Agility and adapting to the evolving context is a requirement for enterprises that want to stay ahead. Besides strategy, surveys and research show that the values and culture of a company are among the top determinants of accepting an offer for skilled professionals. These factors also affect professionals’ decisions to remain in their companies. Attracting and keeping the best talent is a priority for both young and fast-growing companies as well as more mature companies with considerable activity in the market. Say that your company was able to attract the best and brightest. Now what? A focus on Learning and Development (L&D) is what brings companies a competitive advantage.
What is L&D?
Learning and Development (L&D) can directly contribute to capacity development within a company. The 2022 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn Learning highlights the increasing role of L&D professionals in helping their companies adapt to ongoing transformations. For some enterprises, the disruption brought by digital transformation or challenges on the road to sustainability can be scary. It is not the nature of these phenomena that make them so; it is the uncertainty. People are afraid of things that they do not know, things that are unfamiliar. Learning is the antidote to fear. The more people and enterprises are open to learning and growth, the more prepared they are to take on the challenges of the future. When a company provides opportunities for L&D, its skill-base simultaneously evolves with its employees’ growing capabilities.
Demonstrating genuine intent through concrete actions and commitments is crucial for successful L&D efforts. This is only possible through a strong learning culture. An enterprise with a strong learning culture promotes a shift in mentality where learning is considered an ongoing process that is weaved into the regular workday. It is a place where curiosity, inquiry, and productive disagreement are welcomed and encouraged. Within a strong learning culture, growth mindset and hunger for learning are celebrated and rewarded. An enterprise with a strong learning culture is not static; it is ever-changing and constantly evolving through holistic monitoring, feedback, and evaluation mechanisms that combine cutting-edge technology and the human touch.
What makes L&D so important?
Parallel to a strong learning culture, having a growth mindset motivates people to step out of their comfort zones, view and pursue challenges as opportunities for growth, and foster organic interactions with their environment. Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University explains a growth mindset as believing that one can develop their talents “through hard work, good strategies, and input from others”, as opposed to believing that talents are fixed and unchanging. The puzzles of our time amplify the importance of upskilling and reskilling. While upskilling concerns building new skills on top of existing skills, reskilling focuses on gaining new skills to remain in the workforce when positions or functions become obsolete. Besides upskilling and reskilling, it is also important to question and be willing to unlearn previously accepted conventions. Learning and relearning can then follow and produce the intended outcome.
L&D has cross-cutting benefits. The 2022 Workplace Learning Report lists employee retention and internal mobility opportunities, which also contribute to an employee’s decision to stay at a company or leave, as the top benefits of L&D. According to the report, internal mobility has become a higher priority for one out of every two companies. Internal mobility opportunities not only allow employees to create greater impact by utilising their skills in the most relevant settings but also open space for gaining further expertise or exploring new areas. It is not only employee motivation and engagement that makes L&D important. L&D is an excellent lever for enterprise transformation. In line with their strategies, companies can determine priority areas, scope and timeline of L&D activities to improve their operations and performance.
What is traditional learning and how is L&D different?
The road to maturity along the People Dimension is long, and L&D can look different at various stages. Earlier on the journey are the traditional methods, including educational materials, such as brochures and manuals, seminars or certification/accreditation programs, or subsidising professional academic degrees. However, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the ongoing transformation of the L&D space. More flexible approaches to L&D became a “must have” rather than something that is “nice to have”. These approaches can take different forms. For instance, providing subscriptions to online education platforms, combining synchronous and asynchronous L&D components, designing tasks and activities that include both individual and group work, and incorporating AI and technology, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), into the L&D efforts can be some examples. Further, gamification in L&D activities can make learning more fun and turn it into something that the learners look forward to. Gamification can entail designing online or in-person L&D activities by incorporating a storyline to connect the activities to the company’s broader L&D efforts or to individual learners’ target learning outcomes. Gamification can also include milestones to show progress as well as tasks and rewards to increase engagement.
L&D as a master key to many doors: Benefits and more
In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink highlights autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the main drivers of motivation. We feel more motivated when we have autonomy over the tasks, timing, and method with which we choose to tackle the tasks, as well as the team that we work with. We experience growth and gain mastery as we spend more time and effort in a field. We feel more connected to the tasks at hand when we see the big picture and attach a purpose to them. These three elements together create intrinsic motivation to push us forward.
Eliminating the cost of access to online education platforms and providing flexible L&D schedules can extend learning activities beyond defined time periods and give learners the flexibility to design their own learning journey at their own pace. Providing time and space for individual employees to pursue L&D opportunities can boost initiative-taking and time management. Collaborating during training and more interactive development programs would also contribute to team building and harmony across functions and throughout the company. All of these, in return, would contribute to a thriving collective and company culture and organisational memory. Also, gamification, AR, and VR can greatly enhance the learning experience. Combined, the developing technical capabilities and positive organisational impact brought by L&D have the potential to make the company a hub for innovation.
Three questions for a sharp L&D strategy
The list of L&D activities and related benefits can be easily extended. However, reaping the benefits of a cutting-edge L&D design requires a well-planned strategy and execution. Here are three questions that can guide your L&D efforts:
- How well organized is your learning design and execution?
- How do you want to provide learning solutions?
- How digitally organised are your L&D efforts?
Do you know the strengths and gaps in your company’s skill base? Technology is great leverage for L&D activities. Learning Management Systems (LMSs) allow companies to not only centralise and manage company-wide learning efforts but also can provide People and Culture professionals with up-to-date information about the current state of the company’s talent base. Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) enable L&D professionals to strategically design L&D efforts to support the company’s goals and to create engaging and impactful programs for learners. In addition, using the correct approaches and tools can enhance the performance review processes.
Have you determined your company’s areas of growth? Do you know your employees’ professional and career goals? How well do the company objectives and employees’ individual professional goals align? Being in close communication with your employees is the first step to finding out about their goals and motivations. Capability and personality analyses can also provide further insight. Additionally, creating a function, such as a learning academy, that is tasked with designing L&D efforts would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes. Learning academies not only ensure the quality of the content and the overall learning experience but they can also create space for employees to contribute to the company’s L&D efforts if they wish. Flexibility, collaboration, and communication promoted under such an approach also feed into the feeling of autonomy, mastery, and purpose for all learners. It is also worth noting that L&D extends beyond activities offered by a company; it also entails individual effort and initiative taking when it comes to pursuing growth opportunities. This is a snapshot of a company that values and promotes the development of each individual within it because it recognises that what is good for its employees is good for the company.
What does Level 5 look like in our DMI and SMI?
The above picture is admittedly the best-case scenario. This is what a company would look like at Level 5, the highest level, of our Digital Maturity and Sustainability Maturity Index (DMI and SMI). Level 5 is difficult to reach and very few companies, if any, are at that level. On the other hand, there are many reasons for companies to strive to get there. Our job is to help our clients determine their paths of transformation, and we work with them every step of the way. DMI and SMI use our unique methodology to objectively assess enterprises with a 360-degree approach. We measure our clients’ current state and help them establish their benchmarks. We not only provide information but also guide our clients in setting goals, determining a roadmap, and prioritising actions. Time and again, our clients were able to accelerate their journeys and maximise their impact as a result of their work with us.
Agility and adaptability are more important than ever in our current context of constant transformation. Where does your organisation stand in this picture? Interested in learning more? Let’s chat!