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What is a Learning and Development Strategy? Maximizing Employee Potential

A learning and development strategy is a comprehensive roadmap that organizations create to enhance employees’ skills, knowledge, and capabilities. It outlines the methods, resources, and goals to align training initiatives with individual growth and company objectives. A sound L&D strategy is vital, as the number one focus for L&D teams in 2023 is aligning learning programs to business goals. When they do, they have a straightforward way to show the impact of employee development on the company’s bottom line.

The challenge is that both leaders and learners agree that current L&D programs are not well-connected to what’s needed. Emergn found that 65 percent of learners thought current L&D was irrelevant to their role or didn’t have enough time to complete training, and 65 percent of leaders said workplace training is not entirely connected to the team’s goals.

The answer to these concerns is to create an L&D strategy that aligns learning with company goals and employee skills to future-proof the organization and help employees advance in their roles and careers. 

Discover the essential steps to aligning learning initiatives with business objectives to bridge the gap between theory and practice and pave the way for a prosperous future for your employees and organization. Understand the blueprint for a strategic L&D approach that charts the course to excellence and drives tangible results.

What is a learning and development strategy?

A learning and development strategy describes how a company plans to develop specific skills and competencies within its employee teams. The L&D team takes the lead in sharing a vision for how learning and development can help the business achieve its goals while also helping employees advance in their careers. 

The L&D strategy should take the following factors into account:

  • The company’s current market position and long-term growth goals
  • Skill gaps that exist today and those expected to develop in the future
  • What succession planning and leadership development the company needs
  • How the skillsets within individual jobs are changing and how to address it

Things have always changed in business, but they seem to change quickly in today’s organizations. Skillsets for jobs have changed an average of 25 percent since 2015, and that’s expected to reach 50 percent by 2027, according to the 2023 LinkedIn report. The result is that most companies are facing significant skill gaps.

The right L&D strategy can address these gaps, align training with long-term company goals, and help ensure that L&D plays a significant strategic role in the company going forward. 

Why having a learning and development strategy is important

As we mentioned, people’s jobs are changing rapidly, and most companies are not adjusting quickly enough.

That’s why it’s unsurprising that McKinsey found that 43 percent of companies say they have skill gaps now, and another 44 percent expect to have gaps within five years. 

Read more: Close the Skills Gap Empower Your Team for an Unpredictable Future

On top of that, there aren’t new leaders ready to step in when there’s an opening. Only 11 percent of HR leaders said they have a strong bench to fill leadership roles in 2020 according to a study by DDI, and the leaders that are in place are struggling to be effective in leading virtual and hybrid teams. 

Finally, there’s increased competition. The DDI survey showed that 78 percent of leaders want to be more prepared to respond to competition in the industry, and 61 percent want teams to be more innovative to improve products and services. 

A strategic approach to L&D allows you to create a plan to address these needs in your organization. 

Your organization will thrive when employees have the right skills for their work, there’s depth in leadership talent, and teams are ready to respond to competition with innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. At the same time, your L&D team will show itself to be a vital strategic partner in helping the company reach its goals. 

Read more: How to Future-Proof Your Organization to Thrive in an Ever-Changing World

Benefits of having a learning and development strategy

A strategic learning and development approach clearly benefits your organization and L&D team. 

You can address the skill and leadership challenges we’ve mentioned in a systematic way while also tracking your results and showing leadership a clear return on investment. 

Read more: New Manager Onboarding: Setting New Managers up for Success

Attracting and retaining top talent

One of the primary reasons many organizations invest in L&D is its impact on employee recruitment.

 In 2022, SHRM found that 83 percent of HR managers said employee development is beneficial for attracting talent, and 86 percent said it was important for retaining employees. 

Having a strategic approach to L&D gives you an advantage when recruiting and retaining employees because you can show clear paths to advancement and growth.

Improving employee strengths and skills

People need training and reinforcement to develop and keep new skills, and companies today recognize that, investing over $100 billion in training in 2022. 

This training helps make employees more effective and efficient while also preparing them to potentially move into other positions within the company. 

A learning and development strategy allows your organization to address the right skills at the right time rather than offering expensive general training that might not help employees in their specific roles. 

Read more: 26 Examples of Employee Strengths and Weaknesses + How to Improve Them

Improving employee engagement and company culture

Consistent learning opportunities help employees stay engaged and interested in their work, especially when they can see new opportunities on the horizon. 

A company culture of learning also promotes innovation and risk-taking, which are essential for competing in ever-tighter markets. Learning can become a growth engine for your organization.

Strategic learning and development lets you show consistent results from employee development, offer opportunities to employees, and encourage creative thinking. All of these results help you show that L&D is aligned with the company’s long-term goals. 

Enhancing brand reputation

Employees talk a lot about their employers outside of work, on social media, and in in-person conversations. Something few companies consider is that their employees have a far greater reach than the business’s official channels.

Your employees’ posts have 561 percent more reach than your official company channels, so fostering a positive relationship with employees is essential. Providing strategic L&D helps employees reach their goals and enhances the company’s brand, whether those accomplishments are shared by the company or the employees themselves. 

Personalized training options that meet a variety of needs

When you create your training programs strategically, you have an opportunity to address multiple training needs. For example, you might have skills-focused micro training that gives a learner an immediate boost in a short period of time, and you might also have long-term leadership training that includes shadowing, informational interviews, and more. 

Because an L&D strategy allows you to discover training needs for different teams and individuals, you can address them and offer high-quality training that meets employees where they are to help them grow.

Read more: The Indispensable Power of Personalized L&D 

Alignment between company goals and employee development

Only by taking a strategic approach to L&D can you align training programs with the organization’s core goals. For example, if improving leadership is a core focus for the company, the L&D team can plan leadership development and training programs that identify talented team members, determine their long-term goals, and train the right people for future leadership opportunities. 

Without an L&D strategy, your training programs will be disconnected from company goals. L&D teams can’t afford this lack of strategic thinking.

Who is involved in a learning and development strategy? 

To create a successful L&D strategy, you need to have all the stakeholders involved. That means you’ll work with employees and company leaders, and your team will also take time to understand the business as a whole.

The employees

What does it mean to involve employees in creating an L&D strategy?

Many L&D teams already consider the employees their primary stakeholders and focus training programs on their needs (and sometimes, on only their needs). However, that doesn’t mean they’re always hitting the mark. 

The 2022 SHRM report found that employees had several frustrations with training at work:

  • It’s hard to stay motivated (33%)
  • Quickly forget training (25%)
  • Lack time to complete training (25%)
  • Training isn’t relevant to their role (24%)
  • Training is out of date (21%)

The key to involving employees in creating your strategy and ensuring that employee development is meeting team members’ needs is to determine the core frustrations at your organization. Then, create a training strategy that addresses those needs. 

For example, developing micro training that can be done more often helps employees stay motivated, find time, and remember what they’ve learned. 

Organizational leaders

The leaders of your organization are another key stakeholder. Not only do they often determine your L&D budget, but they are also responsible for helping the company move forward, which means the learning and development strategy needs to match their priorities. 

Keys to involving organizational leaders include:

  • Helping them understand employee development needs
  • Finding out what leadership and skill gaps exist that your team can address
  • Determining the key priorities of the company so that your L&D strategy can move employees in the right direction when it comes to skill development and career mobility
  • Defining success in L&D so you can track results and ensure you’re meeting expectations

When your L&D strategy includes input from both employees and organizational leaders, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful roadmap for employee development.

The business as a whole

Once you’ve spoken to employees and leaders, you’ll have two views of the organization. The final step is to look at the company as a whole and see how L&D fits in strategically. 

Companies have increasingly recognized the strategic role that L&D plays in company growth and success, which means your team may have more influence than it has in the past. How to use that influence to help the organization succeed becomes a vital question. 

Creating an L&D strategy allows you to align learning and development activities with the long-term vision of the organization as well as the shorter-term needs of employees. 

When you take the time to create a roadmap, you can address needs more effectively than if you take an ad hoc approach.

How the Learning Cloud can help you improve your learning and development strategy

To make any strategy effective, you need the right platform. The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp is an all-in-one solution for your employee and training needs.

The Learning Cloud offers prebuilt content to give you a head start in meeting your strategic goals. An easy-to-use interface speeds up employee adoption and makes creating the training you need simple.

Finally, the Learning Cloud makes it easy to measure how well your training programs are working and get feedback from learners on what you can improve. 

Are you ready to implement your L&D strategy effectively with an all-in-one platform that meets all your training needs? 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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