What to Know About Learning and Development Programs

You’ve heard the buzz about learning and development programs. Here’s how to implement them to increase employee retention.

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Does your company have a learning and development program? If not, it’s time to get on board!

What Is Learning and Development in HR?

Learning and development programs are crucial to HR functions. It is part of the company’s talent management strategy. The goal of learning and development is to align individual employee goals and performance with the company’s overall mission.

Here’s how it works. The HR manager in charge of learning and development curates a list of skills necessary to achieve the company’s mission. The manager then meets with individual employees or teams for interviews and performance appraisal. He or she identifies which skills are already president and well-honed, and also where the skill gaps are. At that point, HR can find training programs for employees to fill those gaps.

Ideally, the training will be cost-effective and well-matched to the company’s and employees’ needs.

What Is the Difference Between Training and Learning and Development?

Learning and development might sound similar to a traditional training program. So what’s the difference?

Good question. And it’s not just a fancy new name for an old idea. The main difference between a training program and learning and development is that the latter is more personalized and targeted. Whereas traditional training programs might offer classes and seminars to an entire department at once, a learning and development program would match training to the specific employees who need it.

Unlike a traditional training program that is focused only on skills training, the person-centered learning and development approach may include steps that are not directly linked to employee performance. But this approach is based on the idea that capable people make capable workers.

For example, a learning and development program may prescribe training that improves someone’s general performance skills. This training might include goal-setting, time management, emotional intelligence, leadership, or something similar. They may not lead to an immediate boost in technical performance. But they can pay off in increased productivity in the long term.

In addition, learning and development programs seek to improve an employee’s career trajectory, not just his or her technical skills. Not only should employees receive training in skills that will help them achieve the company’s mission. They should receive training in leadership and areas that align with their own values. This helps nurture their personal and career growth. It also helps to build a collaborative relationship between employee and employer.

What Are the Benefits of Learning and Development Programs?

Let’s talk about two of the major learning and development program benefits: Employee retention and ROI.

Employee Retention

When you invest in your employees and their career development, you are taking a huge step toward better retention. Most people will work hard for you–and feel more loyal and committed–when they see that you are investing in them. This is especially true for younger workers. They want employers who will allow them to learn from people with expertise in their field, and they want it to happen now.

One of the great things about learning and development programs is that it focuses on every employee at all times. This is not a five-year plan that expects employees to wait their turn for leadership training or advanced skill development. It is targeted, personalized, and constant, so your employees won’t go looking for another employer who will offer them the career development that they want.

In addition, by identifying training and developing skills that align with an employee’s values, you are showing them how your company’s values align with theirs. Today’s workers want to work for organizations that share their personal values. In fact, one survey found that 50% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a values-aligned organization.

Supporting employees to help them understand who they are and what matters to them most has the added benefit of encouraging them to think about the personal legacy they want to leave. It creates commitment and engagement. This is what keeps people around long term.

Return on Investment

The second major benefit of learning and development programs is that it has a great ROI. Remember, these programs specifically target skills development that aligns with the company’s mission and goals. It is much more cost-effective to train only those employees who need a particular skill than it is to provide blanket training to an entire department.

And like we mentioned above, learning and development programs tend to create better employee engagement and boost morale. This often leads to increased productivity.

What Are the Best Learning and Development Strategies?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. You want to implement a learning and development program, but how do you do it? What are the strategies you should employ?

  • Focus on the technical skills your company needs. It would be a waste of time to try to stay on top of all of the latest trends in business technology. Instead, hire experts to provide specific training in the technical skills your employees need.
  • Create personalized learning plans for each employee. These plans can incorporate any company-wide training that is occurring, but they don’t have to. There are so many opportunities for skill development and growth. Reward people who take the initiative to identify areas of need in their own learning plans. This is a great way to create a culture of learning and development.
  • Offer leadership development at all levels. Leadership skills shouldn’t be limited to managers and supervisors. Teach all of your employees to be leaders in their fields. Not only will it nurture their career development, but it will also set them up to be successful thought leaders in their current roles.
  • Embrace “micro-learning” opportunities. Your training doesn’t have to be the multi-day, off-site mega training that was popular in the last few decades. These are expensive and time-consuming. You can supplement (or even replace) these formal training events with ongoing micro learning opportunities.  These often take the form of short videos, articles, online training, or brief mentoring meetings. Many of these mico-learning opportunities have the added benefit of being on-demand, so employees can access them at convenient times.
  • Invest in “whole person” development. Teach your employees about your organization’s mission and values, and let them assess whether or not those values align with their own. Help them discover their own interests and personal career needs.

Even if your company already offers some type of training program, we recommend that you consider adding learning and development to your tableau of HR functions. It will improve employee retention, boost productivity, and help to accomplish company-wide goals. What’s not to love?

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