Many organizations have similar approaches in providing learning opportunities. Staff is encouraged to participate in online programs or webinars, attend a conference, and in some cases, take advantage of a tuition assistance program. Others still provide ad hoc programs offered by different business groups providing learning opportunities on internal processes or technical training. This approach doesn’t support or foster a learning environment. If you offer such opportunities, but don't have a plan that identifies how learning aligns to organizational goals – and how individual goals contribute to reaching them – then there’s an opportunity to create a learning strategy.

A Learning Strategy: Reaching Organizational Goals

This article presents ideas meant to be shared with others in the organization. It provides you with an opportunity to make the time to think about what the organization’s learning needs are, and how each department offers opportunities for learning to staff. Finally it will help you to evaluate your organization's learning strategy, and philosophy toward learning.

How to Create a Strategic Learning Focus

In order to create a strategic plan, the first step is to identify and establish who or what group is responsible for learning and development. Secondly, you need an understanding of what L&D is to the organization, what needs are prevalent across the organization, and where gaps may exist that need to be addressed.    When you are ready to strategize an approach to learning and development, keep these questions in mind to help guide planning. 

  1. What organizational goals can be reached with learning programs?
  2. How do various offerings and learning options across the organization blend with one another?
  3. What role does HR (other departments) have in defining, implementing and managing learning?
  4. Can HR be proactive in driving the learning goals of the organization?
  5. How can an organization-wide strategy or philosophy around learning be created, so it includes currently available learning programs, and considers the organization's goals and mission?

Proposed Development Process  

Plan a minimum half-day brainstorm meeting to identify and create a learning and development philosophy and strategy. Invite all stakeholders to participate. This includes any department currently offering ad hoc learning or training programs. Outlined below is a sample agenda.

  1. Get input from all meeting members - concerns, feedback, interests, and challenges.
  2. Identify organizational goals (current mission statement).
  3. Determine expected learning / business outcomes from learning.
  4. Identify type of learning deliveries that are available (classroom instructor-led, virtual classroom, webinar, elearning, other).
  5. Identify end learners individually and by groups (job function, skill sets, other) and their learning needs.
  6. Determine if specific content areas will be required learning or voluntary, for specific targeted learners and content areas.  
  7. Identify tasks
  8. Create an action plan to reach outlined goals, and expectations.

Areas to Consider

  • How can learning across the organization (IT training, HR processes, current off-the-shelf elearning courses, others) be integrated under one umbrella?
  • What is the organization's learning policy? Is it promoted, supported, encouraged?
  • Who manages and directs all learning programs?
  • Can anyone in the organization identify a learning need or gap and develop a course?
  • Establish and create a process for internal development of learning courses - including the development environment, a review and approval system for course content, standards of delivery, and ultimate oversight of learning development and delivery.
  • Identify and create a process to capture staff knowledge and how to share it.
  • Identify use of informal learning to improve and promote collaborative working -- how to share individuals' internal knowledge, experience, and know-how.

Benefits of a Learning Strategy

Following the brainstorm session there should be a clearer idea of the following as well as the tactical steps to reach identified goals.  

  • An organizational learning and development strategy and / or policy.
  • Outline of how to repackage current programs under one umbrella and how to create a program name/ title.
  • Areas of focus for L&D programs.
  • Prioritized list of areas in most need of learning.
  • Outline of available learning programs (tools) to meet identified needs.
  • Action items.
  • Next steps.
  • Timeline for 6 - 12 months.

Capturing the above information and documenting the ideas and discussions from the brainstorm session produces a Learning Roadmap or Blueprint. The learning roadmap can be used to guide the organization in new strategies and processes for learning.  The value of an identified, documented learning strategy is that it provides the organization a plan to work from. With identified goals established and steps outlined to reach them, learning leaders can implement processes that encourage a learning environment and capitalize on staff interest and excitement to be part of it.