From learning to performance: Connecting the dots

Johnson Wong details his five steps to L&D business success.

Businesses today are moving at an unfathomable speed of change, and often this pace is doubled by the vast magnitude of disruptions occurring in every industry. The only sustainable advantage that is not easily ‘cloned’ is the organisation’s workforce that drives performance and innovation.

In recent years, increasingly, organisations are spending and dedicating more resources to developing its workforce capabilities to perform optimally and innovate.

Without these synergised efforts to transform the workforce, organisations will be relegated from their competition quickly. Organisation’s learning and development (L&D), business partners and frontline leaders need to foster a thriving organisation culture actively. Leaders can apply the following five dimensions to build a successful learning and performing workforce.

Dimension 1: Business alignment

The value of business goals cannot be understated. Focusing on the goals that are not aligned will only lead to wastage and confusion. The learning goals designed need to be seamlessly aligned to those business goals to achieve desired performance and impact.

These learning goals have to provide clarity and direction to maximise the transfer of learning to performance effectively. In other words, the return-on-investment (ROI) on learning and development must lead to an increase in business performance.

Dimension 2: Intentional communication

Communicating the learning strategy has always been a constant challenge faced by leaders when juggling between their operational and development priorities. There is no shortcut in communicating deliberately during any change. Leaders need to project the right bandwidth to communicate effectively.

Two tips for leaders to provide clear intentions when communicating are:

Tip #1 – Let them know what exactly you want
Provide clarity on learning journey for performance

  • When setting a development goal, expressed in terms of outcomes NOT tasks. In other words, not just simply brief the list of activities needed, rather focus on outcomes.
  • Make clear the full extent of the development process expected
  • Emphasis on alignment of outcomes and activities
  • Select people close to the ground to drive the learning implementation process

Here are some great clarifying questions when communicating the expectations for the learning development process:

  • Why do we need the learning? Why now?
  • What is the full extent of learning?
  • What should be improved? How can we measure the progress?
  • Are there adequate resources to support?
  • How does this new strategy link to the current one?

Tip #2 – Take ownership of the development that you are asking for
Taking ownership means more than just modelling the desired behaviours; it requires dedicated decisions from leaders to support the development initiative. Leaders need to walk the talk and demonstrate a commitment to the ground to communicate regularly on the development challenges and progress.

It takes a deliberate practice from the leader to see through the entire development journey.

Dimension 3: Learning platforms

Today, there is a wide selection on how learning can be delivered in multiple routes or blended approaches. Some of these on-demand learning platforms require dedicated systems and resources to support for optimal performance.

It is crucial that the needs of the learners are embedded and calibrated to achieve the intended performance outcomes. Failing to address those needs will risk wasting time and resources that do not yield sustainable results.

Dimension 4: Supporting mechanisms

For any new learning and development to be successful, adequate resource support (learning aids, devices, materials) and structure must be accessible for learners to take advantage.

The supporting mechanisms could include cross-functional learning circles (impromptu sharing sessions on challenges during learning and application), access to mentors or experts, recognition systems and workplace learning structures.

Dimension 5: Tuning performance

Continuous improvement of learning drives better performance. Leaders and their staff need to cultivate a mindset of continuous growth or face stagnation in their quest for business success. Leaders can facilitate and recalibrate the process of making learning and development a rewarding one.

They can promote tailored learning modality that aligns with business outcomes and engages staff in participating in purposeful learning sessions.

The takeaway

There is no shortcut, building a successful learning and performing culture requires time, effort and commitment from all stakeholders. Careful integration of these five dimensions for any learning strategy will enable a more resilient, adaptable, performing and synergised workforce that is vital for business growth.


About the author

Johnson Wong is a professional L&D consultant, where he provides services for clients in learning design, learning technology solutions (e-courses) and training advisory. He is also an academic advisor at the Global School of Technology and Management.


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