Strategies for stakeholder success in L&D

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In our #WhatsYourTalent story, we introduced you to L&D manager Tom, CEO Elaine and trainer Josh, who is currently on the leadership programme at the fictional company NewWay Training.

In this post, we’ll be looking at one of the biggest challenges faced by L&D departments when trying to gain buy-in from key stakeholders: how exactly do you convince business leaders that your strategy is worth the investment? How can you work more collaboratively with the HR department and line managers to improve talent management and target skills gaps? And how can you successfully get your learners onboard and engaged?

Let’s take a look at how you can work with each of your stakeholders to inform your L&D strategy, maximise results and bring your organisation up to scratch with the top performers.

Buy-in from business leaders

How often do you interact with your business leaders? Does communication with your business leaders inform your strategy throughout? A report by Towards Maturity found that only 31% of L&D managers work upfront with business leaders to identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they want to improve. Yet, organisations with a learning and business strategy aligned to these goals are more than four times as likely to report:

  • Increased revenue
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved staff engagement
  • Improved staff retention

The evidence is clear – collaborating with your leaders actually increases the impact of learning. Why? Because the more people you have all working towards a common vision, the more likely you are to make it a reality.

Let’s return to our example at NewWay Training. L&D Manager Tom is working to identify strengths, measure competence and target areas for improvement to help develop the next generation of leadership in his organisation. He understands the great qualities that need to be nurtured in order to drive the business forward. To do this, he implements a digital strategy to develop leadership talent remotely.

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However, CEO Elaine is somewhat reticent of learning technologies.

To successfully convince business leaders like Elaine means Tom must develop confidence in speaking their language through data storytelling in order to deliver a robust and compelling case.

Part of the problem is an enduring perception amongst employees that L&D is an entirely separate silo within the business. Tom understands that he must communicate to business leaders how learning activity has a direct impact on business outcomes.

These are the stakeholders who will ask: ‘What’s in it for the business? What’s the return on investment?’

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Support from line managers

Line managers translate policies into day-to-day practices and are the familiar faces your staff will associate with people management and work allocation. It’s line managers who play a key part in the learning transfer process and help learners create behavioural change post-learning.

Yet, according to results from the 2017 Learning Transfer Research: Insights for Impact report, it was revealed that a worrying 46% of respondents admitted that their line managers were not significantly involved in the learning process. What’s more, only 22% of line managers facilitated conversations both before and after the learning intervention.

Tom knows that to get the most out of line managers at NewWay, this needs to change. He needs to find ways to unlock their potential in order to foster a thriving culture of learning. After all, these are the people who bridge the gap between the strategy and the day-to-day work of the employees they manage.

In the same way that Tom must prove the value of L&D to Elaine and other business leaders, so too must he communicate to line managers how learning activity has a direct impact on day-to-day work and overall business outcomes.

Tom considers three key actions to foster learnability in the workplace:

  1. Select – Focusing on employees who demonstrate great learnability and a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Nurture – Encouraging positive learning behaviour through leading by example.
  3. Reward – Giving colleagues recognition for demonstrating keen learnability to encourage positive habits.

As role models, line managers should constantly be demonstrating the importance of learning through daily work and championing self-development. Tom encourages line managers to take responsibility for and manage their own development and provides them with coaching on how to support their staff in a similar manner.

By selecting for, nurturing and rewarding continuous learning, it will gradually become an integral part of workplace culture.

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HR and talent management

We’ve previously explored how, as business leaders become increasingly focused on performance and capability outcomes, it’s becoming more crucial than ever that HR and L&D work together to deliver a greater return on investment (ROI) for training and development in their organisation. Yet there can often be confusion and a lack of cohesion between departments when working in a siloed manner.

Let’s go back to our example at NewWay Training. Meet Aneisha, HR Manager for the organisation. Aneisha is responsible for acquiring, developing and retaining talent at NewWay amongst other responsibilities.

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L&D Manager Tom, on the other hand, is responsible for improving performance and equipping people with the required skills for the leadership programme he is developing. Rather than deal with talent separately, Aneisha and Tom decide to work collaboratively to improve talent management and target skills gaps in order to drive business results.

Tom schedules regular communications between both the HR and L&D departments and ensures that both accept shared responsibility for performance and talent management. Aware that no two learners have the same strengths and weaknesses, Aneisha is Tom’s ally for identifying any skills gaps and identifying the relevant training.

Together, they work to build talent by delivering the right learning, at the right time, to start building a fully-equipped and high-performing workforce with exemplary leadership.

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Getting to know learners

Understanding and working with learners is key to designing a strategy that’s both engaging and relevant – especially as these are the people who will be experiencing the learning first-hand. What do today’s learners really expect from the learning offering? How will upskilling or reskilling help make their jobs easier day-to-day and help them move forward in achieving their career goals?

To begin, Tom must really get to know his learners.

To do this, he conducts some research. He asks employees what it is that they like about current leadership training and what they would like to see improved. He conducts surveys, interviews, focus group discussions and even has an informal chat with people such as Josh, the trainer who is currently on the leadership development programme.

After identifying the main ‘pain points’, Tom is equipped to resolve them by making the necessary changes to his strategy.

In the top-performing organisations, 88% of L&D say the objectives and aims of learning are discussed with individuals before they start learning. With this in mind, Tom outlines the benefits and objectives at the start of the leadership course then asks learners to identify how they can apply the learning in their role. Adding scenarios and real-life success stories allow employees to see how their learning – and, ultimately, their roles – will directly affect the success of the organisation as a whole.

Staff who feel that they are being recognised for the work they do and understand the relevance of training are far more motivated to perform.

In summary...

For talent management to be a success, it’s time to go beyond your department and speak the language of your stakeholders.

Working towards organisational goals is a team effort. In order to drive the business forward and equip your workforce with the skills it needs, stakeholder collaboration is a critical key to success.

-- - Part 1: #WhatsYourTalent: Why talent management matters in 2020 - Part 2: What does talent look like to you? - Part 3: Using learning technologies to support talent management - Part 4: Strategies for stakeholder success in L&D - Part 5: 5 ways to use marketing to boost your talent strategy

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