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6 Steps to Align L&D with Your Business

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

(Amanda Nolen, NilesNolen, Degreed LENS Lite 2020)

1. Refine Your Content Strategy

The learning experience is only as good as the content you feed it. With the advent of the internet, information is current, relevant and mostly sufficient as opposed to searching for a book. Think Instagram, Netflix, even Tinder or Bumble. It is new, the information is of a high standard and it is customized.

According to recent Degreed research, only 26% of respondents said they went to their HR or formal training teams when they needed to learn something new. The same research showed that:

65% of workers use specific websites to learn.

53% use search engines

62% turn to their professional networks

45% ask mentors.

44% ask teammates.

33% use online social communities.

These more accessible and popular learning modalities need to be factored into a modern content strategy.

2. Define a New Target Operating Model

Some learning, like compliance training, happens when a specific event occurs and at a specific time. But for others, Nolen recommended ditching the traditional course catalog and annual plan. “You’re going to want to free up 60 to 70% of your budget for emerging business needs.”

In fact, L&D should start acting a lot more like an emergency room. In the ER, a small cut isn’t treated the same as a heart attack. Medical professionals prioritize based on urgent needs, and your L&D department should be no different.

3. Act Like a Performance Consultant

Acting like a business partner (or an emergency room) is going to mean saying no to things — or at least saying “not now.” To see real results, be brutally efficient about what you build.

Modern L&D departments can no longer simply take orders. Instead, Nolen said, prioritization should be based on data and proven gaps. When it is, L&D leaders become performance consultants to the business, driving real, demonstrable results.

Amanda Nolen on learning initiatives

4. Use a Data-Driven Learning Design

To prioritize ruthlessly, L&D teams need good data. “Without data, it’s just an opinion,” Nolan said. “And it’s much harder to push back when stakeholders make a request that you don’t want to honor.”

Data can also help you make decisions — making you smarter about the learning you offer. Highly impactful L&D leaders use data to help them understand what kind of content works best, and how and when people are more likely to consume that content.

“Don’t wait until the learning initiative is over to find out if it worked,” Nolan cautioned. “That’s an autopsy. You’ve got to measure, measure, measure, and iterate if something went wrong.”

Data is essential to demonstrating impact. Remember to always start with benchmarking the current skills of your organization, Nolen said. And trace your initiatives back to retention, performance, engagement, speed to productivity, and other metrics that impact the larger organization.

5. Manage the Expectations of Your Stakeholders

Everything covered so far is quite different from the ways in which L&D used to traditionally operate. And while there might be internal support initially, stakeholders might become skeptical when they begin seeing the changes or realize their requests won’t always immediately be honored.

It’s extremely important to manage the expectations of all your stakeholders, from your executive teams all the way down to your end-users. Be clear about what’s expected of them, and more importantly, what’s in it for them.

Tell your advocates and champions what they can do to help market the new learning strategy internally. Rely on your line managers and remember that real change happens just as effectively from the bottom up as from the top down.

6. Develop New L&D Skills

There’s been a lot of talk about upskilling and reskilling. They’re not just for the workforce in general. “L&D is going to need a plan for upskilling and reskilling itself,” Nolen said, adding it will take an entirely different skill set than facilitation and instructional design.

New skills will be required in this new age of L&D. “Skills like marketing, data analytics, digital journalism, community management, and others” are what learning leaders should be looking to develop today.

Unfortunately, not all learning leaders are ready for this transformation. About one-third of the average L&D department will be ready to take on this future of learning and to develop new skills. The next third will be ready to modernize, but it may take some support to get there. The final third might really struggle with the magnitude of this transformation.

Nolen’s advice for the final, struggling third of an L&D department? Allow them to take responsibility for the parts of learning, like compliance and leadership training, that function in more traditional ways.

For a free consultation, contact:

Rita Govender

+27 82 804 6391

Skills Development Executive (Licensed Enneagram Practitioner, Neuro Coach, Agile Leadership Facilitator)


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