How To Overcome L&D Challenges By Creating Learning Strategies That Drive Performance

How To Overcome L&D Challenges By Creating Learning Strategies That Drive Performance
Summary: Challenging the status quo isn't easy for L&D professionals. In this article, we'll take a deeper dive into how the L&D profession has been shifting over the years. We'll explore which steps you need to take to overcome L&D challenges and how creating "better learning" affects performance and productivity.

How Learning Strategies Can Drive Performance Through L&D

Learning and Development is at a point of inflection. It’s being forced to reevaluate what it does and what it delivers, but not because of fads and not for the sake of change. The desired outcomes for L&D and the expectations from its stakeholders have fundamentally changed. With regard to programs and content, L&D used to be about delivery and provision and measured by attendance, completion, and satisfaction. It didn’t speak at all to business results. Now, L&D is being charged with affecting performance, productivity, and capability.

eBook Release: The Definitive Guide To Aligning L&D With Your Business Goals For Higher Performance
eBook Release
The Definitive Guide To Aligning L&D With Your Business Goals For Higher Performance
Learn how to drive performance and increase productivity by aligning your business needs with your L&D.

Aligning L&D With The Business To Drive Performance

As L&D, we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to achieve more with a clunky platform full of eLearning that’s not helping. In order to drive performance and get digital to do some of the hard work, L&D needs to expect more from itself and the role that technology plays within that.

We need to reevaluate what we do based on our technology’s ability to deliver performance, productivity and capability (not programs, content, and attendance). What does that look like? It’s largely a digital experience that scaffolds the work experience that people face. L&D needs to provide guidance and support that surfaces in anticipation of what people need and when they need it so that they are equipped to do more of the "right thing." It will require L&D to look at learning from the individual learner’s perspective.

This article is for leaders who question the L&D status quo. It examines how end-user problems haven’t been solved with existing learning tech and why engagement is still elusive. It outlines how L&D can start focusing on business outcomes (versus learning outcomes).

Key Challenges Facing L&D Today

We aren’t measuring what matters. At first, it was attendance and completion, then it was engagement. Today organizations expect L&D to affect performance and capability and, as a result, to affect productivity. L&D can’t expect to do that one classroom at a time. The same applies to delivering generic eLearning—build it and they won’t come. Attendance and completion rates used to be legitimate measures of success… a decade ago.

L&D quickly realized that people couldn’t be dragged kicking and screaming to the LMS for learning unless it was mandatory (and if so, then it was for compliance purposes). Learners would get the test done to prove that they were compliant, then the system would prove that they were compliant, and no one would remember any of it afterward. eLearning traditionally was not aimed at affecting performance or capability.

In recent years, L&D shifted its focus to engagement as a measure for success; the latest 2019 research shows engagement is still one thing L&D wants to improve. This has been interpreted as the need for "engaging" content and platforms, which has led to cursory interactivity, unnecessary game-based content, "edutainment," and an overwhelming amount of generic content. Offering external bribes to pull traffic and keep people logged in just doesn’t get to the core of the issue. So what does?

What's The Trick To Drive Performance And Increase Engagement?

No tricks. Start selling value. Constant connectivity and people’s reliance on devices proves that there isn’t a reluctance to use technology to gain information, know-how, and insights. It also suggests that L&D has been doing the wrong things because engagement is still a problem. People don’t want to be "engaged," they want something that works. They want guidance, support, and development that speaks to them in the context of their organization, team, roles, and ambitions. And they want it at the time they face unfamiliar situations and challenges for the first time. That means they want L&D to offer value.

A learning solution needs to appeal to peoples’ primary reasons for engagement. And if that happened, then engagement would cease to be an issue.  At the end of the day, L&D must expect more from its learning tech. Engagement is "first base" and not the home run. The home run is positively affecting results that matter to your organization and its people. L&D needs to stop dragging people into platforms and expecting them to stay, taking them away from their work while we, as L&D, record the number of hours that we’ve taken people away from what it is they’re trying to do, and then holding that as a badge of honor.

We should be looking at this the other way around and asking: To what extent have we engaged employees? And to what extent have we equipped them to perform without taking them away from the context of work? To what extent have we really provided learning in the flow of work?

What L&D Should Do To Drive Performance

When confronted with a knowledge gap at work what do you do? You Google or YouTube it—and, you don’t stop working to do so. It’s the online equivalent of turning around and asking someone in the office, “What would you do here?” You’re layering your know-how to immediately turn around and apply it. This describes true learning in the flow of work. While you’re in the flow, performing at work, you grab information, know-how, and insights to layer your existing capability in order to perform even better.

The Biggest "Missed" Opportunity In L&D: True Learning In The Flow Of Work

One of the factors that L&D hasn’t been able to get its head around yet is timeliness. Timeliness means understanding what it is that people are trying to do, and then surfacing the right experiences and content in order to guide them from "not knowing" to "doing," in the most efficient way possible. Doing this right would require a solution that would combine deep analytics with an L&D approach that anticipates the point of work to provide information, know-how and insights to affect what people do next (with constant iterations to get closer). It would take "hypothesizing problems" out of the equation since decisions would be made based on evidence, data, and by looking at the frictions people actually experience.

This would be a game-changer when it comes to impacting performance, productivity, and capability because employees would be getting what they really need, when they really need it. Is it user-centered?

Just Breaking Down L&D’s Challenges Is Not Enough To Drive Performance

So far, we’ve been breaking down L&D’s challenges, but let’s look at it from the user’s perspective in the context of work. What does learning look like today?

  • Learning isn’t equipping people to perform in the context of their roles.
  • There is little meaningful engagement unless training is mandatory.
  • When people face challenges or something unfamiliar they aren’t guided or supported.
  • People are taken away from their work to learn.
  • What is provided to learners doesn’t speak directly to them in their roles (eLearning content is irrelevant, generic, has no context, and makes no difference).

When learning is user-centered and people have their needs met, they will be guided and supported by L&D to do more of the right stuff to predictably get the right results. As they transition in an organization, rather than being overwhelmed, they’re provided with information, insights, and know-how that guides them through the period. It’s not just being revealed to them. It has always been available. But they get a little nudge to say, "When your colleagues were in a similar situation, they found this resource useful."

Evolving L&D: Moving From "Tech-Enabled" To Digital

To truly affect performance and build organizational capability based on the friction that people are experiencing within their roles or as they transition, L&D would need to adopt consumer-grade technology that does much more than just deliver eLearning. It would need to solve the engagement issue. Not through gimmicks or by spoon-feeding users content, but by taking the guidance and support people need to where users are when they need it most—in the flow of work—in order to affect performance.

The platform would be underpinned by a methodology that would grow the digital capability of the L&D team and drive the performance of end-users. After all, putting content into a platform and launching it is easy, but sustaining high levels of engagement (beyond mandatory training) takes so much more than this.

The ideal solution would help you operate from a place of knowing, using data and evidence-based approaches. And, it would be scalable.

Invest In Your Digital Capability To Solve Real Problems At The Speed  Of Business

You can easily create, adapt, and scale contextually relevant resources that can be personalized down to departments and roles. SMEs can easily be involved in curating and sharing their expertise to seed greater capability throughout your organization, based on expert insights and know-how. You can personalize everybody’s experience by making content available only to those who need to see it, running banner campaigns for distinct groups to draw attention to the most useful content.

Smart campaigns take "guidance," "support," and "learning" to your people with automated workflows that manage entire digital experiences. This happens over a period of weeks and months, anticipating moments of friction and helping to do more of the right things. You can elicit continuous user-insights based on the extent to which your resources and campaigns are impacting performance and results, and how confident users feel in relation to their role and tasks.

Leveraging An LMS To Boost L&D Results And Drive Performance

Your employees don’t have to waste time on an LMS they don’t use, and neither do you. This article covered the importance of removing the redundancies built into today’s learning solutions. Remember, choosing an LMS that delivers guaranteed performance at the speed, scale, and quality of your business needs is key to your L&D success.

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