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How Learning and Development Shapes the Landscape of Business

  • 4 Min Read

HR leaders should use learning and development to drive workforce engagement. Here's why.

Professional development is unquestionably one of the best avenues to increase business performance and secure top performing talent in effective roles across long periods of time; investment in education often levies disproportionate returns in business outcomes. Why then are traditional talent management systems and techniques failing to provide the promised returns?

Based on the 2011 Global Leadership Survey, only 33% of organisations identify a clear, structured and effective plan for internal nurturing of talent. The result is that only 22% of HR professionals believe that their succession management systems are effective at retaining, upskilling and drawing in top level talent.

With the HR Strategy Forum looming on the horizon, what are the key themes that attendees should be aware of while they seek out the best solution providers to help them deliver their strategy? Digital HR strategies and focusing on employee experience are two of the crucial trends that Josh Bersin of Deloitte fame recommends that HR leaders be aware of moving into 2017. He also advocates leveraging cloud-based technology solutions to enable a constantly learning, mobile workforce. Can these aspects alone, however, really create a positive environment for professional development? And one that has a measurable impact on business outcomes at that? The short answer is no…

At least not individually. HR professionals need to demonstrate a real commitment to personalising the employee experience and creating an engaging atmosphere within the workplace, providing professional motivation and ultimately driving achievement. With the influx of a new millennial workforce, traditional incentives such as flashy cars or nice bonuses often aren’t enough to buy loyalty and commitment. Learning experiences, particularly among the young and largely unskilled workforce are of vastly greater value than material possessions. HR leaders can use learning and development as a means to drive engagement in the workforce and thus generate real and measurable impacts on business objectives.

An increased awareness in learning and development programmes can alter employee perceptions of their parent organisation. Even if they are not directly involved, the knowledge that underlying professional support is readily accessible can significantly improve their perception of the company and, in turn, their engagement. Not to mention the productivity gains achieved by highly skilled employees. Professional development of staff is an area often neglected because of demanding manager schedules and training budget cuts. But it does not need to be the case, however, if HR leaders take time to understand and measure the ROI from learning.

Download our free ROI guide to learn how to measure the ROI of learning

The most crucial aspect of corporate learning programmes is the deployment of leadership and management development strategies, identified as a current and future priority by over 500 key executives. A customised executive development course from a top educational institution can cost in excess of $150,000 US Dollars and is not guaranteed to achieve success.

According to an article by McKinsey&Company, the main reason that leadership programmes fail is that they overlook context, they cannot deliver relevant content in an engaging manner, to the right people, in the appropriate situation. For example, periods of company growth require very different strategies compared to times of economic downturn, and not every manager has the necessary skillset to identify and adapt to a changing business environment.

Systems to identify and close knowledge gaps have demonstrably been able to increase productivity and focus on business outcomes. The same McKinsey article showed a 15% rise in productivity at a European retail bank through the internal leveraging of learning & development programmes to focus on adapting managerial skillsets to suit challenging business situations. The cue here is that a learning system cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, that content and delivery needs to be varied based on context and the individual.

A learner engagement platform can help drive employee engagement and business outcomes by delivering an excellent learner experience. Firstly, by providing an easy to use and highly personalised learning journey which inspires and encourages talent to reach their full potential. Using simple authoring tools, creating engaging content is not limited to learning professionals but also developed by subject matter experts. This allows organisations to be more agile and respond to the changing needs of a fast paced business environment. Analytics and reporting that go beyond compliance tracking, adapting each learner’s pathway based on their progress, ensuring maximum value is gained by each individual.

Brightspace by D2L is a learner engagement platform used in large corporations like Accenture to deliver a completely different learner experience that engages employees. Brightspace was recently listed as a Next Generation Learning System by industry analysts Fosway.

To find out more about Brightspace, or get a better understanding of how a next generation learning environment can impact on HR and L&D practice, join us at the HR Strategy Forum, we’d love to talk about your challenges. Feel free to reach out to Alan Hiddleston to discuss these topics and to arrange conversations for the HR strategy forum.

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