Align learning and business strategies for success, says Kiara Williams.
Reading time: 5 minutes.
When your organisation is planning to implement an L&D programme for employees, the most prudent way to start planning for it is to be as honest and detailed about your vision for your company.
If it’s been a while since you’ve assessed the state of your business and laid out objectives and goals for the near term and far-reaching future, it’s a good idea to execute this before planning any training.
When was the last time you clearly mapped out where you see your business in six months, in a year or in five years? To plan a highly effective learning programme for your employees it’s essential that you define business objectives first so that you can plan training that best supports those objectives.
First, what are your goals? Make them SMART, and be clear with yourself in defining objectives to help you achieve them. Perhaps one goal is to increase sales by 10% in the next year, and to achieve this you’ve made it one of your objectives to put more of your marketing efforts into influencer-marketing campaigns.
If your marketing team is still pretty green when it comes to planning influencer-marketing campaigns, begin planning your L&D by identifying which skill gaps need to be addressed in your workforce to help you best meet your objective of launching successful, profitable influencer-marketing campaigns.
A good mentor can give you an edge by helping you to be specific when mapping out a plan that includes clear and measurable goals.
Next, choose the course that will most effectively help staff get up to speed on the skills you’ve identified as necessary to accomplishing your objective.
Consider connecting with a mentor to help you define objectives
If you need help getting more precise about your vision for your company’s future, or if it’s just been a while since you’ve set concrete objectives and goals, a good mentor can give you an edge by helping you to be specific when mapping out a plan that includes clear and measurable goals.
An experienced outsider can offer you the valuable advantage of perspective, helping you to be more honest with yourself and even calling you out on traits and tendencies that could be sabotaging your best efforts.
The most successful entrepreneurs on the planet—giants like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson—all name mentorship as among the most important tools in their leadership toolboxes, so there’s certainly no shame in finding someone with an outside perspective to give you some insight and direction.
Whether you do it solo or with some guidance, get that list of goals in front of you. Make them as specific as you can. Do you want to improve customer retention? Ok, by how much? Would you like to increase sales or add a certain number of clients? Again, make these goals measurable so that you can be accountable to yourself later about whether you are getting the desired results.
Remember to let your mentor know that planning an L&D programme for your staff is a primary motivating factor in making you get clear about goals, so that they can offer you specific guidance in aligning it with your goals for your business.
Steps to designing a solid training programme
Now that you have a specific list of goals for your business, you are ready to design your L&D programme.
- First, identify skill gaps in your workforce. These are the skills that, unaddressed, will impede your ability to implement objectives and reach goals. Using the example of influencer marketing mentioned earlier, if one of your objectives is to devote more marketing efforts to influencer marketing campaigns, do a training needs analysis (TNA) to find out where employees need to improve their performances or acquire new skills to meet objectives.
- Set developmental objectives. This is the part where you choose the courses that will fill in skill gaps so that you can increase those sales—or hit whatever goals that live at the top of your list. If a greater emphasis on influencer marketing is the objective, you may decide to offer your marketing team a digital marketing course with a specific focus on working with influencers so that you can get your team ready to start working toward those goals as soon as possible.
There’s nothing like a tangible goal—or task—to get people fired up about a learning experience, so be sure to let your employees know what you’re going for and consider offering incentives to inspire your team to put their all into their training, and into achieving the goals you’ve set for the company.
- Customise the training to support objectives. There are a lot of learning management systems (LMS) out there. Take care that you choose the best one possible for your needs as an organisation. This is not a place to cut corners.
The vetting process may feel a bit time-intensive, but in order to get the absolute best return on your L&D investment and achieve your goals, it is imperative that you select a course that excites and engages your employees—as well as convey all of the information that they need to know to increase those sales.
- Ensure that objectives are being met. This is where the importance of having measurable goals comes in. If you know what KPIs you’d like to monitor and what specific improvements you’d like to see, you will be able to make regular assessments to see if performance is measuring up to expectations.
After the training is complete, keep it going! Continue to encourage employees in further developing their newly acquired skills to keep them excited about continuously learning, evolving and sharpening their new talents, and offer them any support they require to do so.
A clear vision is key
The goal of any L&D programme is to drive the success of your business. When you have a clear vision for the future of your business, decisions about learning and development programmes flow more organically. Your objectives should ideally drive all decisions about learning because when they do, your learning programmes will effectively support you—and your employees—in realising your business goals.
About the author
Kiara Williams is a consultant to businesses and entrepreneurs.