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Learning & Development | 29 minute read

6 steps to create a successful learning and development program

May 4, 2023

If your organization wants to attract high quality candidates and retain top performing employees, learning and development (L&D) must be a key part of your people strategy.

In fact, just over three quarters (76%) of employees said they would be more likely to stay at a company that offers continuous learning opportunities, according to SHRM’s 2022 Workplace Learning & Development Trends Report. 

However, building a learning and development program can be a challenging task. The effort is well worthwhile, as L&D programs set the foundation for successful internal mobility programs. To make it easy, we’ve put together six steps you can take to ensure its success. 

#1: Conduct a needs analysis 

To identify your organization’s unique learning and development needs, conduct a needs analysis. This helps you pinpoint the skills, knowledge and abilities your organization needs. This is also key to understanding gaps in your current training and implementing an action plan.  

When conducting your needs analysis, your organization’s strategic goals and objectives must be top of mind. Your learning and development program needs to address current and future skills gaps. If you’re unsure of where to start, gather feedback to establish a current state of skills against the ones needed to achieve goals.

This analysis is critical so you can update job descriptions to be fit for purpose as well. Knowledge and skills can vary from problem solving, project management, technology, to even coaching – whatever will augment company goals, factor that into your L&D program. 

#2: Define the learning objectives 

When defining the learning objectives of your L&D program, make sure you review the results from your needs analysis and tailor your learning objectives accordingly. The learning objectives you define should work to fill any skills and knowledge gaps that exist within your organization.  Here’s an example: 

Blog graphic for Claro Analytics and Discovery Training

All learning objectives should be specific, measurable and actionable so that employees can achieve their personal learning goals while also keeping up with companywide L&D initiatives. This is where you’ll want to consider the needs, preferences, motivations and learning styles of your learners. Doing so will ensure you define objectives that are relevant to employees’ roles and responsibilities without overestimating their current skill levels. 

3 top employee motivators to learn are progress towards their career goals, staying up to date in their fields and personalized learning for their interests and career goals.

Source: LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report 

#3: Create compelling content

When developing the content for your organization’s learning and development program, consider the type of course materials that will be most effective in helping your employees learn the skills they need. Make sure to factor in different learning styles, accessibility and navigability. Training manuals, presentations, micro-learning, videos, interactive e-learning courses, peer-to-peer training and live training sessions are a few content formats you might want to consider.  

The topics you prioritize will depend on the specific needs of your organization, as well as the skills and knowledge gaps you identified during your needs assessment. However, there are some topics that apply to all organizations, regardless of industry or company size. Some of these include:  

  • Leadership development 
  • Decision making 
  • Time management 
  • Stress management 
  • Delegation 
  • Problem solving 
  • Communication 

#4: Implement the program 

Launching a new learning and development program can be an exciting time for your organization, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind to ensure your launch goes smoothly. Firstly, you want to clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the new L&D program and make sure that employees understand how the program will benefit them and the organization. You also want to provide support to employees during the program. This can be in the form of mentoring, coaching or one-on-one training sessions. Next, you’ll want to set clear expectations for employee participation in the program and ensure they understand all their learning requirements.  

L&D Blog Tip-1

You should also start measuring the program’s success from day one. This helps you identify where improvements can be made and determines whether the program is achieving its goals. You can also solicit feedback from employees to ensure your program aligns with their individual career trajectories and learning goals, adjusting when necessary. Lastly, you’ll want to create a culture that celebrates the successes of employees who actively participate in your L&D program and complete all their required training. It’s important to acknowledge their hard work and commitment to their professional development and encourage everyone to continue learning and growing.  

#5: Evaluate your L&D program

Only 50% of L&D professionals use employee engagement survey scores to assess the impact of skill-building programs. 
LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report

To evaluate the effectiveness of your L&D program, collect feedback from employees, managers and senior leaders. You’ll want diverse perspectives to ensure your L&D program is making a positive impact on all areas of the business. To do this, you’ll want to create a culture where feedback is welcomed. Doing so will encourage employees to be honest about their personal learning goals and participation in companywide L&D initiatives. It could also help mitigate employees’ fears that leaving negative feedback could harm their reputation, work relationships or performance evaluation.  

Make sure to track how these training courses enable employees to do more or new tasks, as well. Part of proving its success is being able to communicate how your L&D program is helping the company accomplish more as a whole, so keep that in mind when gathering data. This storytelling element is vital to ensuring ongoing resources are dedicated to bettering employees’ skills that are relevant for their roles. And be aware of how a lack of these resources could impact the company so stakeholders can factor that into their budget and planning.

If, for example, a training program to use a new piece of critical software doesn’t go well, it will delay companywide adoption and usage of the software, which costs the company extra time and money that could be avoided. Maintain practicality when communicating your L&D program and its successes so you can continue building upon it and prioritizing what’s needed most in the organization. 

#6: Continuously update the program 

Continuously updating your L&D program’s content and resources is a great way to make sure your program is up-to-date and remains relevant. Try to keep up with industry trends and changes in the market if you want to stay agile and adaptable. Consider registering and attending industry events where you can learn about current events and network with other professionals in your industry.

You’ll also want to keep a close eye on new technologies and tools that are designed to enhance and optimize the learning process. Think about the tech that can help to make your L&D program more user-friendly, interactive and immersive. Consider gamification, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These can all help to make the learning process more fun, which in turn will boost engagement among learners. 

The future of learning and development 

Learning and development is a critical part of your people strategy. Today’s candidates want to learn and develop so they can progress in their careers. Companies that want to attract and retain high quality candidates and employees need to stay on top of L&D trends and build a program that supports ongoing learning. Most of all, though, it should create a culture where learning is celebrated. 

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About Jenny Boyer

Jenny Boyer is the Creative Marketing Specialist at WilsonHCG. She was born and raised in New Jersey but now spends most of the year in Tampa, Florida. She graduated from the University of Tampa in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach with her friends, exploring the city she lives in, traveling the world, and photographing birds and wildlife.