What is Learning & Development (L&D)?

employees taking part in an L&D event

Learning and development (L&D), when done right, has been known to improve workplace culture, bridge skills gaps and increase employee retention rates.

But, how? In this article, we'll walk you through the basics of L&D, your role within it as an HR professional and how you can use it to inspire and enhance your team.

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What Is L&D?

L&D stands for learning and development. As one of the main responsibilities of any organisation’s HR department, the purpose of great L&D is to provide employees with the skills and knowledge they need to grow in their roles while helping grow the company, as well.

L&D comes in many shapes and sizes, including online courses, in-person training, and mentorships. In 2021, L&D professionals focused their training programs on three central topics:

  • Upskilling and reskilling

  • Leadership and management

  • Virtual onboarding.

Onboarding, no matter the format, can make or break the employee experience. Here’s how Personio helps.

L&D vs. HR: What’s The Difference?

While HR oversees the general management of employees, L&D plays a more specific role in a company.

Human ResourcesLearning & DevelopmentBoth
General ManagementEmployee GrowthPerformance Management
Employee RelationsSkill DevelopmentSuccession Planning
Policies & ProceduresTraining CoursesOnboarding
Organising PayrollLeadership TrainingChange Management

HR professionals often serve as problem-solvers, with their responsibilities running the gamut from organising payroll, to managing employee relations, to recruiting.

L&D professionals, on the other hand, solely focus on the professional growth and skill development of employees. They focus on training, filling learning gaps, evaluating employees, and creating learning solutions that help employees achieve their best work.

There is some overlap in L&D and HR responsibilities, most commonly in performance management, succession planning, onboarding, assessments, and change management.

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How Does Company Size Affect L&D?

Your L&D team and strategy will depend on the size of your organisation. In smaller organisations, the Chief Operating Officer or Operations Manager may oversee L&D, while larger companies may have an entire L&D department to develop and manage an L&D strategy.

L&D tends to be more formal in larger companies and usually provides more training programs for senior staff members and managers since there are more of them.

In smaller organisations, L&D tends to be more casual, as their teams are more collaborative and tight-knit. For example, they may focus more on social learning (working on a project outside your usual scope of work or with team members in other departments) instead of formalised learning like in-class training.

6 Ways L&D Impacts The Workplace

Learning and development is every organisation’s secret weapon in building the ideal workplace and workforce. Here’s what you can look forward to when you implement a solid L&D strategy:

1. A Positive Workplace Culture

Investing in your employees’ learning and development demonstrates your commitment to their long-term success, which makes them feel more empowered and supported. Plus, it creates a more collaborative and flexible environment; 64% of employees believe learning makes employees more adaptable to change.

Download our complete guide to workplace culture today.

2. Employee And Company Alignment

Today’s workers, especially Gen Z and Millennials, are looking to join companies that enhance the overall wellness of their people, live out their mission statement, and make positive changes in the workplace.

For 25% of UK professionals, working for a company that values them is their top career priority, and 60% of UK professionals see career development as a very important part of a job offer.

3. Longer Employee Retention

Has your company become a revolving door of employees? Is your attrition rate rising or going through the roof? Offering more learning and development opportunities and internal mobility can help quash it.

Companies rated highly on employee training saw 53% lower attrition, while employees at companies that offer internal mobility stay almost two times longer.

Remember: It’s often more cost-effective to train current employees than hire new ones.

4. Increased Engagement And Motivation

Did you know that lifelong learning is connected to overall happiness? Employees are often energised when they can learn something new, move up in the company, or become experts in their role.

To increase employee engagement and motivation, incorporate community-based learning into your L&D strategy; 92% of L&D pros believe this learning style helps foster a sense of belonging in their workplace.

Discover the five key metrics our team uses to track employee engagement.

5. Improved Quality Of Work And Performance

Companies that invest in their employees’ learning are more likely to hit their performance goals, as their teams are more up-to-date on industry information, have stronger skills, and are more confident in their abilities.

Many employees are extremely open to improvement, with 83% of Gen Z workers eager to learn skills that will help them perform better in their current roles.

6. Stronger Brand Reputation

Offering L&D initiatives can position your company as a leader in your field, give you a competitive edge, and improve the brand’s reputation. Invest in your employees, and you’re investing in your business.

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Your L&D programs can only succeed if they are a part of a coherent performance management strategy – learn how to build yours with our comprehensive guide.

L&D 101: Building Your Strategy

With the right L&D strategy, you can encourage employee engagement and collaboration across your organisation.

Here are the essential elements you should include in your L&D strategy:

StepWhat Happens
1. Defined Goals and MetricsOutline the numbers that trigger your program and report on its success.
2. L&D InventoryWhat do you currently have on hand that could feed into an L&D program?
3. Employee AssessmentsIdentify knowledge gaps in employees by comparing role realities to aspirations.
4. Defined Course CurriculumWhat specific information needs to make up a prospective L&D curriculum?
5. A Tailored ProcessMake sure your program fits the unique needs of your employees, as well as your culture.
6. Customized ProgramsBlend your learning program to meet the unique needs of your outcomes.
7. An LMS VendorChoose a Learning Management System (LMS) that meets all of your needs.
8. KPIs And Launch PlansDefine KPIs to track success and also outline an organization-wide launch plan.
9. A Review ScheduleHow often will you take up your program and review it? Define that, too.

As an HR or L&D professional, your role in this process is to lead the charge on analyzing your company’s needs, building out learning solutions, and delivering them to your team simply and effectively.

1. Defined Goals and Metrics

L&D can help bring almost any business strategy to life. What are your organisation’s goals, priorities, and vision? More importantly, how can a learning and development strategy help your team realise them?

To get started, consult with the appropriate leadership team members, key stakeholders, and your talent management strategy to ensure your collective goals and visions are aligned.

It may be best to split responsibilities between the involved leadership team members and the L&D team to guarantee clarity on the project’s budget, timeline, course vendors, course design, and employee needs.

2. L&D Inventory

Review all of the current learning and development materials to determine what you need to improve, rework, add, or remove. Organise by course name, delivery date, course type, course objective, and how success is measured.

3. Employee Assessments

You have big goals for your employees’ learning and development—but are they prepared (and willing) to meet them?

To find out, make a list of required job capabilities for each role in your organisation. Then, assess employees within those roles to see how they match up. You can then design L&D activities that will help bridge those knowledge gaps.

4. Defined Course Curriculum

First, determine what the L&D program has to include to help you reach your established goals.

If your goal is to get all staff confidently using a new software platform for time tracking, what specific information will they need to know? What questions or roadblocks may they encounter? Will different roles or departments require different curriculums?

5. A Tailored Process

What you include in your program may depend on when it’s delivered to the employee. Consider when the employee will receive this training program, how it fits into their employee experience, how it will impact their workload or progression in the company, and how it would affect the onboarding process (if at all).

6. Customised Programs

Most learning and development is based on the 70:20:10 rule, with 70% of training done on the job, 20% through collaboration, and 10% through formal training—but how you design and deliver that training is up to you.

Your program design may include online learning, social learning, ILT (instructor-led training), or a blended learning strategy.

Remember: Most employees want to choose when, how, and what they learn, which is why you should develop a personalised learning journey for each employee.

Give them autonomy in their learning, include gamified elements that keep them motivated, and provide a continual learning experience that spans a longer period of time.

7. An LMS Vendor

Most companies deliver employee training through an LMS (Learning Management System). You’ll want to choose an LMS that works with your budget, schedule, and program requirements.

8. KPIs And Launch Plans

Before you launch your courses, determine which KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you’ll be using to measure success. This could include course completion rates, the number of courses completed, or time spent on each course.

Many LMS vendors automatically analyze and deliver data on course success and completion rates so you can analyze employee progress and update the courses as needed.

Notify employees of their upcoming training, provide sign-up options as needed, and schedule in-person training dates well ahead of time. Be sure to set reminders for training and check in with employees on their progress.

9. A Review Schedule

Your courses and training programs should be continually evolving as your industry, company, and goals change. Consult with leadership to determine how often you should review your L&D programs, whether it be once a year or once a quarter.

As you review, consider the following:

  • Are the L&D initiatives still aligned with your business goals?

  • Are the materials improving employee performance or behavior as desired?

  • Are investments and resources being used effectively?

Get Started: 6 Employee L&D Examples

There are countless ways you can approach learning and development. To yield the best results, you’ll want to consider the type of L&D initiative that best delivers the course materials, speaks to your employees, and helps you reach your goals:

1. Personal Development ProgramsIf you want to provide employees with the autonomy they crave in education, help them create personalized development plans tailored to their goals, role, and learning preferences.
2. Online LearningOnline learning platforms can include everything from reading materials to webinars, videos, audio clips, chatrooms, and more. Gamification elements like quizzes, leaderboards, and rewards help to incentivize learners.
3. On-Demand TrainingOn-demand training, also known as Just-In-Time-Training (JITT), provides employees with immediate training the moment they need it. For example, a short training course on the ins and outs of the product right before a sales call.
4. Mentorship ProgramsBy partnering junior and senior-level employees, you’re providing them with on-the-ground experience and helping to build a stronger community and better workplace culture.
5. Social LearningSocial learning allows employees to rotate through departments to learn new skills and develop a stronger understanding of the business overall.
6. Financial AssistanceProviding tuition assistance or an open L&D development budget for the year. This allows the employee to invest in learning and development courses, programs, or classes that fit their role, goals, or learning style (as approved by HR).

As an HR or L&D professional, you can help employees become the best workers they can be and achieve well beyond their goals. It all starts with a tailored, collaborative approach to your organisation’s L&D strategy.

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