Three Keys to Building an Effective Learning and Development Strategy

Are you new to the Learning & Development (L&D) profession, or a seasoned L&D professional stepping into a new role?

If so, you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin? What steps do I take in order to create an effective L&D department? Are there any tools out there that can help?”

One of the critical first steps is to develop your own L&D department strategy that supports the overarching business strategy. This is not an easy task.  You may face challenges along the way, but your chances for success will increase significantly when you focus on three key strategic areas:  information, preparation, and collaboration.

Information                                                                   

First, find out what training needs exist inside your organization. Armed with that knowledge, you can provide appropriate and effective solutions to fill those gaps. How do you discover what those needs are, develop and define objectives, and measure the results?  Documenting this information in the form of a plan or blueprint will help you further identify what you need to get started.  Gather as much information as you can. Search out current training trends, tools, topics, and approaches. Draw from the knowledge and insight of team members from other functions (for example, sales and marketing, operations, or the executive team) that will use your services. They are your internal customers and can provide valuable insights as you build your unique strategy.

Preparation

Second, pull the information you’ve gathered into a logical format; analyze how it all fits together so you can develop an appropriate strategy. An organization is only as successful as its component parts and how well they fit together. Supporting strategies must complement and fit in with the business’ “grand strategy” – not unlike the many small pieces that come together in a mosaic to create a masterpiece.  Avoid the shot-gun approach and the “this-is-how-we-have-always-done-it” mentality. Assess existing plans and approaches, and consider alternatives.

Preparation takes research, thought, and analysis. If you are new to your role or revising an existing strategy, a well laid out blueprint will help you discover the answers to important questions your strategy must address.

  • What is your overall L&D vision?
  • Does it support the overarching business strategy?
  • Does your approach add distinctive value to the business?
  • What skill and knowledge gaps do you need to fill?
  • How will you define—and measure—success?

When you are richly prepared, you create value for the business, and it strengthens your seat at the business management table.

Collaboration

Third, collaboration begins when you identify your stakeholders and start asking questions.  But don’t let it stop there. Ongoing communication will help you build and maintain trust and credibility with your internal customers. There are a number of good training programs out there and it can be enticing to pick one and go with it, but if you aren’t choosing and delivering training that is truly responsive to the needs you have identified, you are doing your organization, your end-users, and yourself a disservice.

Don’t forget, strategy is something you and your team can develop together. Unless you are a solo member of the L&D team, involve everyone in the strategy creation process and involve them early. By including your team, you help them feel ownership which will create support for the program.

Keep these three keys in mind and move at your own pace as you put your L&D blueprint to use.  This tool is not only a guide to learning what you need to know, but a framework in which you can organize that information and use it to build your strategy.  Remember, the more  you align your strategy with the business, and incorporate measures for success that drive the bottom line, the more value you and your department bring to the end users—and to the business.

Rachel Wade