Developing a Learning Culture

L&D Teams: 5 Core Features of Successful Learning & Development

No one can really tell you the exact recipe for organizational success. Most successful businesses have their own secret sauce made up of a variety of must-have ingredients—a dash of momentum, a generous helping of insight, and all the right key players folded in at exactly the right time. If you want to make sure your organization is seen as not just successful, but also as an innovative workplace that employees love, learning and development is a crucial part of your strategy across your organization.. 

Successful learning and development teams see past bland training to educate employees. Spicing up your L&D objectives creates true learning and growth experiences. 

While it can feel like you’re making the recipe up as you go, there are five key ingredients every effective L&D team needs. Just like any good recipe, your L&D team structure should have plenty of room for personalization along the way. Still, by using these five characteristics as the foundation for your team, you’ll guarantee the best outcome no matter what the end goal. 

Whether you have a dedicated L&D team in place or you’re just getting started, make sure you have these staples on hand—and don’t be afraid to add your own twist.

1. Alignment

Learning development teams are usually responsible for training across several different departments. It’s possible to have learning programs with incredible content, but without executive or employee buy-in, efforts can fall flat. If you’ve struggled with getting learners on board in the past, you might have forgotten the alignment part of the process.

Alignment occurs when all involved parties—from the C-suite to the ground floor—understand the purpose of your L&D strategy and its importance. Capturing hearts and minds long before deploying a new training initiative gets everyone on the same page and gives them a look at the end goal. The best learning and development teams know that, in order to really have an impact, training, talent management, and continuing education must be inextricably linked to the overall strategic goals of the company, of course, but those goals and strategies should also be aligned on a personal, departmental, and organizational level. The L&D team is responsible for mapping out the who and why of learning just as much as the where, when, and how. 

2. Practical Experience

Buy-in and alignment are a necessity, but remember that you’re creating for an audience—it’s also important that an L&D department can see and experience the same learning opportunities every employee enjoys (or doesn’t). Learning can’t simply be commissioned from the top down and then quickly forgotten. Whether learning initiates from HR, an L&D department, or a dedicated talent management team, those developing and delivering training solutions should be observing success and failure first hand. It’s the most effective way to make sure learning initiatives continually align with your organization’s end game.

Not sure where to start your assessment? Head for the sales department. Sales training says the most about an organization’s training methods because sales training is usually the most sophisticated and useful of all learning opportunities. If it’s failing, chances are that the rest of your training suffers, too. Engaging and effective sales training is a promising sign for solid learning organizations and can usually be mined for content and delivery methods for other departments.

3. Learning and Development Team Structure

Whether you have a dedicated L&D department or team members are being pulled from other parts of your organization, it’s important you create space for a few different types of players. After all, the wider the spectrum of experience, the better chance you have for L&D that makes a meaningful impact. If you’re unsure of how to structure your learning and development team, focus on these four key players: 

  • The Curators. You probably already have usable content from past training. Leverage what you have by connecting with curators: team members who know how to source and deliver learning content that is readily available. This speeds up the development process and gives a clearer picture of what content you still require. 
  • The Creators. Creators fill the gaps left behind after the curators have pieced together existing materials. If you don’t currently have creators—graphic designers, scriptwriters, SMEs, and even animators—as part of your organization, this is the ideal time to bring in vendors that can create custom learning experiences to add to your strategy. 
  • The UX Pros. Good UX boils down to anticipating how your learners will interact with your L&D content. If you’ve done your homework, you should already have an idea of potential pain points, what works, and what doesn’t. The UX pro uses that research to support new L&D efforts and ensures content is streamlined and accessible. 
  • The Influencers. When you want your L&D initiative to take your organization by storm, leave it in the hands of your team’s influencers. These are the colleagues that other coworkers take their cues from. Whether it’s a welcome email from the C-suite or an enthusiastic seal of approval from department heads, influencers help capture the hearts and minds of learners to increase motivation and increase user buy-in. It’s probably not a dedicated job title, but every great organization has team members that act as influencers to help execute initiatives and keep morale high throughout. 

No matter how you decide to build your L&D team, having these four key members ensures you’ll have the experience, insight, and energy you need for more dynamic training. 

4. Clear Objectives and ROI Measurements

It’s notoriously hard to measure the ROI of training—that is, if you haven’t set clear objectives to start. Every effective L&D team knows that ROI might look a little different when it comes to growth and development, but that’s because each organization has different goals. How, for example, can you really measure something like teamwork or communication skills? That’s why objectives should be crystal clear for the entire team to start. If you really want learners to experience growth, tell them how to measure that growth. It might be via knowledge checks, a certification path, or even a leaderboard, but all measurement methods should let the L&D team see a clear correlation between content, training, and learner behavior. 

Clear objectives and measurement also tap directly into increased learner motivation as you work to build a workforce of educated and well-trained workers. Work as a team to outline training goals and how you’ll know when learners hit specific benchmarks along the way.  

5. Flexible Delivery 

The best learning and development teams know that training isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. After all, sexual harassment training should be treated differently than say, team-building exercises. Because of this, any good learning organization will offer a menu of services and delivery methods, from online knowledge bases for quick access to simulations for behavior-based training, and even mobile learning apps for training on-the-go. Knowing how and when to deliver certain information is all part of becoming a true learning organization. An effective L&D team is constantly stretching and brainstorming to come up with not only fresh content, but utilizing available tech and data to deliver that content in the most engaging ways. 

If your organization is lucky enough to have an L&D department, it’s all about allowing them the space, resources, and structure to do their jobs and flex their expertise. If you’re hiring an L&D vendor or pulling from other departments, it’s important to understand the ingredients that make up an effective team. Your organization’s “secret sauce” will be unique based on the talent, experience, and content you have, but if you make sure you have the five core ingredients as part of your team’s strategy, you’ll turn out successful initiatives again and again.