Learning & Development: The Cornerstone of Any Business

Learning & Development: The Cornerstone of Any Business

A learning culture is crucial to the wellbeing of any organization that wants to excel and go beyond both expectations and competition.

Far more than ensuring staff stay current and compliant with basic performance standards and training, the learning and development that such a culture calls for is farther reaching and more complex.  

While the issue must fundamentally align to business strategy, this is not achieved by all businesses; failure to co-opt learning and development into the organizational vision can be down to any number of reasons, such as a lack of resources, interest or understanding of the purpose of L&D from business leaders.

Real learning and development is less about teaching, and more about creating an environment that facilitates self-learning. Individuals can process information into knowledge, values and skills at their own pace while guided by the company. In this respect, learning becomes an active, participative and far more rewarding process.

Read on to find out about:

  • Key features of a sound learning and development culture
  • Why Learning and Development is crucial to performance

Key features of a sound learning and development culture

John Eades, CEO of Learnloft cites three key elements that make up learning and development:

Thought leadership, innovation and flawless execution

The best L&D comes off being proactive instead of reactive. Eades argues that new ideas and thought leadership should be encouraged within the organization, and proposes “finding the bright spots”, a concept taken from Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch. As such, individuals are given the chance to solve major organizational problems and to take ownership of greater responsibility.  

Innovation

According to Eades, “innovation and thought leadership go hand in hand”. Bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas into an organization affords the change to align innovation with “learner demand”.  The importance of innovation is echoed by Apple, who note that “business leaders recognize that the new competitive frontier in the world of work is place-based innovation-the ability to innovate again and again within one environment.”

Flawless execution

The best learning and development process is dynamic, able to “identify and execute” on a learning opportunity in a timely manner. This is vital if L&D is to be a core driving force within an organization.

Why Learning and Development is crucial to performance

In the words of Stanford professor, Richard Sutton, “Creative ‘weird’ ideas work because they provide three key things: an increase in the range of an organization’s knowledge, the ability for people to see old problems in new ways, and an opportunity to break from the past.”

In a corporate world, this creativity needs to be harnessed be aligned to business strategy, as Sutton warns that “creative environments are often “remarkably inefficient and terribly annoying places to work.”

Learning and development also brings benefits in the following ways:

Morale

Being valued is crucial to employee satisfaction. The opportunity to learn and develop produces achievement and responsibility. If rewarded and recognized with promotional opportunities, then elements of Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Motivation start to fall into place. These are key elements to work place ‘satisfiers’ which make for a happier, more dedicated workforce.

Lower costs

A more content workforce will reduce chances of employees leaving the company. Similarly, if properly motivated, staff will want to fulfil their potential within the firm, improving competencies, target-meeting and enhancing the value of the organization.

Broader horizons

When departments do not co-operate with data sharing within the same company, the firm’s overall efficiency will drop and this may eventually impact on morale as employees experience an erosion of productivity. This failure to share between sectors is known as the silo mentality; a problem for organizations of all sizes, and a headache for executives who need to break the destructive mind-set it perpetuates. 

The maxim, ‘knowledge is power’ is perfectly applicable when combating the silo mentality. Learning and development initiates knowledge and collaboration within teams that need to rely on one another to problem solve. Learning also nurtures understanding and appreciation of other perspectives, which is a powerful antidote to the silo mentality in itself.

To complement the L&D dynamic, management teams are encouraged to create smaller meeting rooms, reduce the number of long meetings and create an education/training system that crosses departments.

Improved ROI

Sheffield Business School researcher, Dr Louise Suckely says that courses “not only inject fresh skills into a business, but also help to generate new ideas and revenue streams while inspiring staff to achieve more.” To help measure ROI, Suckely refers to “The five levels of impact for the ROI model”, which considers engagement, learning, application and implementation, and business impact to calculate ROI.

Brian Keady says that different firms will find it easier to work out returns from learning and development, and proposes involving the right stakeholders as the basis to making sense of your organization’s ROI.

Learning faster than the industry changes

Integral to a firm’s success at all levels, learning and development is crucial if companies are to compete in their marketplace, as the demise of UK firms such of HMV and Kodak have demonstrated. The fall of IMB’ SNA technology serves as a similarly stark warning of what can happen to the strongest of corporates when they fail to realize the importance of keeping speed with industry-wide learning and development.

Conclusion

Learning and development must “comprehend, role model and embed the culture and performance framework of the organization by providing intervention that enable the business to increase its KPI performance and achieve its strategy”.

Within this fundamental role of L&D, organizations are challenged to meet organizational and learner requirements while staying competitive in fast-paced environments.

As such, teams concerned have to work collaboratively, making sure that L&D remains agile and timely. This dynamic element must be blended with technological developments and emerging insight, with one eye always on the future for professional competencies to manifest themselves in a way that sustains company growth and drives organizational success.

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