One of the most successful concepts in human resources management is learning and development. It is also called training and development or talent development. It deals with the way companies keep managers and staff at their highest level of functioning. L&D was once thought of as a component of applied psychology. Today, the concept has become an integral part of the human resource departments of most businesses. Corporations use their learning and development team to encourage professional development. Their primary goal is to develop employees and build leadership potential within the organization. A carefully designed learning and development strategy can also help create a successful leadership succession plan.
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What is the Role of Learning and Development?
Learning and development is a way of accruing value in employees. It involves evaluating staff for potential and then developing it. It is a strategic function that focuses on enhancing individual and collective performance. Some key aspects of Learning and Development (L&D) include:
- employee skill and leadership development
- talent retention and engagement
- performance improvement
- cultivating a learning culture
- instructional design and organizational learning
- evaluating learning outcomes
The term “learning” often applies to immediate teaching. “Development” has a longer-term connotation.
Creating Employee Skill Development Strategies
Although this may be done through the HR department of a company, outside consultants are often employed for this component of learning and development. L&D works to identify the skills and competencies needed for employees to excel in their roles. Training programs and learning objectives are then developed to help employees gain these skills to better meet the organization’s goals. Employees within the organization that demonstrate the talent for leadership potential are identified and then consultants help the individuals develop those talents. These development opportunities can be done through:
- phone conversations
- face-to-face meetings
- online learning
Employee development is an important process. Employees who feel supported and valued encourage the career development of their co-workers. This allows employees to further develop their leadership skills while nurturing a culture of collaboration and respect.
Talent Retention and Employee Engagement
Employees are more likely to stay engaged and committed to an organization that invests in their professional growth. L&D programs demonstrate an organization’s commitment to its workforce. This can lead to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates.
One of the primary goals of L&D is to improve employee performance and productivity. By providing continuous learning opportunities, employees can refine their abilities. They can also become more efficient in their job, saving an organization money.
Performance improvement efforts are tailored to meet the needs of a specific team or individual. Once performance gaps have been identified, L&D professionals can develop targeted interventions to address those needs. Intervention teaching methods can include:
- employee training programs
- online training courses
- job aids
- other learning resources
These customized workplace learning interventions allow employees to benefit from relevant and impactful training.
Cultivating a Learning Culture
L&D promotes a culture of continuous learning and knowledge-sharing within the organization. There are several different ways for L&D to accomplish this objective including:
- Promoting a Growth Mindset- Employees should embrace a growth mindset where they believe they can develop their abilities through dedication and hard work.
- Providing Learning Opportunities- Offering a variety of learning opportunities shows that different learning styles are valued. Organizations should offer a variety of learning environments to support the needs of diverse employees including face-to-face workshops and online courses.
- Supporting Continuous Learning- Employees should be encouraged to allocate time for talent development during their normal work hours. This could be through dedicated “learning hours” or by incorporating learning into their performance objectives.
Instructional Design and Organizational Learning
This concept is similar to training, but it deals with weaknesses within the organizational framework. HR staff in instructional design identify gaps in corporate performance and create curriculum or programs to address those areas. These professionals also look at the culture of an organization to evaluate the way the company adapts and learns so that programs will be effective. People working in instructional design may not work with “students” at all but with educators and curriculum developers.
Evaluating Learning Outcomes
Evaluating learning effectiveness is important to ensure the material was effective and aligned with organizational goals, while improving business performance. L&D professionals often use pre and post-test training assessments to measure the knowledge gained by their participants. They also use skill demonstrations which allow employees to practice their newly acquired skills. This helps L&D assess how effective their training material transfers to the real world.
It is also important to assess learning retention and application over the long term. L&D staff in human resource management may follow up with participants weeks to months after the training to see if their new skills are still being utilized. They may also gather input from peers and managers about the participants’ performance before and after the training.
What are Some Common Learning and Development Models?
There are a variety of common learning and development models used by organizations to design and deliver their training programs. Some of the most popular include:
ADDIE Model: The ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation) model is a systematic approach to instruction design. L&D professionals conduct a needs analysis before designing the training program and developing the training materials. They implement the training and evaluate effectiveness.
Bloom’s Taxonomy: Bloom’s Taxonomy is used in a variety of industries including education and social services. This model classifies learning objectives into six levels. These levels range from simple knowledge recall to higher-order thinking skills.
Experiential Learning Theory: This model emphasizes learning through concrete experiences and reflective observation. Participants learn best when they actively engage with concrete experiences and reflect on those experiences to form new concepts and ideas.
Continuous Development Approach: This holistic and integrated approach to learning centers around the idea that learning should be a constant part of an individual’s professional journey. Learning and development activities include personalized learning plans and mentoring and coaching.
Innovation in Training and Development
An article in Forbes spoke to the need to make training and development more relevant to employees through innovation. Successful consultants created “lunch and learn” opportunities when staff members who had attended workshops or seminars could present programs to other employees over a lunch hour. The relaxed environment seemed to improve the learning outcomes. HR professionals also implemented “shadowing” programs that allowed employees to learn the responsibilities of another employee within the company. Another program mentioned in the article was bringing a mental health professional to a staff meeting to discuss workplace mental health issues. One manager created “book clubs” within the organization that met to discuss current trends and developments in business that they found out about through articles and public media. All of these innovations not only addressed weak areas of performance but gave staff a greater sense of their worth to the company.
Business is drawing from many different disciplines to build greater organizational potential and resilience. For instance, the concept of Servant Leadership comes from a religious principle. It is through the Industrial and Organizational arm of Applied Psychology that human resource departments found the successful tools they needed to address the need for staff learning and development.
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