You know you need to train your employees: that much is clear. But, what about everything that comes after? It might be clear as mud.
Anyone who has tried to train can tell you that creating effective corporate learning programs isn’t always as simple as it seems. Your organization is comprised of different types of objectives, media, and most importantly, people. If you want to be truly successful, corporate learning needs to be about more than just words on a page or a half-day training session.
Mindful goals and purposeful approaches can create highly effective corporate learning programs. But it’s also important to design those programs under a strategy umbrella that lends itself crystal clear to the goals and objectives of the corporation.
Relevance of a Corporate Learning Program Today
A decade or so ago, training employees across an organization wasn’t as big of a challenge as it is today. Corporate learning programs weren’t integrated across business functions. HR issued a memo for mandatory training, and all impacted employees from a specific functional area moved their work schedules around and showed up at the corporate training center, or in the designated conference room.
Things are markedly different today. Remote work is the norm, mobile workforces are common, and reliance on part-time and gig workers adds an additional twist to training.
How do you create an effective corporate learning program in such an environment? In-person training can’t address those changing dynamics. An integrated learning program can – but without a formal learning strategy in place, businesses won’t be able to effectively build and roll out supporting corporate learning programs that address these challenges.
But the need for a cohesive corporate learning program, underpinned by a relevant learning strategy, spans beyond that new workplace dynamic we discussed above. A new economic and competitive paradigm has also accelerated the pace at which businesses must respond to changing business conditions.
But what if the organization and, by extension, its employees, aren’t supported by a robust corporate learning program? They won’t be able to respond competitively with skills updates and new sets of abilities. Corporations will find it hard to survive and thrive unless they have a corporate learning program that underpins a conscious effort to address these challenges through a cohesive corporate learning strategy.
Finally, technology is delivering a competitive edge in all spheres of the corporate world. From marketing and product design to innovation and data analytics; businesses can’t function without leveraging technology. If organizations aim to empower their employees with cutting-edge knowledge and learning, they can’t do so without also embracing the latest L&D technologies. And there lies yet another compelling reason that makes learning programs, centered around a corporate learning strategy, that much more relevant today.
Tips for Creating Your Corporate Learning Strategy
A cohesive learning strategy must precede attempts at pulling together an effective learning program. Like any business initiative, developing and implementing an effective corporate learning strategy is a process. Once that process is in place, organizations leverage it to guide learning program decision-making.
However, when you drill down into the essentials, building organizational learning strategies boils down to three core steps – each of which then guides how you create an effective corporate learning program.
Step One: Define Your Goals
Before you begin planning your corporate learning strategy, you need to make sure you have a set of defined and measurable goals in mind. It’s not enough to just want your employees to do better: how are you going to calculate that success? If you’re not sure where to start, consider these suggestions:
- First, define your overarching organizational goals. Because learning must support business objectives, you can’t develop an effective learning strategy unless you’re clear on your organizational goals
- Next, break down each of those goals into smaller milestones. For instance, if you wish to expand marketing activity by 30% over the next year, specify how it will happen: Online Advertising; Search engine marketing (SEM); Direct-to-consumer calls; Email marketing
- Then, create corporate learning objectives that align with each of those milestones. If SEM is a core plank of your business goal, then define learning objectives to upskill your sales teams with those skills. Perhaps building in-house Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capabilities might be a consideration. If, on the other hand, your company goal is providing better customer service, you can break down some of the contributing factors to help get you there. Corporate learning that includes soft skills and product training might be a good place to start.
Step Two: Decide on Delivery
Not all learning is created equal, and that’s just as true for learning delivery methods. Each type of training should be properly matched to the right delivery method for maximum impact since employees often respond as much to the medium as they do the message. Your delivery strategy will serve as a central pillar around which to design corporate learning programs. Here are some best practices to consider when choosing a delivery method:
- Is your learning more suited to a conversation and in-person training, or would your employees benefit from a self-led mobile course in their spare time?
- Will the learning content you choose to be delivered entirely online in small, bite-sized pieces, or will the content delivery require a blended learning approach with both classroom and digital elements? What types of media and content will be used to deliver your learning– Video? PDFs? Animation?
- Are you considering a “push” delivery system, using prods and pointers to deliver learning, or will your platform favor a “pull” approach, where learning is served up based on a learners’ own initiative to consume content as and when they wish?
The right choice of corporate learning platforms too, such as a Learning Management System (LMS) or Content Management System (CMS), must be the focus of this step in the process. Finally, do take the time to consider your audience and how they’ll respond to the information you’re offering. The way you deliver your training programs could mean the difference between confusion and clarity.
Step Three: Reinforce and Encourage
Organizations often consider training as a one-time event. For example, everyone attends an afternoon meeting to cover their bases and then heads back to their desks. But learning and training should be an organic, near-constant state of operation for smart organizations. Here are some elements to consider when choosing what works for your organization’s learning strategy:
- While you may be required to have event-based training (industry compliance requirements, for instance), think about learning as your company’s standard, rather than the exception.
- And, when you do have event-based training, reinforce new concepts often. This element of the strategy doesn’t necessarily need to depend on 30-page PowerPoint decks or 50-page PDF documents. Even something as simple as a text message reminder of significant highlights, or a quick review could help create stronger connections between the learners and educational material.
- Part of your corporate learning strategy should be taking the time to help learners see how far they’ve come. Getting employees to buy into training is nearly impossible if they can’t see personal benefits.
- Finally, when choosing your strategy, make sure it includes elements of performance measurement. Tracking goals and using measurable checkpoints along the way takes your learning strategy from routine to a transformative experience.
This 3-step process will help you get started with developing a learning strategy that’s right for your organization. With a strategy in place, instead of producing a disjoint series of courses, you can begin to develop strategy-informed corporate learning programs.
Bringing Corporate Learning Programs to Life
So, how can you leverage your learning strategy to build highly effective corporate learning programs? Just follow these 10 tips:
- Get a Champion: A corporate learning strategy is often signed off at the very top of the organization. As such, an effective corporate learning program must also receive senior-level sponsorship
- Needs Identification: As with Step#1 in the strategy development, identify the needs of the program first, including how it will map to strategic goals, and then refine the program into lower-level training initiatives
- Audience Personalization: Knowing who the program is targeted for is vital. Conduct a Know Your Audience study and find out what they want to learn
- Broad-based Participation: Don’t just focus on learners, but also include supervisors, managers, L&D teams, HR, SMEs, and a cross-section of org-wide stakeholders when creating your learning program
- Strategically Supported Goals: Each program component (i.e., every initiative within the program) must support a strategic goal with a set of measurable outcomes. To create an effective corporate learning program, make program goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
- Make Learning Preferences Core: Find out how targeted program learners wish to learn: Online? In classrooms? Hybrid? On-the-go (Mobile)? Instructor-Led or Virtual Instructor-led? Then, add those dimensions to the program
- Keep Refreshing It: Once you roll out a corporate learning program, don’t stop! Review it frequently, and refresh it with changing business needs. Each time you update your corporate learning strategy, make sure your learning program evolves too!
- Inject Variety: Let your corporate learning strategy guide you when pulling together content for various program components. Don’t just convert legacy content, add a variety of media – Infographics, Audio files, Video, Interactive PDFs, Animated graphics
- Make it Worthwhile: Your corporate learning program must appeal to employee sentiment – personal goals, and professional aspirations. If employees can’t see “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)”, then it may blunt the effectiveness of the program
- Measure Effectiveness: The critical measure of a corporate learning strategy is how effectively the underlying program has performed. Don’t just rely on learning assessments or test scores as a measure of effectiveness, but on application and knowledge transference into the workplace
You don’t need to wait until you’re ready to overhaul your learning to start implementing highly effective learning programs. Changing the way your entire organization approaches training will take time, but it can start today. By planning your strategy around the way your employees think and work, and then designing corporate learning programs around that strategy, you’ll have a strategic vision of where you are and where you want to go next.