Looop’s Chief Learning Officer, David James, met up with Eva Adam on the L&D podcast recently to talk about what it takes to implement a results-driven learning and development strategy.
Eva Adam is an L&D Manager at the recruitment consultancy Cast UK who aims to “help people be the best version of themselves.” A crucial factor in Eva’s mission is ensuring that employees have the resources they need for continued professional development.
Cast UK’s L&D framework was still fairly young when Eva joined so she “pretty much had a blank page” to start from. By asking questions and addressing the business’ needs, Eva and her team were able to establish a modern L&D framework that combines the best of digital and face-to-face training. We’ve condensed Eva’s experience and ideas into 10 tips for a successful learning and development strategy. Read on for the break down or listen to the full conversation in episode 11 of the L&D podcast.
1. Choose Curiosity Over Tradition
Tradition is built upon habits — an automatic practice that we often do without thinking. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with tradition, it does become problematic if it fails to evolve with the times.
Curiosity in L&D leads the way for digital. And digital L&D means user-centricity.
Source: The L&D Disruption Playbook
Find out if your L&D strategy is user-centric by placing it under the microscope and asking both broad and granular questions like:
- What opportunities are there for L&D in our workplace?
- What are other companies doing? Why?
- How can we be sure that the onboarding process is working? How can we make it better?
- Do new managers know what to focus on first?
- How can we be sure that our L&D strategy is solving real business problems?
- Which KPIs are we using to measure L&D performance? Why?
- Do employees feel like they have the tools they need to do the job?
- Are we giving remote workers the same development opportunities as office-based employees?
Through inquisitiveness, you can start to identify the disparity between your current L&D framework and where you want it to be.
2. Establish What “Great” Looks Like (for Your Company & Employees)
When Eva joined Cast UK as their L&D Manager, one of the first things she did was clarify exactly what “great” meant to the company with their employees. What became apparent is that employees are the building blocks of a company.
To understand what a great employee looks like, work backwards and deduce what skills, knowledge and experience a person would need to be great.
3. Identify the Business Needs
Employee needs and business needs are interdependent.
The success of a business relies upon each employee having what they need to perform. And the success of an employee depends upon the business having an environment in which everyone can grow.
Each business KPI reflects — in one way or another — how well your employees are performing. In identifying the core challenges apparent from your KPIs, you can find the skills gaps.
4. Adopt an Agile Approach
If a new manager tells you that she’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do next, listen. If your company’s turnover rates are high, there will be a common reason, find out what it is.
Eva says that “almost every single thing that you’re going to look at: every different skill, every different knowledge bit, you’re going to have to address it differently.” Hence, if something isn’t working, don’t instantly assume that you know why. Applying accumulated knowledge is great and to be expected, but creating space to ask new questions for new situations will lead you to the root causes every time.
5. Challenge Assumptions
Our brains search for patterns so that they can be more efficient and, so, assumptions are a natural byproduct of that search.
Though many of our assumptions are helpful other assumptions can be incorrect at best and damaging at worst.
Challenging hypotheses should be easy but humans, unfortunately, attach meaning to everything. Oftentimes, we protect our assumptions because admitting error feels like admitting defeat. This can make it difficult to confront our own thoughts, let alone other people’s.
To challenge our presumptions in a collaborative way, try to detach the method from the emotion and focus on fact-finding instead. Though tricky conversations will naturally arise, others will be more invested in your endeavours if you reassure them that you’re trying to find fact-based solutions.
6. Focus on What Works
Eva does a lot of research on marketing and tech departments because they’re always asking the question “If it doesn’t work, why bother?”, which differs hugely from other sectors.
A team of scientists wouldn’t pack up the Bunsen burners just because a hypothesis was incorrect the first time around. Instead, they would test different theories until they found the right solution.
Think of yourself as an L&D scientist. Concoct a couple of experiments to test and then go back to the drawing board to evaluate the results. Each time you finish an experiment you’ll have more information about what works — and what doesn’t, but none of the research is ever a waste.
7. Give Employees Autonomy
Self-determination theory suggests that people are driven to grow by three innate and universal psychological needs: competence, connection and autonomy. It’s important for people to feel in charge of their own performance so that they feel empowered to improve.
Eva says people need to go through things at their own pace to develop a thorough understanding. Use these innate needs to your advantage by allowing employees to learn what they need, when they need to. By providing them with resources for learning at their point of work, you’ll give them autonomy, foster competence and facilitate a genuine connection with their work and environment.
8. Help Employees Understand Their Own Performance
One of the benefits of encouraging autonomy (Point 7) is that you create accountability for personal development. Eva says “When it comes to running an L&D department, you can’t be on the forefront beating people with courses. You’ve got to create the need of wanting to become better.”
As a first step, encourage employees to understand how well they’re performing so that they can identify their individual starting point for development.
9. Make Learning Practical
People learn through the experiences they have. The closer the learning experience is to reality, the greater the potential is for growth.
Providing digital resources so employees can learn at their own pace is one element of transformational L&D. By creating and supplying practical solutions to real-life problems, you’ll help employees to learn faster.
10. Keep Testing and Optimising
Real change takes time. The key to real change is continuous improvement.
Use your business KPIs and employee feedback as a beacon for how well you’re doing. Then, keep searching for ways to improve. The foundations of your L&D strategy will only continue to grow stronger as a result.