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How you can design L&D strategy that drives performance

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To design a learning strategy that drives improved performance and progression, it can help to think of yourself as a product owner.

You need to shape an effective L&D ‘product’ that your ‘customers’ (employees) value and engage with because it addresses their specific problems and provides them with the tools to achieve their progression goals.

As the product owner, there are 4 key steps to take to shape your L&D product.

  1. Understand the strategic direction of the organisation.
  2. Design the frameworks that will enable employees to grow.
  3. Identify gaps and opportunities in the existing L&D offering.
  4. Involve managers and get their buy-in.

Step 1: Understand the problems, needs, and baselines of the business

Before you can develop a valuable and impactful ‘product’, you must know what reality you’re starting from. You need to know what you do well, and where the opportunities for improvement and growth exist. Only when you have an accurate picture can you know how to design your ideal product. So, ask interrogating questions to understand the real needs and obstacles. For example...

  • What challenges is the organisation currently facing?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation?
  • Which teams or business units are meeting those challenges – which ones aren’t?
  • What does excellent performance look like at the individual, team, and organisation level? What are their ‘Jobs To Be Done’?
  • Where and why are you falling short?
  • What will it take to get to where you want to be?

Step 2: Design frameworks that allow employees to grow

Once you've grasped the organisation's challenges and needs, it's time to design frameworks that facilitate employee progression. At the heart of strong performance, an employee requires the core competencies to deliver in their designated role. By comparing the variations in competencies for different roles, you’ll be able to define the scale of levels for competencies, from entry-level to expert.

From there, you can embed this new understanding of competencies (and levels) into a progression framework, which maps out the routes for progression for each team and role.

Top tips

  1. Create your competency frameworks first
    Develop clear competency frameworks that outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for success in various roles. These frameworks act as roadmaps for employees, showing them exactly what's expected of them at each stage of their career.

  2. Start with an MVP (minimum viable product) and build from there
    It can be tempting to ‘boil the ocean’ when it comes to competency and progression frameworks. If you’re operating in an organisation where there are many nuances in role, and many competencies, start with a pared-back, streamlined version to test first, and build out from there.

  3. Use clear and consistent terminology
    Use clear and consistent language across your competency frameworks and assessments. This ensures that employees understand the expectations and can measure their growth accurately.

  4. Build a bank of worked examples
    To provide employees with a clear understanding of what each competency looks like in action, create a bank of worked examples. These real-world scenarios showcase the practical application of skills and serve as valuable learning tools.

Step 3: Map frameworks to L&D offering

With your competency frameworks and assessment tools in place, it's time to map them to your existing L&D offerings. This step involves assessing what you currently have and identifying what needs to be sourced to bridge any gaps.

Top tips

Use the employee feedback gathered in Step 1, together with the frameworks to design personas that represent employees across various departments, their needs and development stage.

For each persona, design a ‘development plan’ that charts their journey through the levels in the progression framework.
Then start to map this to the learning offering you currently have. Use this as an exercise to identify gaps along the journey and plan to bridge these gaps in the learning offering.

Discuss variations and alternative versions of your personas’ journeys to ensure you have captured the majority of needs and most commonly trodden development paths. You may wish to involve managers and subject matter experts to highlight alternative routes and identify opportunities for variations in the learning offering to better support these less common but equally important routes.

Step 4: Engage and enable managers

No L&D strategy is complete without the involvement of managers who play a pivotal role in guiding and supporting employee development. Here's how to ensure managers are equipped to lead in this aspect:

  1. Develop Managerial Competencies
    Provide managers with their own competency frameworks, focused on leadership and coaching skills. This enables them to effectively guide their team members through their growth journey.

  2. Equip with Tools
    Offer managers tools and resources that facilitate ongoing performance discussions and coaching sessions. These tools could include conversation guides, progress trackers, and development plans.

  3. Training, Training, Training
    Conduct training sessions for managers to familiarise them with the new competency frameworks and assessment tools. This ensures they have a clear understanding of expectations and can provide effective guidance.

Designing an L&D strategy that drives performance requires careful planning, a deep understanding of organisational needs, and a commitment to empowering employees. Remember, the key is alignment – aligning competencies, assessments, resources, and managerial support to create a holistic approach to employee growth. The outcome should be a well-oiled vehicle for driving real change across your organisation. So employees across the organisation can consistently perform better having engaged more deeply with their own learning and development.