How To Set Up A Learning And Development Function

How To Set Up A Learning And Development Function
Matej Kastelic/
Summary: Evaluate learning trends, promote progressive learning, and help employees stay relevant.

A Progressive Learning Culture Retains Talent

In the last few years, the global workforce has been progressively evolving due to a number of factors. A highly competitive business landscape, volatility and complexity in operations, and digital transformations are shaping the talent mix across organizations. Additionally, continuous uncertainty and diversity in the workforce have compelled many organizations to reinvent their talent strategies when it comes to retaining employees and staying relevant. Transformations in the digital space have mandated many organizations to hire a vibrant and creative workforce. All these trends have elevated the importance of the Learning and Development function, and therefore, having a strong and relevant learning strategy is the need of the hour.

Almost all organizations have a Learning and Development function, whether it is for a few employees or a larger workforce. Having a learning function not only helps in building necessary business skills but also in supporting the organization’s commitment to people development. Organizations that invest in people development certainly have an edge over the competition.

13 Steps To Follow When Setting Up A Learning And Development Ecosystem

Here are key steps to set up a Learning and Development ecosystem:

1. Set Business Goals

Set relevant business goals for the Learning and Development function. What does it aim to achieve? How will it support the organization's business and revenue strategy? How will it blend with human resources and other business verticals? What will be the success parameters? What key outcomes will businesses expect the learning function to derive?

2. Perform A Learning Need Analysis (LNA)

Conduct and evaluate the learning needs of employees across levels and lines of business. These can be performed through surveys, focus group discussions, leadership feedback, appraisal results, and job descriptions. Assess skill gaps that are needed to meet individual and business goals that impact overall performance. Consider employees' aspirations around personal development that mesh with business goals.

3. Hire Learning Ambassadors

Hiring the right talent is crucial for the learning function. This talent should act as learning ambassadors for the knowledge function, be able to consult with leadership across various businesses, inspire employees to invest in progressive learning, build high-quality content and collaterals, and measure needle movement in skills acquired by learners. It is also essential to evaluate which programs can be driven internally and which ones need external intervention.

4. Finalize A Training Budget

As you set the budget for the Learning and Development function, look for benchmarks followed by other organizations. Do consider the diversity of programs being offered by you, the number of sessions being planned, expected participation, and count of learner coverage. All these factors impact your overall yearly budget.

5. Resources And Collaterals

Build a pool of appropriate learning resources including materials, tools, assessments, program facilitators, external consultants, vendors, and industry experts. Ensure you evaluate external training providers for their content, expertise, testimonials, teaching exposure, and topics. Identify which programs can be delivered using internal Subject Matter Experts and which programs will need to be outsourced. Consider hiring an industry expert when internal expertise is limited, complexity is high and requires understanding latest market trends.

6. Align Training Logistics And Administration

Identify whether training will be mandatory and linked to year-end performance appraisals or will be voluntary. Determine how many employees will be able to request and apply for programs. How will the manager approval process work? Do consider how will you offer mandatory compliance-related programs. You may also need to decide on facilitation formats like classroom delivery, online self-paced mode, blended learning, and virtual masterclass.

7. Outline A Policy Framework

Outline an applicable Learning and Development policy framework for activities, like how many niche skill programs will be financed by the organization, and outline the process for it. Create a training reimbursement process for expenses. How will authorization for external vendors work? Many organizations have an eligibility criterion for employees to participate in Learning and Development programs that deliver immediate business impact.

8. Develop An Ecosystem Of Priority Interventions

Design an ecosystem of prioritization of learning interventions. For example, high-priority Learning and Development may involve critical business skills that require subject matter expertise and topics with a broad influence. Lower priority ones may be specific to individual needs with minimum or low business impact. Designing a training matrix helps establish priorities.

9. Learning Objectives And Takeaways

Decode the results of the learning need analysis and chalk out programs on which employees will be trained, the frequency of programs, batch size, and methodology. At the very least, all organizations should have a strong new hire onboarding strategy, safety and compliance programs, leadership interventions, and skills to enhance sales and stakeholder experience. For each program, have key learning objectives that speak business applicability and impact. Design programs and assessments to measure learning transfer and retention. This will ensure your Learning and Development needs are met.

10. Schedule Programs

Once resources, learning objectives, and collaterals are designed, work with your internal/external stakeholders to schedule programs. Design, maintain, and communicate an organization-wide learning calendar for employees to enroll in advance. Ensure trainings are planned in such a way that they do not coincide with peak periods. Scheduling programs in advance leads to minimum cancellations, absenteeism, and last-minute dropouts. Do consider the frequency of programs that will be scheduled, duration of the programs, locations (onsite/offsite) while designing the calendar.

11. Solicit Feedback

It is mandatory to gather feedback for all training programs. This will help you evaluate which programs are making a difference and which ones need to be dropped. Follow the Kirkpatrick Method to evaluate learning effectiveness. It will help you assess learners' reactions to the program, whether the program is impactful enough to achieve business results, whether there has been a visible change in knowledge and/or behavior, and whether employees would recommend this program to their peers.

12. Follow-Up And Manager Feedback

Follow up with managers as they have a very big impact on the success of the learning function. Solicit feedback on whether employees are able to implement their new skills on the ground and in their interactions with peers, leaders, stakeholders, and clients. Also, providing on-going bite-sized learning refreshers help employees stay connected to the concepts learned in the sessions.

13. Measure Your Success

In addition to soliciting feedback, it is essential to evaluate the results of your Learning and Development initiatives in terms of knowledge and skills acquired by learners, if there has been a behavioral change in the individual or business unit, enhanced productivity and performance, or even Return On Investment (ROI). Designing specific criteria for measuring needle movement helps the learning function to stay on track and relevant in uncertain times.

Putting It All Together

Having a Learning and Development function is crucial for every organization. While businesses strive to meet revenue targets with the help of exceptional talent, it is only essential they invest in a strong learning strategy that aids retention and promotes progressive learning to stay relevant in changing times. That is what makes them an “employer of choice.”