Knowing where to begin is one of the trickiest parts of writing a strategy, it can feel a little daunting, like a puzzle with too many pieces that don’t fit together; at least, this is what a client recently told me when we were discussing their L&D strategy.
Of course, each strategy will look different for every organisation, but I’ve found the following three methods create a great foundation for a successful learning strategy:
1. Align with the business
Whether or not you align your learning strategy with the goals and objectives of the business will make or break your strategy. So, an important first step is to take a deep dive into the business plans and see how you can support them in making it all happen.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few tips to help you get started:
Ask for a seat
Attending business planning meetings is a great way to learn about future goals and objectives first-hand, so if you aren’t currently invited, it’s about time you ask for a seat.
Once you’re there, you’ll soon start to gain the knowledge you need to align your strategies, and as a bonus, it will help solidify your position as a strategic business partner.
Learn from the leaders
If you really want to get to the heart of the business plans, you’ll need to go a step further and schedule time in with your business leaders.
Have your leaders walk you through their business plans, be curious, ask questions and try to really understand their hopes and fears.
Get to know the business
Spend time getting to know the plans and tactics for every department within the business. This way you’ll truly get to know how the business goals will ultimately be achieved, and you’ll easily identify areas where you could help make it happen.
2. SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis is a well-known tool in strategic business planning that can give you a great start to your learning strategy. By going through the four key stages, you will be able to identify your strategic direction for the year ahead:
Identify your strengths
Think about the L&D department, your team, and your role within the organisation. What do you do well? What advantages do you have?
If you really want to deep dive, you could ask your learners the same questions. It’s likely they’ll provide some interesting insights on what it is you’re succeeding at.
Identify your weakness
This is a tricky, but important stage of the analysis. Think about where your sticking points are and what areas could be improved upon.
This can help you avoid any plans you might struggle to achieve further down the line.
Identify any opportunities
This stage requires a little ‘outside of the box’ thinking. Consider what trends are appearing in your organisation, any particular areas of interest or business objectives you could align with.
For example, are there plans for lots of new hires? In which case onboarding might be an opportunity for you to get behind.
Identify any threats
It’s important that you prepare for and anticipate what might stand in the way of your strategy’s success. This could be anything from lack of budget to getting senior stakeholders on board.
3. Plan for ROI
Measuring ROI is like the holy grail for L&D – a bit of a dilemma and very much in demand. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
Digital learning and advances in how we use and analyse data are making it easier to effectively measure ROI in learning, so there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a key part of every learning strategy. After all, without successful measurement, you won’t be able to act on the successes and failures of your strategy, or prove your value to the board.
So, where does this dilemma start?
Learning metrics need to focus on two key areas: behaviour change and performance impact.
This sounds simple and obvious. But how do we demonstrate that the learning resulted in these changes? The answer is a little foggy - and historically this is why L&D have lent towards thinking that ROI cannot be proved - a mindset that needs to be overcome.
Here are a few ideas on how you can get started:
Gather baseline metrics
Find out what the problem or what the learning need is. Gathering baseline metrics is really important. If L&D can get the metrics right at the diagnostic stage, it is more likely that the learning will achieve the desired results and you will be better equipped to measure its impact.
Match the business
What metrics might L&D need to collate? It could be typical HR data such as attrition rates, absence rates and engagement levels. However, L&D shouldn’t just focus on traditional HR data – business metrics are hugely important too. The learning is supposed to improve business metrics so, business metrics need to be part of L&D metrics.
Rallying the managers
Managers have a critical role to play in the creation of good learning metrics. They should also be supporting, enabling and reinforcing performance and behaviour change. L&D need to have managers on board if they are to get the metrics required and if learners are to consolidate their learning in their roles.
We know that businesses want clear, evidence-based data on how learning is having an impact and a powerful and efficient way for L&D professionals to do this is by gathering success stories. Reporting the positive outcomes that your learning is having reinforces the benefits of the programme while providing you with invaluable evaluation and success data.
I hope that some of these ideas have given you some inspiration for how to begin a successful learning strategy. If you would like to find out more about making the most of learning metrics, then please take a look at our expert whitepaper.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.