Core Learning and Development Practices to Effectively Build Relevant Employee Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities.

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Wowledge Expert Team
Principal level
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This guide is part of a progression set comprised of Core, Advanced, and Emerging Learning & Development practices.

What it is

Creating and building a Learning and Development (“L&D”) capability ensures the acquisition and expansion of skills needed by employees to perform their duties, adapt to changes in work methods, and prepare for more advanced roles. This enables the achievement of company goals through the continuous growth and syndication of critical skills and aggregated capabilities. Developing an L&D function requires understanding the business's and its employees' growing needs, designing and buying the course content, delivering this structured learning to the employees, and measuring the learning outcomes.  

This capability at this level of sophistication is sometimes referred to as “Training,” the act of formally teaching others how to perform specific tasks. Still, it excludes informal development, such as experiential learning. On the other hand, “Training and Development” includes not only individual development but also organizational development (OD), such as team building or Six Sigma, now also more broadly referred to as “Organizational Effectiveness.” The most current terminology covering learning (formal and informal) and individual/organizational development is “Talent Development,” which integrates learning with career and succession management concepts such as mentoring, job rotations, stretch roles, project assignments, etc.  

At the core level, knowledge and skill acquisition needs are formally documented, and the associated approaches for delivering such expertise are defined. Once those are identified, learning programs are designed and delivered in the most appropriate style, using either live, self-paced, or -scheduled methods. Creating a measurement methodology is a critical aspect of these practices, offering clarity on the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery and acquisition of new skills and capabilities. The term “Learning & Development” is used throughout this progression to refer to all activities associated with individual growth.

Why use it

Learning and development programs offer tremendous value by complementing an organization’s evolution with similar growth within its employee base. As company strategies, products, and services expand (or contract), new technologies emerge, and leadership changes bring new direction and thinking, the L&D function can get employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in line with such changes. The ability of a segment (or the entirety) of a workforce to adapt to such changes is a critical measure of the success or failure of implementing those strategies and changes. 

Using consistent and standardized methods to identify learning gaps and needs and design, deliver, and evaluate brings a level of maturity to the function, with more reliable outcomes. Through their use, organizations can learn which methods work best under different circumstances and employee types, offering a more sustainable future for knowledge and skill growth across the enterprise.    

Learning and development are key motivators for employee performance and retention. They meet the human need for growth, advancement, and contribution to the greater good. Alongside this, they provide an employee with the sense of being valued enough that the company will continue to invest in their growth and ability to contribute in a current and future role.

Outcomes

Adopting practices at this level creates a formalization of the learning function, with new standards set for the approaches to needs identification that are specifically aligned with the business plans and needs. They bring a disciplined approach to the design and development of content that brings cost-effectiveness to the function while addressing the skill and knowledge needs of the workers. It brings expertise that may well not exist in the organization through external resources with the necessary content expertise and design/development/delivery know-how to more effectively create new offerings that the function might not otherwise be equipped to handle. They also bring objectivity and greater confidence in the function through well-conceived metrics and reports that help L&D teams understand the extent to which the programming delivered meets its stated goals and is within budget.

Practice guides at this level

Defining learning requirements to clarify purpose and desired outcomes.

Understanding the organization’s direction and strategies, how they translate into learning requirements, as well as current and near-future learning needs at the functional employee level. 

Identifying the approach for developing and delivering learning content.

Assessing the aspects to consider for deciding to internally or externally design, develop, and deliver priority learning and development programs. 

Designing learning programs that impact employee knowledge, skill, and ability acquisition.

Conducting a formal design process when internally developing learning programs, including live/virtual classes, eLearning or less formal processes. 

Leveraging external partners to meet learning needs.

Identifying and evaluating outside experts in instructional design or eLearning from a wide range of providers and types of learning available in the marketplace.

Delivering formal live or eLearning programs to enhance learner understanding and retention.

Engaging learners with active content that enhances their understanding and retention of the material, leveraging the most effective learning methods. 

Developing a learning measurement process to monitor progress and results and communicate value.

Measuring efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of learning and development to provide a comprehensive view of the individual and aggregated programs’ value to the organization.

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