Dear UNLEASH is back to solve your HR woes. This month we had some fantastic responses that outlined the troubles that HR is facing in organizations. The most prominent themes were in the learning and development (L&D) space.
As a result, we got experts to give UNLEASH a response to this three-pronged question: “How can I implement a company-wide skill management system? How can I build an actual learning culture? How can I make the learning (and overall talent) experience smooth and coherent?”
The experts we have spoken to have given us insight that not only answers these questions but should help you at any stage of your L&D implementation.
Establishing L&D systems
Dr Scott Dust, chief research officer at Cloverleaf and management professor at the University of Cincinnati, laid out what is essential when assessing L&D programs: “The approach to implementing organization-wide skill management should be customized based on three key factors: the goals of the organization, the readiness of the employees, and the resources of the organization.
“Organizational leaders who conduct a critical and realistic self-assessment on these factors have a higher likelihood of success.
“From my experience, the last factor—the resources of the organization—is underwhelming.
Skill management systems commonly fail because there isn’t enough time dedicated to the initiatives, there is low-quality content or a lack of support from key leaders and managers.”
We also spoke to Dr Alex Young, a human performance expert and founder of Virti, who highlighted the need to be considered in your actions: “When it comes to building and maintaining a culture of continual learning and skill development, reflecting on your current training offering is an important first step.
“Identify where the gaps are, what’s working well, and where additional resource is needed.
“Map out which skills are mission critical to your organization – and build out learning resources tailored to these specific needs.
Getting buy-in from leaders is a common starting point among experts. Michelle Hague, HR manager at Solar Panels Network USA, echoed a similar sentiment: “If your company’s executives are not on board with the idea of implementing a skill management system, it will be very difficult to get everyone else on board.
“Once you have executive buy-in, you need to create a task force or working group that will be responsible for designing and implementing the system.”
Hague added that this group should represent all areas of the business so that there is vested interest across the board.
Understanding where your organization is, where it wants to go, and what success is vital and can be used to create a case for senior leadership investment.
Implementing learning systems
Once you have these four elements, the often perilous task of implementing the learning systems is upon you. Fortunately, our experts have some advice in this department too.
Hague noted that culture is essential in creating successful L&D programs: “It starts with creating the right environment. Employees need to feel like it’s safe to take risks and experiment – they need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. They also need to feel like they have the time and resources available to learn new things.”
Strategic leadership advisor and consultant at GiANT Worldwide, Kate Davis added the importance of organized culture: “Make sure everything is diarized with lots of notice, so any issues can be resolved quickly, and that training is prioritized over any last minute changes unless they are mission critical.
“If not, staff will be reluctant to engage or feel resentment towards line management.
“Ensure there is time for feedback and for the rest of the team to benefit – especially in offsite learning, and allow time for reflection and for questions after training – perhaps in quarterly review meetings, or on a more informal basis.”
Dust doubled down on the need to have structure around learning culture: “Employees must be given ample, compensated time for engaging in skill development. But it doesn’t stop there.
“Upskilling initiatives need to abide by best practices in pedagogical research. Learners need continuous opportunities to learn, contextualize, and apply the information they’ve learned during these initiatives. There also needs to be a clear rationale regarding why it’s a worthy investment of time.
“In some cases, it might be about a more fulfilling career, and in other cases, it might be helping employees understand the risks associated with failing to learn new skills.”
To understand exactly how employees feel and their sentiments, Lorna Crowley, CMO at Winningtemp noted: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” is an old adage, but certainly rings true for learning cultures.
“Historically, business leaders recognize they need to invest in their employee’s learning and development, so they bring in an L&D solution and think the job is done.
“The most successful companies that have truly embraced progressive learning cultures are the ones that can measure the impact before and after they introduce an L&D solution.”
Once employees are familiar with learning then they can approach their development from multiple perspectives whether that is through tools or face-to-face chats.
Whatsmore, data and feedback can inform project leaders about what learning practices work best for individuals.
Sustaining L&D success
The greatest workplaces. and most successful businesses. have achieved the elusive art of sustained success.
Although it may not feel like it for those who are just beginning their L&D system journey, continued engagement and adapting to needs will be one of the greatest challenges you will face.
Christian Foerg, general manager at Access Learning offered his perspective on the changing world of workplace education: “Gone are the days of lengthy, time-consuming e-learning courses; today’s workforce is time-poor in the learning and development arena as a result of increasing economic challenges putting pressure on employees to deliver results.
“Organizations must therefore react by facilitating learning as much as possible, which begins with pivoting to offering bitesize learning within the flow of work.”
To enable continuous learning that will preserve Foerg recommends highly accessible tools and the ability to gamify certain education courses.
Building on this, Hague commented: “Employees should be able to move seamlessly from one stage of the process to the next without having to jump through hoops.
“The system should also provide managers with the information and tools they need to make informed talent decisions.”
Finally, the two doctors from Virti and Cloverleaf noted that experiential learning is essential.
Learners need to be able to apply knowledge in real-life scenarios.
Cloverleaf’s Dust gave plenty of food for thought when he concluded: “We need to stop blaming the learner for not being interested or focused. It’s the responsibility of the individual delivering the material to make it interesting.”
These are the key steps to implementing learning systems and creating a culture that thrives off education. Of course, the difficult task is now up to the reader: you must begin implementing these points and evaluate your success.
Of course, for the trials and tribulations that any HR-led program encounters, you can always write into Dear UNLEASH.
If you have an issue that you want to address (anonymously of course) send an email to email@example.com or sign up for our newsletter wait for our next ‘Dear UNLEASH’ survey.
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