13 Jan 2021

The pandemic forced organisations to focus on immediate needs for a while, as we scrambled to adapt to home-working and cope with the restrictions, pressures and limitations of 2020. As we begin to see a path out of the pandemic, it’s time to think about the future.


How do you identify your organisation’s learning and development (L&D) needs? And how can training provide meaningful support to your organisation’s recovery in the future?


The impact of COVID-19 on L&D


At times of crisis, L&D is often put on hold, for understandable reasons. The Learning and skills at work 2020 survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) explains why embracing L&D is vital to help organisations rebuild, adapt and improve.


The good news from the CIPD survey is that organisational attitudes are in the right place. There is widespread recognition that improving capabilities and addressing skills gaps is important, however this is not always backed up by action and investment.


The pandemic has amplified L&D trends that were underway before the virus hit – the need to deploy emerging technology to ensure training is flexible and embedded into workflows for continuous development, the importance of evaluating the impact of L&D, and the need to ensure both soft skills and hard skills are balanced in training.


The CIPD survey identified the top three organisational priorities:

  • Achieving growth targets (22% agreed)
  • Improving customer experience (25%)
  • Increasing productivity, improving culture and reducing costs (24% agreed with each of these).

In terms of people priorities, the top issues were improving line managers’ people management capabilities (22%), staff retention (20%), and improving employee motivation/behaviour (20%). L&D can support businesses in reaching these targets and developing their people.


Analysing your L&D needs


To devise an organisational L&D plan, you need to know where you’re starting from. The CIPD says that a clear training needs analysis (TNA) of the organisation’s current and future requirements is the first step in working out what skills, attitudes and knowledge can support them and which L&D strategies will be most effective.


TNAs should scope out needs on three levels: the whole organisation; specific departments, projects or workstreams; and individuals.


For example, on an organisational level, it is important to understand whether the amount and types of training delivered align with organisational strategy. On a departmental level, there may be new workstreams what require different skills or point towards the need to restructure teams. On an individual level, employees need input and support to ensure they remain engaged and productive. These three levels describe different ways of thinking about your organisation – of course, the analyses should be carried out in an integrated way rather than seeing each aspect in isolation.


Once your TNA is complete, you can collate information and develop a report showing overall needs for the organisation or department, a map showing where performance gaps have been identified, and a learning and development plan which can feed into personal development plans for individual employees.


Recognising the value of L&D


If your organisation is tempted to put L&D on the back burner, remembering its role in retaining staff might put a different complexion on the matter. Long-serving employees are incredibly valuable to an organisation – it’s often only when you lose an experienced member of staff that their true worth is realised. L&D is a significant way to communicate to your people that they are valued and you are invested in their growth.


As a recent HR News article spelled out, the opportunity to acquire new skills is one of the most powerful ways of retaining a valued employee. Training makes workers better at their jobs, which increases job satisfaction and productivity. It also encourages star quality to emerge, highlighting individuals who could be nurtured to advance within the company, bolstering your talent pipelines.


Measuring the impact of L&D


Well-directed L&D is crucial to ensuring an organisation’s success. A purposeless or fuzzy approach to training will not yield the same results. CIPD advocates the RAM approach to assessing learning needs so that the process will be agile and responsive.


RAM stands for Relevance, Alignment, Measurement.


Relevance means examining how existing or planned learning relates to the new opportunities and challenges for the business – in other words, how it contributes to your strategic goals.


Alignment means the training should align with broader organisational strategy by taking a blended, integrated approach that includes a clear picture of stakeholder need.


Measurement means that L&D should effectively and consistently measure impact, engagement and transfer of learning activities within a wider evaluation process.


Training should also be linked to a capability analysis that identifies current assets and current or future skills needs. This may work alongside a competency framework that describes the different roles within the organisation. At that point, you can then assess what training can be provided internally or which training providers you may need to speak to. 


Embedding diversity in your L&D plans


Last year, the third part of McKinsey’s Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters was published, with data showing that diversity in organisation makes business sense as well as being a moral and legal imperative. Diverse leadership teams perform better than non-diverse ones, with some teams being up to 36% more profitable.


Diversity should be included on L&D programmes as part of an organisation-wide strategy that includes training, support networks for minority groups, webinars, story-sharing and visible commitment from leaders.


Engagement with employees should help to inform diversity L&D. For example, staff surveys that indicate a proportion of workers are unhappy with the culture, environment or practices of the company around issues such as gender, race, sexuality or religion should tell the organisation that more work is needed.


As a recent HR Magazine article argued, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) should be seen as a driver of value within an organisation, affecting areas such as performance, productivity and retention.


Investment in your workforce is the key to emerging as a robust, resilient organisation. Is it time you revisited your training needs? And if you're looking to hire, why not brief us on your requirements today. 

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