Learning and Development in the Workplace
Learning and development is a top draw to workplaces. 97% of employees want to expand the amount of time they spend learning. In fact, opportunities to learn and grow have emerged as the strongest driver of work culture in 2020, and as of 2022, 76% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with a company that offers training throughout their careers.
To thrive in today’s business environment, you want to ensure you have an exceptional internal Learning and Development team tasked with curating training and advancement programs for all levels of your organization, from new hires to managers.
We sat down with Angie Stark, Addison Group’s Director of Learning and Development, to gain a deeper understanding of training programs and team development in the field. Read on to understand what makes a strong learning and development team and ways to ensure they’re doing the best work imaginable to ensure your employees’ success.
1. Why is learning and development important?
In addition to being a strong driver of work culture, learning and development opportunities boost employee productivity and develops trust with a company.
“Every time we wrap up a training, the comments are always ‘I feel so motivated.’ It helps boost people’s confidence in their jobs,” Angie says. “I think they have a stronger belief in the company itself because the company invested in them. It creates a sense of trust with the company.”
As Angie explained, offering training is beneficial to the employee. However, it’s also largely beneficial to the company. Training allows employees to grow, and in return become a greater asset to the company itself. When that trust is built, employees are more eager to work hard and succeed, in hopes of growing their career with them. Now they have more tools to do so.
2. What makes a strong learning and development department?
There are many factors that go into building and maintaining a strong learning and development department. Learning and development professionals bring value in many ways and get pulled in many directions. It’s important to emphasize your employees’ skills, curate the most effective trainings, focus on your goals, and develop future leaders along the way.
A. Staying on top of the industry
“An effective learning department is on top of the industry,” Angie says. This can be in reference to a variety of things – trends, technologies, etc. She says, “staying on top of trends allows people to absorb their learning better and hit the ground running a little quicker.”
When developing trainings, make sure you keep in mind current and predicted trends. This will help you set people up for success.
B. Live trainings
Angie emphasized the importance of hosting live trainings. Although Angie puts on many live trainings herself, her team also develops multiple virtual trainings for employees at various levels of the organization. And both have their benefits.
Arguably, the most important part of offering live trainings, whether it’s online or in person, is that they are instructor-led. This allows for the instructor to answer questions, gather feedback, and more.
C. Strong leadership
When getting into the details of learning and development, Angie explained how the lanes of L&D can get blurred. What should they take on? What is someone else’s responsibility? How much can they manage? For this reason, Angie emphasized the importance of having strong leadership. This is someone who will keep the team on track and be able to say no to requests that they would not be able to give 100% of their efforts to.
D. Set goals
You might be wondering how best to ensure you stay in your lane as an L&D professional. Angie’s advice? Set goals – for you and your team. How many live trainings do you want to host? Are you revamping any of them? If so, which ones? How many new hires are you expecting to see that you need to accommodate?
Work is everchanging, and you need to be a bit flexible. Things will pop up, so keep some of your time open. However, set your main goals for the year and make sure you’re able to give 100% to each of them. This will ensure your team doesn’t take on things that may not belong to you and avoid you changing lanes.
E. Develops future leaders
“Successful companies have a succession plan, but that plan HAS to involve L&D,” Angie says. After all, what is a succession plan with no guidance on how to get there, no one there to train you, or help develop your skillset?
As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Learning and development is your plan.
3. How do you build a strong learning and development team?
Primarily, Angie explained the importance of identifying individual strengths on the team. “Every single person is not good at every single aspect of the job. Get to know your employees and from there, find the right place for them on the team,” Angie says.
Look at your team and the skills they each bring to the table. Do you have some natural people leaders? What about project management skills – do some team members stand out more than others? Both are key roles within a L&D team, and it’s best to keep your team in what they naturally excel in.
Of course, this isn’t to say you should keep them stagnant in one lane. Offer growth opportunities. Whether it be within a leadership or project management role, there’s room to grow and explore. If someone is a natural at training development but hasn’t yet gotten live training experience – give them the opportunity! They may excel in it. Don’t keep them in one place, but don’t force them into things they don’t enjoy, or aren’t great at.
Hire the same way. Think to yourself, “Where do we need help?” Then look for candidates with those specific skills to start off.
4. Teaching new hires versus higher ups
A. New hires
The number one thing Angie emphasized was the curse of knowledge bias.
“Don’t make an assumption that they know things or understand something. Deliver things to them in a professional manner, but break things down into bite size pieces, and ask for lots of confirmation that they’re understanding,” Angie says.
Some questions you should frequently be asking your new hires are, ‘What did you understand about this, and what didn’t you?’
Of course, keep these in mind while training, but also think about it while developing your trainings. “Remember that with new hires, the job is not just to teach them, but also to help them feel confident, inspired, and motivated,” Angie says.
B. Upper management
Training leadership is quite different than new hires. They are coming to you with experience and a skillset they already bring to the table. With higher ups, it’s not so much about teaching them skills and practices, but more so how to leverage and develop them further.
“When they leave trainings, they should be able to say ‘now I know how to put this in practice. Now I feel more confident in dealing with team members because I’ve been given the tools and can impart that knowledge,” Angie says.
As Angie explained, new hires utilize the ‘learning’ part of learning and development, while higher-ups use the “development” part.
Everything in between
Of course, there are more than just new hires and upper management to think about when curating training plans and offering classes. From entry level to senior and executive roles, it’s all about helping people along their career paths. As Angie says, “the hope of any learning and development department is that every single level realizes there is always something more. More learning and development. Always.”
Learning and development is essential to the success of a company, and we’re here to help you hire your team. With more than 20 years of hiring experience, Addison Group is ready to find your next learning and development professional. Contact us today!