learning and development strategy
Training & Learning

UK L&D: How to Prime Your Learning and Development Strategy for Success

The UK is facing a skills gap of epic proportions. The 2021 Skills Index report by City and Guilds found that businesses and employees report a mismatch between the skills people gain through the education system and the workplace. As a result, 23% of UK workers feel that their educational qualifications aren’t useful in their current career.

In contrast, 85% of respondents said employee training programmes are relevant to their current positions, and 73% found them useful for their career development.

As L&D professionals, we have a responsibility to create a business environment that employees want to be a part of and are likely to stay in. A successful learning and development strategy will create a values-based culture that motivates and engages employees, ensuring that the entire team is aligned towards the business goals.

In this article, we delve deeper into the key elements of a good L&D strategy including how to incorporate collaborative learning, on-the-job learning, and formal training into your L&D initiatives. Plus, we show you how to shape your plans—from aligning training with business goals, measuring impact, and leveraging tools such as an LMS to scale your learning and development programmes, we’ve got all the resources you need right here.

The elements of a good L&D strategy

A good organisational L&D strategy should focus on harnessing employee development through continuous training and upskilling. By providing your team with further learning opportunities, they’re given the chance for professional development while simultaneously enhancing overall business performance.

Key elements for employees

For an L&D programme to be successful, it needs to fill skills gaps as well as harness a culture of constant professional development. An all-encompassing learning and development programme should include a mixture of:

  • On-the-job learning—this refers to any activities that aim to develop the skills and competencies of employees in order for them to effectively do their job. This could include self-instruction training that is accessed directly by learners on their own time through LMS platforms or manuals. Other examples include shadowing, mentoring, and onboarding training.
  • Collaborative learning— this is where employees share their knowledge and expertise, teaching and learning with one another. It enhances the learning experience by capitalising on each employee’s skills, ideas, and institutional knowledge. Learning platforms that combine an LMS with collaborative learning to make the process intuitive and enjoyable. Rather than rolling out reskilling initiatives for thousands of employees, companies can use collaborative learning techniques to encourage employees to set their own learning goals based on their own aspirations and developmental priorities.
  • Formal training—this refers to more traditional, one-way learning activities, usually in the form of face-to-face training courses or workshops. Very often, learners earn certification at the end of their training if certain objectives are met through tests or assignments.

Key elements for organisations

A good strategy for learning and development offers more than just an opportunity for your employees to grow. A clearly defined strategy also reaps a number of benefits for your organisation.

  • It helps companies attract and retain talent within the team. A recent survey by LinkedIn found that corporate learning and development opportunities are seen as essential for 76% of Gen Z, 61% of millennials, 56% of Gen X, and 55% of baby boomers. Sixty per cent of UK job seekers consider career development a vital part of their job search. Drive retention by offering and promoting learning opportunities on a regular basis.
  • It motivates workers and increases employee engagement. Eighty per cent of respondents from Udemy’s Workplace Boredom Study said that learning new skills makes work feel less dull and makes workers feel more engaged. Improve employee engagement by promoting a continuous learning culture in your organisation.
  • It increases performance and improves the quality of work. Keeping your team up-to-date with relevant industry information and skills increases the likelihood you’ll hit your organisation’s business targets. In one study, 83% of Gen Z workers said they wanted to learn new skills so that they could perform better in their jobs.
  • It improves your company’s brand. A business environment that prioritises learning programmes and professional development opportunities has a competitive advantage. With a strategy in place, your company’s learning culture will position you as an industry leader known for producing top-notch talent in the field.
  • It creates a values-based culture. Creating a culture based on strong values is becoming increasingly important for organisations. More and more employees want to work for companies that align with their values. L&D programmes are a great way to reinforce company values, particularly in a world where workforces are becoming increasingly dispersed.

With the benefits of having a structured learning and development strategy in place, let’s take a look at the steps needed to shape your initiatives.

9 steps to shaping your learning & development strategy

Creating a strong learning organisation starts with developing an effective learning and development strategy. Through their ACADEMIES framework, McKinsey outlined the 9 crucial steps HR and L&D teams need to follow in order to implement their own strategies.

The 9 components of the ACADEMIES framework
The ACADEMIES framework consists of 9 components for developing a strong L&D programme (Source: McKinsey & Company)
  1. Align with business strategy—An L&D programme needs to complement the company’s overall business strategy in a timely and cost-effective manner that strengthens the company’s values. A change to L&D is also a good opportunity to directly implement a business strategy. For example, if an organisation is prioritising digital transformation, it can centre its training programmes toward achieving it.
  2. Ensure co-ownership between business units and human resources—For a learning and development strategy to work, it must have buy-in and ownership from all stakeholders within the company. Say an organisation’s learning needs suddenly change due to the introduction of new technologies. The L&D programmes need to quickly adapt to the new situation, which involves sign-off and input from different teams and individuals. This could include the chief experience officer (CXO), HR, and business-unit heads.
  3. Perform a bottom-up needs analysis—Many companies fail to conduct a thorough needs analysis that focuses on what skills gaps employees themselves have identified as a barrier to achieving the company’s goals. If employees need a deeper understanding of a certain area, you need to assess where the team currently stands. If you find skills gaps, use those assessments to inform your L&D interventions.
  4. Design learning pathways—The concept of corporate learning has moved away from long classroom sessions with little to no follow-up. Employees' learning experiences should be a continuous learning path. This leads to more effective learning experiences through things like fieldwork, digital learning tools, social learning, and short workshops.
  5. Execute and scale-up—L&D initiatives can be costly and resource-heavy. You can keep the cost of new programmes down through smaller-scale pilot projects. Depending on the outcomes of your launch, the programme can then be rolled out on a larger scale. In the long run, this works out to be more cost-effective while also ensuring a more effective learning experience for the team as a whole.
  6. Measure impact—The success of an L&D strategy should be measured using three key performance indicators (KPIs). The first is business excellence—how aligned are the L&D initiatives to the company’s business priorities? The second indicator focuses on learning excellence—are the programmes changing people’s behaviour and performance? Finally, look at operational excellence—have the programme’s investments and resources been used efficiently?
  7. Integrate interventions into HR processes—L&D should be closely linked to HR processes like recruitment, onboarding, performance appraisals, and promotions. L&D programmes can also complement performance appraisals and help managers identify gaps, opportunities, and development needs. Companies with a strong L&D component in the onboarding processes ensure that new employees have the resources needed to succeed in their new roles.
  8. Use 70:20:10 learning—This framework is based on the idea that 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% through interaction and collaboration, and the final 10% is reserved for formal learning activities. Considering keeping this framework in mind when developing your learning strategy. Be sure to include interventions across all three areas.
  9. Choose the right learning technology—Technology’s role in L&D is crucial. Some of the most effective learning platforms are next-generation LMSs and mobile-learning apps. These cloud-based platforms allow L&D teams to make prompt changes and additions without unnecessary complexity.

With these steps in mind, you can create your own learning and development strategy, which also incorporates the following elements:

  • A set of goals and metrics—Define your organisation’s goals, priorities, and vision and how your L&D strategy will help realise them. Once these are defined, what metrics will you use to define the success of your programme?
  • An L&D inventory—Look through all of your L&D materials and assess what needs to be added, removed, or improved upon.
  • Addresses employee skills gaps and needs—Outline a list of skills and capabilities required for every role in your company and assess the employees currently working within them. Do they meet the requirements you’ve listed? With this knowledge in hand, you can design your L&D programme to fill any gaps and help your team reach their desired outcomes.
  • An LMS that caters to all of your L&D needs—Find a learning management system that works within your budget and satisfies all of your L&D programme’s requirements. Be sure to follow this checklist when considering an LMS.
  • A plan that includes your KPIs—Understand which KPIs you’ll be using to measure the success of your programme. Find the best methods for evaluating your training programmes and a method to collect them using your Learning Management System.
  • A formalised approach to impact measurement—The aim of your L&D programme is to improve employee performance over time. Be sure to have a formalised process for measuring the impact of your training courses and verify your programme is aligned with business goals.

Grow your L&D strategy at the speed of business

With learning management systems like 360Learning, your company can develop an L&D programme using collaborative learning techniques. This way, you can build and grow skills in real-time, using peer-based learning and through distributed ownership.

We hope you’ve found some inspiration here to help you define and implement your learning and development strategy. If you’d like to find out more about how collaborative learning can help you and your teams thrive, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts!

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