Matching L&D Strategies with Business and Employee Development Goals

Megan Stacy Deane

Posted: February 29, 2024

Table of Contents

There’s the famous quote, “What if we invest in our people, and they leave?” And the reply goes, “Well, what if we don’t, and they stay?” 

It’s a great question (and answer) that sums up many HR managers’ and business leaders’ quandary when planning their L&D budgets and programmes for the year. 

With the rate of technological change in the workplace and the seismic shifts in how, when and where we work, not investing in your people is clearly not an option. 

So, how do you align your L&D strategy with business needs while ensuring employees receive training that’s relevant to them? And what do L&D metrics look like in 2024? Let’s take a look. 

Aligning Business and L&D Goals

How successful your company’s L&D programme will be and how much value it will create depends on the business being able to align employees’ learning needs with the overall business goals. Here are four ways to do that.

  1. Deciding what’s best for the business

In The New HR Competencies: Business Partnering from the Outside-In, the authors found that “high-performing HR professionals think and act from the outside-in. They are deeply knowledgeable of and able to translate external business trends into internal decisions and actions.”

HR managers must understand their industry and company’s core metrics and why they matter. For example, profit, revenue, customer satisfaction, sales, ROI, etc. They must then combine their L&D metrics (training scores, learning transfer, etc.) with key business metrics to understand how they impact and influence each other.

When employees understand business goals and how their work contributes, the business can move forward as one. 

  1. Centralised vs decentralised training

A one-size-fits-all L&D programme is out of touch with today’s complex business models. This year will see companies combining centralised training with decentralised training. Centralised training, usually overseen by HR, standardises training across the business, providing cost efficiency and transparency. It reduces risks and ensures legal compliance. 

Decentralised training is when individual departments tailor training to their specific needs. This approach enhances engagement by directly addressing departmental and individual needs and is a great way to drive innovation and performance. 

  1. Consider the needs of your employees

Global business services company Emergn’s The Pursuit of Effective Workplace Training survey found factors that prevent employees from participating in workplace training ranged from not finding time to complete the training to the training being irrelevant to their role or career goals.

They asked learners what they’d like to achieve through workplace training, and the majority of respondents said they wanted to:

  • Learn new skills (80%)
  • Be more confident in their current role (67%) 
  • Gain access to new opportunities at their current organisation (55%).

By giving employees a voice, listening to their strengths, weaknesses and future aspirations, and providing personalised and effective training that aligns those wants with business outcomes, businesses can improve employee buy-in, increase productivity and avoid losing top talent to competitors.

  1. Make training more accessible and relevant

The Emergn survey showed that the biggest challenge to workplace training is accessibility (56%), followed by budgetary constraints (46%), and finding the right mix of online and in-person training (43%).

Online training has opened the door to a wealth of possibilities and a solution to the lack of accessibility to workplace training — allowing employees the freedom to study and train from anywhere at any time. 

Budgetary constraints can be countered by developing new strategies to secure an impactful L&D budget and learning to measure your efforts accurately (see below). 

The right mix of online and in-person learning (in-person includes video lessons) is blended learning, which combines a humanised approach with artificial intelligence (AI) efficiencies. 

Add to this threaded discussions, peer learning, video conferencing, gamification, and AR and VR learning experiences, and all learning styles are catered to, students can learn at their own pace and are highly engaged with the subject. 

Engagement is pivotal to good learning outcomes. A MindTools Business report found that companies with engaged learners are 28% more likely to respond quickly to changing market conditions, an essential skill in today’s fast-paced digital market. 

Measuring L&D Metrics in 2024

Modern L&D metrics are moving away from completion rates, satisfaction scores, and test results post-training towards analysing the actual impact on job performance and business outcomes. Here are the metrics you should be looking at.

Learning engagement

Knowing to which degree a learner actively participated in the learning experience, took responsibility for choices, and was proactive in receiving feedback are cornerstones of measuring engagement.

That said, engagement is notoriously hard to measure, but you will form a picture when looking at knowledge transfer (how well skills and knowledge from training are applied in the workplace) and retention rates and analysing data around repeat visits to content, time spent learning, feedback, survey results, and assessment scores. 

Skill improvement 

Whether it’s mastering business writing, learning how to use AI or improving their critical thinking skills, L&D managers will want to know how effective the training was. You can do this by analysing data on time-to-proficiency and learning transfer.

Some companies (e.g. Siemens) have developed a skills application index that measures the frequency and effectiveness with which employees apply new skills. An improvement in the index is directly related to higher innovation rates and better project outcomes within teams.

Internal career advancement

Internal mobility metrics track the extent to which a company goes to develop and promote internally and is an important measure of L&D success. You can track who, across the business, by department or job title, took up learning opportunities and if and when they were promoted as a result. 

Promotion isn’t the only way to advance an employee’s career and make that person more valuable to the company. Some may change jobs; for example, a UX designer may decide to become a data analyst, which isn’t a promotion but a horizontal shift and a chance to grow professionally. Consider that people also move between business units while staying in the same role, and how you’ll measure that impact.  

Behavioural change 

Employee behaviour and job satisfaction are measured pre- and post-training using 360-degree feedback, employee surveys and interviews, observation, and incident reports. 

Business impact data

Measuring the effectiveness of L&D on business results means looking at individual or team performance metrics and whether they correlate with specific business KPIs. 

These could include productivity rates, sales volumes, employee turnover rates, customer retention and satisfaction rates, and financial metrics such as recruitment and training costs.

Getting the balance right

It’s a fact that the learning that will move companies toward future success will be different from the learning that got them to where they are now. By considering the needs and aspirations of your employees and aligning them with your business goals, you’re on the road to a win-win for all.

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