Learning and development (L&D) is becoming a pillar of business success in today’s workplace. Before, you could have a person start working in a job and that job wouldn’t change for the next 30 years. But today, things have drastically changed.
The half-life of skills was estimated to be around 15 years back in 2005. The half-life of skills refers to the period of time in which around 50% of the knowledge and skills required to do the job would become obsolete. Today, the half-life of skills is less than five years, and even less for technical skills: only 2.5 years.
According to an IBM talent report, 45% of organizations can’t find the skills they need and that number is even higher for enterprises and large corporations—67%.1 So, as an employer, you’re faced with the following situation:
The skills your employees bring to the workplace may only be half as valuable as they are today
It can be difficult to find people with the appropriate skill sets to fill all positions
You’re getting stuck in an endless loop of talent shortage where you constantly have to attract the most qualified people whom other companies are also trying to hire
Companies realized that most of these problems might be solved through learning and development, so they started investing in it, and L&D became the solution for handling all of the aforementioned problems. However, learning and development doesn’t stop there—it can be used for multiple purposes, such as:
improving customer service
increasing employee retention and satisfaction
building an employer brand
attracting new talent, and more
We will explore all of the facets of L&D for the hiring team in this ultimate guide.
Learning and development is a systematic approach that you can use to improve the KSA (knowledge, skills, and attitude) of your employees, resulting in better performance in the workplace.
The goal of L&D is to improve, change, and/or iterate the behavior of your employees, whether as individuals or as a team, to improve business results.
Most of the time, learning and development are used as synonyms; you will hear people using the phrase “training and education” in this context as well. However, they’re not the same, since there are subtle differences between all four:
Learning is about acquiring knowledge, skills, or attitude through different methods such as experience, book knowledge, or teaching.
Training is more focused, teaching your colleague a skill that they can immediately apply to their job. Training can be used either to improve performance in a person’s current job or to train them to handle future challenges in the role (remember that half-life of skills).
If training is about right now, then development is about the future, or long-term growth. It deals with deepening the knowledge in a certain field by helping an employee to master a skill over time. It can also help to broaden the skill set of an employee by helping them adapt to future changes and challenges. Development usually involves a convergence of the employee’s personal goals and the company’s business goals.
Education is the formal way of increasing an employee’s knowledge. Education generally casts a wide net and is often non-specific. It can be highly relevant for an employee who has to learn quite a lot about a new field.
Ever since Steve Harkin of McKinsey coined the term “war for talent” back in 1997, the talent shortage has remained one of the main problems in the marketplace. The war for talent refers to a massive competition that’s happening today between companies and recruiters who are trying to get the top talent, or the most highly educated, skilled, and desirable employees, of whom there is a shortage.
To combat this lack of talent in the marketplace, companies started investing more in developing their own A-players. But over time, businesses realized that learning and development has multiple uses in the workplace, and that investing in it can have a deep impact on the firm.
Two of today’s generations that are in the workforce—Millennials and Generation Z—are quite different from their predecessors, Baby Boomers and Generation X. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will make up around 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2030, so it’s a generation that can’t be ignored.2
Millennials, who are a digital generation, want to learn at their workplaces. They’re not satisfied with a good salary and a corner office. They want opportunities to take advantage of learning and development while they’re working. Millennials no longer aim for simply achieving a good work-life balance; they want work-life integration. This is backed up by data showing that 75% of millennials only want to work in a place that shares their personal values, 83% of them would take a pay cut for growth opportunities, and nearly half of them would quit their jobs if there weren’t adequate growth opportunities.
With an ever-increasing demand for learning and development in the workplace, it becomes imperative for companies to prioritize it if they want to adapt to the requirements of today’s employees.
Today’s market rewards good customer service and high levels of customer satisfaction. Consumers want to receive the best possible service and they expect businesses to deliver, and to do it impeccably.
This is an area where learning and development can drastically increase the satisfaction of your customer base. According to IBM’s research, the benefits of a skilled employee handling a customer’s request bring a 16% increase in customer satisfaction.3 The results are significant and they affect not only your customer service team, but also your sales, marketing, and PR teams.
Using L&D to help your teams treat your customers better is a good return on investment. And the best thing about it is that you don’t need to invest hundreds of hours to see results.
When preparing for an upcoming project, teams that receive around 40 hours of training per team member hit their goals and objectives three times as often as teams that receive fewer than 30 hours of training, according to the same report by IBM. So it pays to invest in improving customer satisfaction.
Learning and development isn’t only used to improve employees’ skills: it’s also used to ensure that employees don’t create unnecessary risk to the company. This means you can use L&D to prevent problems and mitigate risk.
One of the ways to do this is through compliance training. Employees should go through compliance training to learn the safety standards of a workplace. This is particularly important when it comes to industries such as construction, mining, and healthcare.
Employees should also receive ethics training as part of their learning and development, especially when they reach manager levels. One of the ways you can assess your employees’ preparedness to deal with complex ethical issues in the workplace is by asking them to take a Business Ethics & Compliance test.
Based on the results, you can prepare a training program that addresses weaknesses. This will reduce the chance of having an ethical breach in the company, and employees will be able to better understand and apply the ethical standards of your organization.
It is also a good idea for employees to take further training courses, such as:
Diversity and inclusion training. Employees need to respect differences and be aware of their own prejudices and cognitive biases, in order to minimize their effect in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion training will help you to create a diverse, inclusive, and supportive environment.
Communication training. Staff should learn how to communicate their ideas both internally, to other team members, and externally, to customers and partners. Externally, they can better deal with customers and provide a great customer experience. Internally, they will learn how to present their ideas to their team members, peers, and managers.
Bias training, f.e. implicit bias training. This is especially important for hiring managers and recruiters. HR professionals need to be aware of all the different (unconscious) biases that can affect their judgment and the decision-making process: halo effect, confirmation bias, gender bias, racial bias, anchor, and contrast bias.
Learning and development helps you to mitigate risk in the workplace and provide additional training whenever your employees need it.
Training employees to perform better starts with one fundamental question: should the company invest in its learning and development program to help address the weaknesses of the employees, or to double down on their strengths instead?
A successful L&D program focuses on deepening and building on the skills employees already have. According to a Gallup study quoted in Harvard Business Review, in which nearly 50,000 business units and 1.2 million employees were studied, the gains of focusing on further developing the strengths of employees resulted in:
An increase in sales of up to 19%
Profit increases from 14-29%
Increased customer engagement of 15%
9-15% increases in employee engagement
More than 50% decrease in safety incidents
Decreased turnover by 16 points in low-turnover organizations and up to 72 points in high turnover organizations
Investing in employees and equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and attitude to do their job proved to increase the bottom line in all of the aforementioned categories. So companies will need to start investing heavily in learning and development to improve the skill sets and strengths of their employees, if they want to be more profitable.
If we take a conservative estimate of turnover costs at $15,000 per employee, the total yearly cost of turnover in the U.S. would be around $617 billion. According to a 2018 Employee Retention Report by the Work Institute, around 77% of employees voluntarily leave their work. This happens mainly for better career development opportunities or work-life balance, or because of manager behavior.
This preventable turnover can be addressed by companies proactively, and it would result in saving more than $400 billion a year in the U.S. alone.
Retaining employees is always more cost-effective than hiring and onboarding new employees. And with L&D, you can keep your employees in your company. According to the 2019 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay with a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
L&D isn’t only good for training employees and improving the bottom line—it’s also great for increasing retention and keeping your employees happy and satisfied. So invest in L&D for your employees and they will stay in your company, developing a trusting relationship with their managers and employers.
One of the core responsibilities of learning and development is to train, educate, and develop the employees of the company so they can perform their current tasks and to prepare them for future challenges in the workplace.
This strategic role covers six different areas where companies need to implement L&D.
In the past, learning and development was used only for increasing productivity, but today, it’s used for multiple purposes. One of these is attracting and retaining talent.
Mindvalley, a company based in Malaysia, has an interesting way of attracting talent. They have a “learning Friday”, which is one day in a month (usually a Friday) when employees in the company don’t work and instead spend the entire working day learning a new skill or reading a book. Later, employees can choose to present the new knowledge or skills they acquired in the process, so that everyone can benefit from them.
This attracts new employees to the company, because they see there are growth opportunities for them. And that leads us to the second part—retaining talent.
It’s not just any type of growth that motivates employees to stay. The growth needs to be a convergence of professional and personal goals or, in other words, the employees need to see a personal benefit in learning a new skill to perform better at work.
The best companies have already realized that this can be a win-win scenario, so they started co-creating goals for their teams in co-operation with their employees. It’s no longer a top-down initiative; it’s now a bottom-up initiative, where employees contribute to setting goals alongside their managers. So if your company wants to retain talent, you will need to invest in your employees’ growth and co-create the path together.
One of the essential ways to motivate and engage employees in your company is to give them not only the opportunity to embark on learning and development, but also the opportunity to implement the things they’ve learned.
Lifelong learning helps employees in almost every facet of their life:
It’s good for employees’ earning potential and lifetime earnings
It expands employees’ horizons and perspectives and minimizes bias
Employees reach a flow state more easily
When you have employees who are highly engaged and you provide them with challenges where they need to use their skills, they will be more likely to become energized by those challenges and reach a flow state. They will also feel a higher degree of satisfaction with their current organization.
A major role of learning and development is building your employer brand. The current marketplace conditions require companies not only to invest in creating and implementing a comprehensive L&D strategy, but also to market it as an essential part of their brand image.
Some companies do this by having a robust CSR (corporate social responsibility) program that enables employees to invest their time in volunteering for different organizations and provide their skills instead of funds. Companies that are good examples of this are Sony, Lego, Rolex, and Bosch.
Other organizations focus heavily on career development opportunities inside the company and provide a clear path for new employees on how to reach the management level. This attracts employees who are ambitious and want to reach the top of the company and lead it. Companies that are good examples of this are Berkshire Hathaway, HP, Blizzard Entertainment, Whole Foods Market, and Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
Building an employer brand on your learning and development doesn’t stop with these two broad categories. Some companies offer training courses, online and offline, as well as tuition reimbursements, work-related conferences and seminars, leadership programs, career coaching and mentoring, communication and presentation skills courses, and so on.
There’s a plethora of ways you can build your company’s brand with L&D.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, most workplaces adapted either fully remote work or some sort of hybrid work. But whichever the case, workplace communities are becoming more physically distant with remote work, and companies need to invest in other ways to keep their community connected, besides physical proximity.
One of the ways to do this is by creating a value-based culture in your workplace. This can be heavily emphasized by learning and development, where the type of L&D is aligned with the cultural values of the employees and of the organization itself.
So if there’s a joint effort in the workplace to be socially responsible by helping to build a school in an impoverished part of the world, like Pencils of Promise, that can serve as a glue that binds the community together over a joint value—creating a better world through education, in this case.
It doesn’t have to be education—a couple of years ago, the United Nations launched the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) project, where 17 key development goals are defined.
As a company, you can pick one of the 17 goals from these SDGs and get your team to commit to one of them: or, even better, let your team define the goals they’d like to stand behind. Some of the most popular SDGs to work on are:
Responsible consumption and production
Life below water
Your company can use any of these as the focus of a learning and development project that will help to create a value-based culture and improve team cohesion and engagement.
With the half-life of skills constantly shortening, it’s imperative that companies continue to invest in their human capital through learning and development. The value of specific skills learned today declines over time and it always needs to be reinforced by new knowledge and skills in the field.
Organizations that recognize this continuous need for development are seeing impressive returns on investment. Research carried out by McKinsey and Group in 2021 showed that companies that invested in leadership, and became top quartile in it, significantly outperformed other organizations in terms of their EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). And companies that invest in their leadership during transition periods are twice as likely to hit their goals.
Learning and development isn’t only about learning hard skills: it’s also about learning how to lead people, especially during uncertain economic times such as those we are living in.
The last strategic role of learning and development concerns individual self-actualization. As a company, you need to plan for the long-term when it comes to your employees, and one of the best ways you can do that is through the lens of individual self-actualization.
Abraham Maslow presented the pyramid of needs, which has five levels:
Physiological needs, such as water, food, and air to breathe
Safety needs, such as security (personal and professional) and shelter
These two constitute the basic needs.
Belonging and love needs, such as relationships, friends, and community
Self-esteem needs, such as career success, prestige, and feelings of accomplishment
These two constitute the individual’s psychological needs.
Self-actualization needs, such as achieving one’s full potential, creative fulfillment, and mastery over a domain or skill
This is a self-fulfillment need.
What Maslow was talking about is the fourth and fifth levels of his pyramid. If employees have a livable wage, their focus slowly starts shifting to internal instead of external metrics.
Dan Pink, in his book Drive, noted that when money is off the table, people start to focus on things such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. All of these are level-five needs that each individual wants to fulfill, so people will seek a work environment where they can do so.
From a company perspective, this doesn’t seem effective in the short term. But in the long-term, if you help an individual reach self-actualization, this can help them become more productive and motivated, and a more loyal employee. As a result, they can provide immense value to the organization. So a learning and development program that could help individuals achieve self-actualization would be a strategic move from the company’s side.
The old type of learning and development was project-based: you would hold in-person training to increase knowledge about a certain area and that would be it.
Today, L&D is an ongoing process that is being implemented on a daily basis. Companies can no longer afford to wait until their employees’ skills are obsolete before refreshing them. Increasingly, learning and development is becoming a part of organizations’ daily operations. Let’s see how.
Employees from the Baby Boomer generation are retiring and employees from the newer generations will have to take on the mantle.
This requires a massive transfer of knowledge from the older to the newer generations to provide the right conditions for continuous growth. But simply transferring knowledge, skills, attitude, and wisdom from one generation to another is not an easy task.
First of all, the human resource department will have to plan for the succession of these positions ahead of time and prepare a transition for them. This doesn’t just apply to C-level positions; it applies to every position where you have an experienced person who will be leaving the company soon.
The HR team should anticipate these gaps in the company’s talent pool and plan for them by providing training for employees and preparing them to fill the vacant positions. With this in mind, the company should leverage learning and development to prepare new people for succession and invest in building the skill set needed for the job.
Another problem is having to fill positions that become vacant through the voluntary departures of employees. That’s why companies will always need to have talent retention as one of their core focuses.
The best thing about technology in the workplace is that it enables personalization on a scale. With tech, a company can create a personalized development plan for each individual and scale it as needed. A personalized plan will focus only on the skills that a specific employee needs in order to grow and become more productive.
There are plenty of different ways to use new technologies in your learning and development strategy. For example, you could invest in mobile apps that employees can download on their smartphones and then use to learn new skills.
The old ways of sitting in front of a lecturer for endless hours are replaced by swift, micro-learning processes that only take a couple of minutes to finish. A microlearning process focuses on just one small task from a subset of skills that the person needs to master and it doesn’t take much time. Microlearning is why you can have a daily dose of learning and development for your employees without it feeling like a chore for them.
Learning and development is an integral part of the corporate learning environment when it is in alignment with the business goals of the organization. But it also needs to be a part of the HR team’s plan and agenda. L&D plays an important part in many HR processes, such as performance management, onboarding, talent sourcing, and recruiting.
One area where L&D can help HR staff is performance reviews. Before, managers used to do performance appraisals once a year, but now things have shifted and managers tend to hold multiple one-on-one meetings in a year. Learning and development can help managers by taking the input from these meetings and creating a development plan for individual employees.
When it comes to L&D integration, it’s important to remember the 70:20:10 framework. The framework stands for 70% of learning taking place on the job, 20% through collaboration, and only 10% through formal learning. Some of the methods this framework uses are the following:
coaching and mentoring
instructions during the job
shadowing (especially for transitions and succession planning)
access to online learning programs
All of these methods are good for daily learning. Remember, you need to make learning and development an ongoing process.
We have seen what learning and development is, why it matters in today’s business world, what its benefits are, how you can use it for strategic purposes, and how to make it an ongoing, iterative process.
Now, let’s see how to actually design and implement an L&D program for your company.
Metrics, metrics, metrics—it’s all about metrics. Every learning and development program starts with “the gap”. The gap is the difference between the current state of your employees and the desired state, or the knowledge, skills, and attitude you want your employees to develop through your program.
That’s why measurements are so important. First, you need to identify and quantify the current situation: these will be your point A metrics. Then, you need to identify where you want to take your employees, skill-wise—in other words, your point B metrics. Once you have point A and point B set up, it’s time to create a path from A to B and put “checkpoints” along the way.
Checkpoints are KPIs (key performance indicators) that show you if you’re on the right path. An example would be traveling from New York (point A) to Miami (point B). KPIs along the way would be cities that you have to pass through to get from New York to Miami. So some good ones would be Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and Jacksonville.
The same applies to your L&D metrics. You need to get people from A to B and the results need to be clear and quantifiable metrics that improve business performance. This leads us to execution and scale-up.
Did you know that organizations across the world spent more than $357 billion in 2020 on training their employees?
But the problem is that most of this spending was completely ineffective. According to HBR:
More than 1,000 managers out of 1,500 surveyed weren’t satisfied with the L&D program their company was implementing
Around 70% of employees said that they didn’t master the skills necessary to perform their jobs
Only 12% of employees said that they used the newly acquired skills in their jobs
Only 25% of surveyed people said that they believed that the L&D program improved performance
The problems lie in execution and tracking. First of all, executing learning & development is more than just having a presentation on a certain topic such as business writing, conflict resolution, or presentation skills, and calling it a day. It’s a daily, ongoing process where the HR team needs to follow and measure the improvement and development of the individual continuously.
This leads us to the second problem: tracking.
How is learning and development usually tracked? By a simple yes/no attendance markup. The tracking looks something like this:
Attend a business writing workshop, or
Go through a set of videos on the LMS (learning management system)
This measures only one small part of the learning and development process. For the process to become effective, it needs to be designed differently. And that leads us to designing an effective learning journey.
A proper, effective, and efficient learning journey in L&D should consist of six different stages that the managers need to track. They are the following:
Did not start. This can be marked with a 0 and it stands for not acquiring knowledge or attending the training. So if you have an employee who needs to watch a set of videos or needs to attend a workshop and they still haven’t, they are in this stage.
Newbie. This is marked with a 1 and it stands for acquiring knowledge or attending the training. So once an employee watches the set of videos or attends the workshop, they are in this stage. The problem with most companies is that they stop measuring and tracking progress from this point on—but this is only the first step.
Junior. This can be marked with a 2 and the employee gets it only when they start to implement what they have learned.
Competent. This is marked with a 3 and the employee gets it only when they have a documented process that they can easily follow every single time.
Senior. This is marked with a 4 and the employee gets it only when the documented process starts bringing in the desired results. If the documented process from the earlier step isn’t bringing in the desired results, the employee needs to change the process accordingly. Most companies expect step number 1 to be step number 4.
Master. This is marked with a 5 and it is the stage where the employee wants to and is capable of teaching the acquired skill to others inside the organization. With the documented process, it would be easy for the employee to teach this skill to others and expand the network of people who have acquired it.
Designing the process this way would help companies better track their learning and development processes and see which initiatives bring the desired results and should be continued, and which ones don’t and need to be discontinued.
As we have seen, learning and development consist of many facets that can be used in multiple ways in a business environment. TestGorilla, a pre-employment test and assessment company, can help you predict job success for your employees in many different ways.
TestGorilla specializes in pre-employment tests, which you can use for learning and development. You have two different ways of using the pre-employment tests.
The second way to use the tests is by having your employees take them to see their levels of proficiency in a given field. This can help you to identify potential and see who might be a good fit for a different role or team in the company. You can also use the tests as benchmarks for your L&D process. If employees enrol in your leadership program and you give them a Communication test at the start of their journey, then after three months, you can give them the test again and see the progress they have made in that time.
The reason why TestGorilla’s tests are so good is that they give you the actual data: you get to see the results straight away and you don’t have to guess where your employees stand on a scale. Every test you take in TestGorilla’s library will give you a quantifiable result or a number that you can use to measure progress or compare results between employees or candidates.
TestGorilla’s assessments are created by subject-matter experts in their respective fields. After that, the tests go through a long feedback, iteration and refinement process with other subject-matter and psychometric experts. Companies who decide to use TestGorilla’s tests are sure to get up-to-date, well-designed, and well-thought-out assessments to evaluate the skills of their employees or applicants.
Designing bias-free systems and processes is especially important when it comes to hiring and recruiting. Everyone has biases and when decisions are left to the subjective perception of a single person, there will be biases in play. With TestGorilla, you get bias-free and objective metrics for every one of your candidates.
You can use these for both the recruitment process and internal promotions.
The best thing about TestGorilla’s assessments is that they’re quick to take and scalable. This means that you have a way to test your candidates on a scale: both applicants who want to join your company and those already working who are applying for a different opportunity internally.
Administering the test is as easy as the click of a button and you can do it for hundreds of applicants with ease. For hiring managers, it helps you to assess the applicants in a fast and scalable way. Instead of going through every single CV and doing hundreds of interviews, you simply give your candidates a test and schedule an interview with those candidates who pass the test. You can even do this with internal promotions.
Get started today with TestGorilla for free and start making better hiring decisions, faster and bias-free.
There are some frequently asked questions when it comes to learning and development that we wanted to answer at the end of this ultimate guide.
There are a number of barriers to learning and development in the workforce. The biggest ones are:
Setup costs and limited resources
Employees lacking skills to manage their own learning
Resistance to change
A culture that doesn’t support learning
“The Old Ways” syndrome, or not being willing to let go of the old ways of learning and embrace the new methods of L&D (“what got you here, won’t get you there”)
A short-term focus when it comes to learning and results
Lack of skills when it comes to those who are leading L&D programs and processes
You will need a learning and development process even if you’re a small business, in order to:
Retain your best employees
Train the next generation of leaders in your company
Since many of your employees are wearing multiple hats at work, focus your learning and development efforts on upskilling and reskilling your employees. This is more cost-effective than hiring a new employee.
Encourage “just-in-time” learning. With just-in-time learning, you won’t clutter your employees with knowledge that they don’t need at the moment. But you will provide them with the knowledge and skills that they need right now to do their jobs.
Consider using free MOOCs (massive open online courses) to skill up your employees for free.
Large organizations need an L&D process for various reasons:
It’s great for talent retention in your company. Remember that most employees leave a company because they see better growth or career opportunities elsewhere.
You stay ahead of the market needs. You already train your employees for the future needs of their job, so your productivity won’t fall with market changes.
You create a leadership pipeline. You can create the next generation of leaders in your company with a good leadership and development process.
The most popular platforms for L&D are: Coursera, Linkedin Learning, Adobe Captivate, Moodle, Udemy, TalentLMS, and Cornerstone Learning. You can also use niche platforms for specific fields and subjects.
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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