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Home / Resources / How to create an unforgettable learning and development strategy in 2023.

How to create an unforgettable learning and development strategy in 2023.

Date: Read time: 7 mins.

Want to get results with your L&D strategy? Our foolproof guide provides you with everything you need to consider to develop a truly unforgettable learning and development strategy in 2023.

How do we make an unforgettable L&D strategy?

These days, businesses are starting to realise that learning and development plays a major role in attracting and retaining in-demand talent. Add to that a major focus on reskilling and upskilling, and the role of L&D has swiftly changed in the corporate landscape. L&D is no longer operating in silo. We have a seat at the table. But our business is asking a lot from us. 

A modern L&D function has a lot of complexity to contend with. Not only is the world around us shifting wildly, so is the organisation itself in an attempt to keep pace with this constant change. It’s left L&D grappling and trying to find its feet - whilst being stuck struggling to answer the fundamental question: “What should our L&D strategy be in 2023?”

Let us help you answer this question. Hunker down, make a brew, and let’s get your strategy started with our top tips. 

In this article, we want to give you our top tips for creating an unforgettable learning strategy. We know that it is important to keep learning relevant, so use the links below to jump to the sections that matter most to your organisation:

Start with your goals.

Having been at the forefront of the learning industry for decades, we’ve seen many L&D strategies start from the wrong place. Somehow, somewhere, we seem to have gotten obsessed with technology and content solutions without ever considering what we’re trying to achieve with our learning. And unfortunately, if we don’t start right we are setting ourselves up for disaster. So whilst it may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, you’d be surprised how many learning leaders don’t start with this.

So, before you start developing any strategy around learning and tech, make sure you have defined your goals and objectives. And no, we don’t mean having a broad goal like ‘get more people learning’ (let’s be honest, we probably all have this goal). We mean something meaty, substantive, and directly correlated with business goals. Ultimately, you’re looking to prove the impact of your L&D function to the business, so establishing goals that mean something beyond learning measurement is important.

Think performance improvement. Behaviour change. Positive impact to business bottom lines. This is the stuff that’s going to get attention in the wider organisation and retain that hard-won ‘seat at the table’. It’s also the stuff that’ll secure future budgets and allow you more headcount too.

Success takes many guises, but your goals should be directly correlated to wider business objectives. So if your C-Suite is obsessed with reskilling employees and closing the skills gap, consider how you can evidence that you’ve helped overcome those challenges. By aligning your learning goals with business outcomes, you’re also futureproofing your L&D function by ensuring that key stakeholders truly understand the value of learning and development.

Don’t forget to benchmark.

Defining valuable goals is a vital starting point for your L&D strategy in 2023, but don’t forget to consider how you’re going to measure whether or not you achieved your goals. That’s why we always recommend benchmarking; after all, how can we see where we’ve got to if we don’t know where we started from?

Draw your line in the sand now so that you can clearly monitor progress (however incremental) from that starting point.

Not sure where to start? Here’s our top 3 tips for benchmarking:

  1. Leverage the SMART measurement framework:
    The SMART framework will ensure you identify data points that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. It’s a foolproof way to identify (and capture) the right data.
  2. Be clear on what you're measuring:
    If you want to prove learning impact, then data points like ‘completions’ and NPS score don’t prove a lot. Instead identify data points that link to business outcomes, such as reduction in time to competency, increase in customer satisfaction/retention, increase in sales and more.
  3. Focus on data that matters:
    Don’t just capture data for the sake of it; instead select just a few key data points that relate to your goal.

Put your people at the heart of everything.

We know this sounds almost as obvious as starting with goals - but it’s often a huge oversight when it comes to L&D strategies. And that’s because we tend to get very blinkered on the learning solution, and neglect to consider what the learner wants and needs too.

Gone are the days of sheep dip elearning and blanket blended learning (we see you, onboarding programmes from 2013). Now we must hone in on our people and put their requirements front and centre. After all, they pretty much expect it now.

The personalisation expectation.

The internet has shaped our world over the past twenty-odd years. The smartphone has warped our dopamine receptors for the past decade. Social media…well let’s not even start. The point is, all this technological innovation and hoards of behavioural data has starkly altered the expectations of our learners: they believe everything should be tailored to their desires, wants, needs and habits. And why shouldn’t they?

Sophisticated Netflix algorithms. Highly relevant and targeted Instagram ads. Personalised shopping experiences and recommendations. The list continues. Your learners play the lead role in their lives; they’re playing the starring role in the world they consume content in. So why should their learning experience be any different?

With that in mind, in order to achieve our business and learning goals, we MUST be deeply focused on humanising what we do. Our learners expect it and these days we will not get the success we’re seeking without it.

That means you’ve got to:

  • Answer the ‘why’ and the ‘what’s in it for me’ in both the learning and any communications to employees
  • Show and prove the value from learning to your people. Your time, budget and resource investment means nothing to your learners, so think about what they want and need
  • Focus on audience segmentation as much as possible. That means we must stop blanketing entire workforces with the same learning experience and instead consider how different learning journeys could pan out for different audiences. More on this one later.

We know many of you think deeply about your learners when developing learning - but ensure every action and activity your learning function takes is truly learner-centric. This ensures maximum success and enhances your chances of longer-term success.

Assess your current learning landscape.

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and have put your learners at the heart of everything you do, you can start to look at your learning solutions.

Consider the following:

  • What’s your current tech stack (ie LMS, LXP, content libraries etc) and how are they performing? If they aren’t performing well, what level of investment is required (time, budget, resource etc) to get them up to scratch or replaced?
  • What do your learners want and need? Is your current learning offering meeting that?
  • When considering your goals, do you have the tech and learning experiences to actually meet these?
  • Are your learning programmes fit for purpose?
  • Are the business and the learner aligned in terms of learning expectations?
  • Are you able to meet both business and learner needs with your current learning landscape?

As you can see, having clearly defined goals and objectives from the outset allows you to look more objectively at your current offering and define whether you need to change your offering, update tech solutions or maybe explore new, innovative options for learning. And remember, it may not always be tech that needs to be introduced.

Perhaps you need some cutting-edge bespoke elearning to fill a growing skills gap or have identified a clear organisational need for more collaborative learning in the form of mentoring and coaching. Maybe performance management is high on your list of priorities and you need better ways to manage it.

This phase of strategy development allows you the time and space to look more holistically at your learning offering vs your goals, and identify areas that need to change to get you there. Once you’ve done this, you can start to outline your learner journeys. 

Map out your learning journey(s).

Oh life would be so much easier if it was just one journey eh! But when you consider the expectation of personalisation with the spectrum of your organisational learning needs, there could well be many possibilities and permutations for learning journeys.

There are three core reasons why we should do learner journey mapping:

  1. To get a bird’s eye view of the learning touchpoints an employee may have, across their entire employment lifecycle
  2. To better identify gaps in learning and development, as well as clearly see the mix of learning methods offered when compared to learner requirements
  3. To reduce the reliance on single-stage learning interventions; we know that learning is continuous and behavioural change takes time so it’s critical we don’t harbour a ‘one and done’ mindset for our workplace learning strategies

Whilst this can be a meaty project for your L&D team, it’s a worthwhile one. Not only does it start to provide wider business visibility over learning interventions, it also allows you to take the time to understand your learners’ wants, needs and requirements and ensure that they are provided with an optimal learning solution that helps you meet your goals. When doing these, make sure you consider the future vision for your function and always get key stakeholders involved early doors.

Don’t forget to be human.

Remember, your learners are now at the heart of everything you’re doing, right? Right?

In order to truly accomplish this, you should also consider the mindset of your learners (and their perceptions of your learning) when building out your journeys. Think emotions, feelings and thoughts; these will help round out your journeys and ensure they’re built for success

Here are four key areas we suggest you consider when mapping out your learning journeys:

How aware is the learner of the learning available to them? Do they know what value learning offers to them? Is the ‘why’ being answered for them? Are they aware of where they need to go to access learning?

Are they a bit green or a seasoned pro? Taking the time to consider how long someone has worked at your organisation will affect how you engage with them, how ingratiated they are into your culture and indeed how receptive they may be to more learning.

Explore how motivated your people are to learn - as some of your employees will be ‘lifelong learners’ whilst others may just want to do their job and go home. Most people have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to learn; ideally, we want to be meeting both of them.

You’d be surprised how many people we’ve chatted to who still believe the only ‘proper’ training is in the classroom. There is no right or wrong here, but it’s critical that you get to grips with the attitudes your employees have towards learning and development. Time for some focus groups we think!

Futureproof your business with future skills.

Skills are hot hot hot right now. In a bid to close the ever widening skills gap, many organisations have had no choice but to shift their focus from learning to skills. And on the face of it, very little has changed for us in L&D, apart from the way that we diagnose learning challenges and create solutions that leverage modern learning experience design.

What we’re really interested in, though, is how skills mapping and skill taxonomies can actually help you plan more effectively for the future. If you start to more deeply understand the skills that are available within your workplace, you can then more easily identify gaps and develop learning and development opportunities that close those gaps.

On top of that, if skills taxonomies are effectively implemented in tandem with a talent marketplace, businesses can suddenly surface talent in their own organisations, minimise employee turnover and retain in-demand talent through a more compelling employee value proposition.

But a word of warning: skills may be hot but that doesn’t mean the tech we have available is up to the task of supporting a skills strategy. Introducing a skills-focused strategy should be a medium to long term view, and therefore is something you should consider today as part of your 2023 strategy.

If you’re really interested in building out a skills strategy, we strongly recommend reading this article from Josh Bersin. It’s jam-packed with insights for how to truly make this a success in your business.

Don’t forget to upskill yourself.

The role of the average L&Der has changed dramatically in the past decade. Whilst we all still have to wear a lot of hats (far too many at times!), we’ve seen a significant shift away from the digital learning churn engine of the past. Instead of just shoving loads of content onto our learning platform, we’re actually starting to introspect and consider what we need to do to be more effective at our own jobs. We’re starting to put our authoring tools down and instead focus on building out broader capabilities within our teams.

As digital learning fatigue reaches peak levels in employees, we’ve had no choice but to stop, take stock and consider how we can change tack. This introspection has led to an emergence in demand for future skills in L&D. According to the LPI’s Capability Map, in order to be impactful and scalable we now need skills such as data analytics, marketing and communications and impact evaluation. Here at Sponge we also think skills such as community management, writing for engagement, commercial awareness and stakeholder engagement should be explored and developed too.

Source: https://www.thelpi.org/skills/...;

It’s our recommendation that when you’re considering the learning needs of your employee base, also explore your own and make sure you ear-mark time, budget, and resources to keep your skills relevant so as to be as prepared as possible for the future.

Focus on real business impact.

“Woo. Our learners liked the learning.”
“Amazing. 97% of our people completed our AML course.”

Sound familiar? We’re going to be honest - this data really doesn’t mean a lot. Sure, it’s easily acquired data and that’s probably why we lean into it. But it doesn’t demonstrate learning acquisition, behaviour change or indeed impact on the business.

So, this year we implore you to move away from these measurement modalities because they really don’t provide any value for us. If you’ve followed this strategy breakdown so far, you will have some great, business oriented goals in place and therefore should have developed KPIs that focus on impact, not bums on seats.

There’s no doubt in our mind that L&D will continue to shift and change to align to the changing world around us. That’s why we’ve got to build robust, scalable and future-focused learning strategies that not only support current learning needs but also build the foundations for a learning function that stands the test of time.

So, make sure you focus on your audience, modern learning experiences and be laser focused on how your learning positively impacts the business bottom line. We’re certain this approach will put you in good stead for the future (and also in your CEO’s good books!)

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