Do Your Learning & Development Programs Work?

Follow these six steps to make sure employees are actually learning skills that will benefit your business.

Written by Mark Onisk
Published on Apr. 03, 2024
Do Your Learning & Development Programs Work?
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The evolving work landscape demands that organizations and leaders be as agile as the technology influencing this change. These agile leaders are hard to find: ManpowerGroup estimates that 75 percent of global organizations struggle to fill key roles. Effective learning and development (L&D) programs can help an organization stay ahead of the competition or cause it to fall behind.

7 Signs Your Learning & Development Program Needs a Tune-up

  1. It isn’t connected to your business goals. 
  2. You don’t know how the learning program integrates with your enterprise skilling strategy.
  3. Employees don’t see how these programs will help them in their careers.
  4. Employees don’t engage with the program.
  5. You can’t tell if the skills that employees are learning benefit the business.
  6. Employees don’t participate in the program. 
  7. The program is optional for employees when it should be mandatory.

When applied correctly, L&D programs dramatically affect the organization, from individual employees to overarching business objectives. Nearly six in 10 respondents recognize that training opportunities significantly enhance their overall job performance, according to a recent SurveyMonkey study. Organizations that nurture talent through robust L&D initiatives see an 11 percent increase in profitability and are twice as likely to retain top talent, according to Gallup research.

In the last year alone, I’ve seen organizations revamp their programs to capitalize on the opportunities presented by AI and emerging technologies. Technology skills aren’t the only focus for leaders; power skills like communication and emotional intelligence are essential for L&D programs as they drive team engagement, inspire trust and build resilient organizations. 

Drawing from my tenured career in the learning space, here are six ways to make sure your L&D programs work.

More on Employee DevelopmentHere’s Why Employers Should Pay for Employees’ Upskilling


Establish Clear Objectives

A successful L&D program defines clear objectives from the very beginning. An easy way to remember this is to think of objectives as SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. These objectives should tie into the broader goals of the organization. Companies that adequately set objectives when developing L&D programs are more likely to report significantly higher income per employee than those with disjointed programs.

Objectives will vary and depend on organizational goals and the existing skill gaps across that specific workforce. Examples of clear objectives include:

  • Leadership development. Cultivate a specified percentage of talent in power skills to prepare learners for managerial roles within a defined timeframe.
  • Compliance training. Attain a designated percentage of compliance training completion across all departments to ensure adherence to industry regulations and mitigate risk.
  • Technology adoption. Facilitate the seamless assimilation of new technology before a merger and acquisition to ensure a smooth onboarding and transition phase.


Assess Knowledge Retention 

Participant engagement and knowledge retention are critical for successful L&D programs. Monitoring metrics such as attendance, course completion and active participation form the bedrock. Build on that foundation by using pre- and post-training assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of an L&D program. These assessments serve as a litmus test for the knowledge retained by employees, offering a tangible gauge of the program’s impact. Employing interactive and responsive assessments significantly enhances knowledge retention, potentially boosting it by up to 75 percent.

It’s important not just to deliver content but to ensure it sticks. Therefore, analyze the data from assessments to refine programs continuously. It’s about what learners click through and what they carry forward.


Analyze Performance Metrics

An L&D program based on a “set and forget” mentality will fail. The objectives set at the beginning of a program may not be the same when it’s complete; they must continue to be reviewed and tailored based on performances and the shifting landscape. 

Take, for example, a program designed to enhance sales proficiency. By scrutinizing sales figures before and after training, organizational leaders can discern the direct impact of the L&D program. In this case, a successful program will lead to an uptick in sales and a workforce that acknowledges and applies this newfound learning on a continued basis. Learners must not only complete courses; they must also demonstrate improved capability in their roles.


Get Constant Feedback

By actively seeking participant insights through surveys, interviews and informal check-ins, leaders can tap into learners’ firsthand experiences and fortify the program. While leaders may have a goal in mind, the learner’s opinion of the program’s relevance and delivery effectiveness serve as guiding beacons, helping to define and refine the offerings.

Gathering feedback is the initial step; it must be acted upon. Learners’ suggestions for improvement fuel program iterations, ensuring they evolve along with the needs of those they are designed for. This process is essential to the program’s continuous improvement and its success.


Compare Results With Benchmarks

A workforce’s needs evolve rapidly. A robust L&D program mirrors that evolution by setting clear benchmarks and industry-specific performance standards that align with these shifting demands. Benchmarks allow leaders to measure program effectiveness against defined criteria, ensuring learning experiences are relevant and transformative.

Benchmarking fosters a culture of continual improvement. When employees surpass benchmarks, it is evidence of a workforce in transformation, contributing to both personal and organizational advancement.

Related ReadingWhat Is Continuous Learning and Why Is It Important?

Keep Making Improvements

An effective L&D program is dynamic and powered by iteration and improvement. Continuous refinement, guided by robust data and feedback, ensures the program’s alignment with shifting workforce needs and industry standards. 

This commitment to evolution equips professionals with the skills to excel in a constantly changing business landscape. This cycle of perpetual advancement maintains the program’s relevance and efficacy, ultimately driving organizational success and individual career growth.

The World Economic Forum reports that 44 percent of workers’ core skills will be disrupted as technology and needs change. Organizations and leaders must respond by bridging this skills gap. 

Leaders will be successful if their L&D program fosters a culture that values continuous learning. Invest in personalized learning paths that cater to individual growth, encourage proactive skill acquisition and measure progress. Make sure the program changes in response to feedback, industry trends and its capacity to prepare professionals for the future. These elements form an L&D program that propels individuals and organizations forward and becomes a strategic asset for an ever-evolving professional landscape.

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