Part 1 – Setting a Strategy for Learning and Development

by | May 27, 2008 | Articles

Towards Maturity: Do we want to achieve measurable business results from our learning interventions? As we move “towards maturity” those tanglible results are more likely to be acheived if your organisation has a proper Learning and Development Strategy aligned to the needs of the organisation.

So what is a proper strategy?

Well I believe that, first of all, your strategy needs to be grounded in the overall business strategy of your organisation, be it in the commercial or public sector and be it a large or small organisation.  Most organisations have well defined gaols and aspirations, often including their vision and values.  Yet, can you honestly say that your L&D and Learning Technology strategy (if you even have one!) is actually based on your organisation’s goals?

In my 30 years of experience, in both the public and private sector, the answer is often in the negative!  Many HR and L&D strategies I have seen have not been visibly linked to the overall business strategy and, whilst being aspirational in terms of talent management, Investors in People, employer of choice etc., they often lack the business outcome rigor needed.

Getting started

A useful starting place is to map you organisation’s goals in a table alongside the HR strategy (and indeed other key strategies in your business, such as the IT strategy) and then your L&D strategy.  Can you see direct alignment from left to right?  If not, then you have some work to do!

Figure 1 – alignment table:


Your L&D and Learning technology strategies must hang on key strategic “hooks” contained within the organisations overall strategy and goals.  A key role of the L&D Manager is to interpret the organisational goals into key learning strategies and solutions.

So what might this look like?
Imagine the transformation the IT industry went through when it moved from selling boxes and moved into IT services and solutions.  Selling went from basic order taking to complex sales solutions of equipment, software, maintenance and support.  The skill levels of sales staff has to be transformed.  The support staff had to deal with more complex issues surrounding hardware, software and integrated systems.

Look at where your organisation is going and think about all the people skill issues that will be needed to enable a successful outcome for both the now and in the future.  The old IT example above is happening today in the mobile telecommunications industry as it moves from a 2G to a 3G world with complex integrated voice and data services for both the consumer and the business markets.  This new era is a world away from simple voice and text services and needs new skills in selling, retailing, technology and customer support.

At the heart of change:

Look inside your organisation and see what others strategies or major projects have been approved.  Perhaps it’s to install a new ERP system such as SAP or Oracle.  Think about the enormous impact such projects have on the people within an organisation and the need for change management programmes, process alignment, system end-user training and so much more.  Are you at the heart of these changes?  Are you helping the business reach its defined goals?

Another example might be that your organisation is expanding overseas.  What might the skill requirements be?  Language skills, cultural issues, system integration issues, induction requirements, new roles and competencies, virtual working capabilities, remote team management skills, and so it goes on.  Your job is to interpret the skill needs of the business strategy and present back the solutions that will enable the business to deliver effectively and on time.

Be aware, think ahead:

You will also need to look beyond the current business plan and think about what is happening generally in the marketplace, to the technology, demographics and so on.  Talk to your R&D Manager and Strategy Manager is you have one.  Find out what the trends are and what the future might look like in 3 to 5+ years time.  Make those interpretations as to the long-term skills and capabilities that your organisation will need.

Not all top down.  Try bottom up:
Talk to those staff at the sharp end.  What do they need to be able to do a better job?  I once worked in an organisation that needed to change their products and services all the time to keep pace in what was a very competitive global marketplace.  When I went and sat in the call centres, I discovered that on average the staff had to assimilate an average of ten changes per day, some minor but some major, such as a new product.  In an average year this meant that they had to deal with 2,500 changes and, of course, where expected to get it right.  Their training was all classroom-based and could not cope with the volume and speed of change and so the staff also got updates daily in team briefings and by emails.  Overload or what?  If, by any chance, they actually managed to remember all the changes, by the time they needed to recall that information to serve a customer, it had probably already changed again!

So we set about designing a strategy to focus the training on search and retrieval skills, customer service and selling skills and enabled staff, through the call centre management system linked to a Knowledge Management system, to find the right facts and figures at the time of need.

The results?

  • less time off the floor for training
  • improved staff satisfaction resulting in lower staff turnover
  • more accurate customer service
  • fewer repeat calls
  • reduced call times
  • induction training period cut from six weeks to three

All of which supported the businesses strategic goal of improving customer service and satisfaction.  Sounds expensive?  Not when you look at the investment in terms of the overall business.  Saving seconds on each call and reducing repeat calls on a global scale saves millions!

As L&D Manager your job is not about running courses, it’s about adding business value.
Reproduced with permission from

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