals back to the key objectives set by step 1. If possible, create an L&D goals dashboard that can track and measure effectiveness of learning. This will allow you to quickly assess whether you’re making progress and if a pivot is required.
Step 4 and 5: Identify Skill Gaps and Learning Pathways
Once you have all the buy in from leadership, establish a cross functional L&D strategy team and have identified your SMART L&D goals, the next steps are to understand the gaps in the organisation and how you can address them. This is often referred to as a TNA (Training Needs Analysis) in the market but it should essentially be a full review of your employees’ capabilities to understand where upskilling or reskilling is required.
If you’re looking for a good TNA template, you can find one here. Identifying the right learning or skillset required is extremely important as it dictates the anticipated future needs of the business. This is also where a cross functional team can lend their expertise to view the challenge from different viewpoints.
Once you’re done with your organisational TNA, the next step is to divide the gaps by employee bands so that each band or level has their own pathway for learning success. The requirements for new hires would be very different from experienced managers and their learning pathways should reflect this. This is also where learning formats play a role as some managers might need less face-to-face learning options due to their work commitments vs. a new hire that might need a localised physical session to drive more engagement and learning retention.
When it comes to learning and development, a “one-size-fits-all” approach just doesn’t make sense.
If you have time, do check out our other articles on L&D strategy: Click Here
Step 6 and 7: Invest in L&D Tech and Launch!
Some L&D technology platform investment might be beneficial but not required for learning success. Some options include Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) that can help HR teams manage the roll out process for learning but more importantly track and assess employees on how they have been interacting with learning options. It’s a nice to have but not critical for success. Investments in L&D tech platforms should be a secondary discussion point as the organisation grows and scales its operations. Scale allows the organisation to keep control digitally rather than using manual tracking systems. Tread carefully with platforms as they are usually pricey and are slow to get rid off so a cautious approach should be taken with any enterprise learning system.
Once you have all the pieces down, it’s time to roll it out to the organisation!
This is again where the collaboration between business leaders and HR comes into play as the goal is to drive as much awareness and adoption across the business. Managers play a key role here and an effective roll out strategy is to get people managers invested in the process as early as possible.
If you follow the step-by-step approach of getting the right buy in early from leadership and business leaders, this step becomes a lot easier to manage and follow through as leaders have a vested interest in seeing the strategy succeed from the outset.
We also recommend you take a look at some other recommendations here:
Top 7 programmes for employees – 2023 trends: Read Here
Step 8 and 9: Measure and Collect Feedback!
Measurement of effectiveness is the first step to understanding how ROI can be attributed to your L&D strategy. This is where a L&D dashboard can be utilised to measure how effective each learning pathway or learning format has been for the organisation. This can be ultimately owned by the HR team but the accountability should be on business leaders to ensure their team members are accurately providing the right data points to measure. Some data points that could be collected include Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Pre and Post Learning Assessments and Learning Completion percentages for digital courses.
Feedback is also integral to the entire process where users get to have a feedback loop into the L&D strategy. Having a direct ear to the ground is important so that you create meaningful change for employees. This can also be measured and tracked via a L&D KPI dashboard. Collating this information can be an amazing data mine for future improvements and enhancements to the learning experience in any organisation. As mentioned previously, there is no one-size-fits-all approach so the closer you listen to employee feedback, the quicker you can pivot if required.
Step 10: L&D is Alive!
Things change and so should your L&D strategy. The key objectives might remain consistent but the key results can and should change to reflect the on-ground needs. A strong L&D strategy is therefore not static but a dynamic plan for success.
In conclusion, the 1st step to change in this space is acknowledging that L&D can be a critical differentiating lever for every organisation. The next is having a clear L&D strategy that can get you from where you are today to where you need to be in the future to remain competitive. Reskilling and upskilling employees for future needs is not a distant notion to be considered, it is something that every organisation needs to consider.
Take your L&D to the next level!
One more last note: if you’re a Malaysian L&D provider or freelancer, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss about having you onboarded as a partner on TalentStore! Training success starts with access!