Building a Successful Learning & Development Program Starts with Recruiting

Talent has been top of mind this year. And that’s not because I work at a recruiting services firm. Finding the right talent is a big challenge for companies of all sizes and locations. It’s not enough to offer a good brand, high salary, and comprehensive benefits to attract and retain great talent. Employees, especially millennial employees, want more.

Glassdoor’s 2017 recruiting survey shows that for millennials, the “ability to learn and progress” is the main factor in their decision to choose an employer. So, how are companies addressing this employee expectation? What are they offering for learning and development?

In Argosight’s October survey: Employee Learning and Development, we asked members of our HRTM community about learning and development in their respective organizations. We wanted to know:

·      What do they offer for employee learning and development?

·      How is learning content delivered or consumed by employees?

·      How often do they refresh their content?

·      How engaged are employees with the learning content, and how satisfied are they with what’s available?

Responses from 100+ participants allude to a clear dichotomy in the learning space (i.e employee vs. employer, fixed mindset vs. growth mindset, fixed learning vs. continuous learning, etc.). More importantly, the survey indicated that the central challenge to creating a robust and effective employee learning program is:

Aligning employee development to learning content and tying learning to measurable business results.

In an ideal world, employers would offer a wide range of fresh content on an open and mobile platform. Employees, in turn, would constantly engage with that content to improve their skills and increase their productivity. This improvement in productivity would then lead companies to grow their revenues and their businesses. Unfortunately, the real world is less than ideal.

Building a learning and development program presents many challenges for employers. Some of those challenges are highlighted in LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning Report. The usual suspects include: limited budget, small L&D team, demonstrating ROI, getting executive buy-in, engaging employees in the content, and aligning L&D to the company’s overall strategy. This list of challenges is similar to the list of challenges that other projects (i.e. technology, analytics, etc.) face. However, what’s missing from the list–and I would argue a critical component to the success of any learning program—is:

Finding talent that values learning the same way the hiring organization does.

A key finding in our L&D survey is that there’s a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to learning. While employees desire continuous skill development and access to a variety of new content, many employers are still offering traditional online course catalogues and fixed training. In fact, over 90% of respondents in our survey cite online course catalogues and in classroom workshops as the main offerings for learning in their organizations. On the other hand, while employers invest money to create learning materials for their employees, only about 40% of employees frequently utilize these learning platforms. The low percentage comes as no surprise seeing as how less than 4% of employees are very satisfied with the content and delivery of their company’s learning programs. This disconnect begs the question: why?

If companies offer dynamic learning content and deliver that content in a flexible and mobile manner, would the majority, if not all employees, access learning on a frequent basis? Although it would be great to answer yes to this question, the opposite is probably more true. This is because content and access only get you 2/3 of the way there. The last 1/3, and arguably the most important, is the employee’s desire to learn. If the employee is not interested in growing their knowledge, whether it relates to the current job or a potential job in the future, then the availability of learning content is moot. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

As technology advances and increases the quality of content and improves access to continuous learning, I encourage employers to think about the types of talent they need to hire. Specifically, what kind of learning mindset does an employee in a particular role need to be successful in my organization?

For example, if your organization’s growth is dependent on employees refreshing certain skills continuously, then you should hire people who understand the importance of staying current with their skills and want to keep learning to stay ahead (people with a growth mindset). Aligning potential employees’ learning mindsets to the learning mindset of the company is the first step in ensuring that employees will utilize learning content. The next step would be to create a learning and development program that will build and strengthen the skills needed for success.

With the talent market being as competitive as it is, and with learning and development opportunities being an important lever in the hiring process, companies should take more time to reflect on the kind of learners they want or need to hire in order to grow their business and use that as a starting point to develop their learning programs.