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The Key Components of a Successful Learning & Development Strategy

Every organization wants to increase employee productivity and retention. To maximize performance and keep top performers, it’s vital to focus on career development.

In 2022, SHRM found that 76 percent of employees are likely to stay with an organization that offers continuous learning and development opportunities, and 55 percent of employees feel that they need additional training to excel in their current roles. 

But how can learning and development (L&D) teams support career development for many individuals and teams? Everyone has different goals and needs, and figuring out how to address them all can seem overwhelming. 

The answer is to have a strategic approach to L&D. 

By having an overall framework for learning and development, you can prioritize projects and effectively create the training that everyone needs.

What is a learning and development strategy?

A strategy is a plan for obtaining a specific goal or result; when applied to learning and development, it means creating goals for your L&D team and then developing a plan to meet those goals.

On a small scale, you might try to address a specific L&D need in your organization, like skill gaps. However, what most companies need is a comprehensive strategy that covers everything the L&D team contributes to the organization.

A comprehensive learning and development strategy should consider:

  • The company’s long-term goals, both in terms of new products and growth
  • Skill gaps in your organization
  • What leadership roles you will need to fill in the next several years
  • How the skills required for existing roles are changing and how that can be addressed

A 2023 LinkedIn report found that the number one focus for L&D in the coming year is aligning learning programs to business goals

Once you’ve identified those goals, your strategy will allow you to provide career development for employees that bring those goals to pass.

Why is it important to have a learning and development strategy?

Why spend time creating a plan when you can attack the problem?

The truth is there are many ways to approach a specific problem, and you won’t know which way makes the most sense unless you have an overarching strategy.

A strategy also allows you to prioritize projects based on impact, manage your budget effectively, and focus on moving the needle on specific metrics that matter most to your organization.

Finally, when you take a strategic approach, you can measure your results.

If you want your L&D team to have a measurable impact on your company’s bottom line, which can help you protect your budget and even hire additional team members, you need a strategy. 

How do you create a learning and development strategy?

Creating a plan encompassing all your organization’s roles and responsibilities can feel daunting. However, once you start to write everything down and organize your ideas, things will be much clearer.

Learning and development teams generally help the company in these areas:

  • Attracting and retaining talent
  • Training and ramping up new hires
  • Motivating and engaging employees
  • Filling skill gaps and helping employees adjust to shifts in skills needed for their jobs
  • Creating a bench of talent for leadership opportunities

You can create a strategy for each individual area and then tie them together in an overarching L&D strategy for your team.

What are the essential components of a successful L&D strategy?

A successful L&D strategy has to consider both the goals of the organization and the goals of individual learners. Balancing the two can be challenging, but there are ways to align them. 

For example, SHRM found that over half of employees want leadership training, and a separate report from Gartner found that 45 percent of HR leaders struggle to develop effective mid-level leadership. Clearly, leadership training helps both the organization and the learner reach their goals. 

Other important components of an L&D strategy include:

  • Partnership and a clear communication plan between L&D and each business team
  • Assessment of existing skill gaps and their financial impact on the organization
  • A plan to create training that meets learners’ needs for accessible, timely courses that address multiple learning styles
  • Consider offering an educational stipend to encourage and empower employees to pursue learning and development opportunities
  • Strategic prioritization of projects to manage the L&D budget effectively while meeting as many goals as possible
  • Clear metrics for measuring the performance of L&D initiatives and showing their impact on the organization

When all of these elements are part of your strategy, you’ll be able to maximize the positive impact of L&D on employees’ career development and on the organization’s overall goals.

What does the L&D strategy need to align to?

Aligning the L&D strategy with the company’s overall goals in terms of new product development, growth, and innovation is essential. 

It’s the best way to bring career development in line with what the company needs, as well as to showcase the positive impact that L&D initiatives have on the organization.

Learning and development opportunities in the workplace

What are some ways that L&D can provide employees with career development? 

There are a variety of approaches, and what your company prioritizes will depend on the L&D budget, team size, and other resources in the organization.

Manager-team member coaching

Employees who have effective coaching from their managers are 40 percent more engaged, 38 percent more likely to go above and beyond, and 20 percent more likely to stay at an organization, according to research by Gartner. 

However, not all managers know how to coach their employees well.

There are opportunities for L&D teams to help managers learn coaching skills and for managers to coach employees for better success. Both are examples of career development.

Peer and social learning

We learn an incredible amount simply by watching what others do. That’s why social learning opportunities like job shadowing and mentoring can be so powerful. 

Another aspect of social learning is the increase in performance that happens when people have the chance to learn together and collaborate. Much of L&D is individually focused because everyone has busy schedules, and on-demand learning generally makes sense. However, if employees never learn collaboratively, they miss out on an important part of career development. 

Peer and social learning can be supported with discussion boards, peer-to-peer feedback, live training events, and encouraging team members to share their learning. You can also encourage tenured employees to teach specific skills and concepts to those who need to learn.

Training sessions

Training sessions are the most common career development approach in L&D. Whether these classes take place in person or online, training sessions allow team members to learn specific skills quickly and easily.

To make training more effective, consider the following:

  • Keeping sessions short and specific
  • Addressing multiple learning styles
  • Adding an element of team collaboration by including sharing on a message board or a project that employees work on together 

Read more: Make eLearning Engaging in 7 Steps

Effective training is the foundation of your learning and development strategy, no matter what form that training takes.

Podcasts, webinars, and other resources

Because people learn in a variety of ways, there are many different resources that can further career development. 

For example, some people enjoy listening to podcasts, while others enjoy the visuals and live interaction of webinars.

Offering a wide variety of learning opportunities is an important part of addressing your teams’ career development needs and helping your organization meet its goals. 

Your learning and development strategy empowers employees and your organization

Having a strategic approach to learning and development helps your team members move forward in their careers, contribute to organizational goals, and do it all with a clear budget and time constraints. 

The power of strategy is that it helps you prioritize based on clearly defined objectives that your stakeholders have already agreed upon. You can stay focused, resolve any conflicts that arise, and empower your organization and employees. 

Employees at companies with high levels of internal mobility stay with the organization twice as long, according to the 2021 LinkedIn Learning report. By creating an L&D strategy that contributes to career development while helping the company reach its goals, you can retain top talent and help employees grow.

How WorkRamp can help you create an effective learning and development strategy

A comprehensive L&D strategy will address all areas of learning and development: employee growth, new hire training, and more. 

The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp is the single platform for all employee and customer learning needs. With the Learning Cloud, you can create a learning culture and help employees develop in their roles and beyond. 

Ready to learn more? Contact us for a free, personalized demo. 

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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