Using Learning and Development to Strategically Grow Your Workforce
By Ally Smit
It’s hard to ignore the benefits that arise when creating an effective learning and development (L&D) plan for your employees. Employers who have leapt at the opportunity to provide their organization with richer learning opportunities have seen increases in job satisfaction and morale, efficiencies in business processes, and capacity for employees to adopt new tasks (ManagementHelp.org). In addition, employers who strategically support the advancement of their employees through L&D gain a reputation as a supportive employer, enticing more candidates to the organization.
L&D plans also impact retention rates. Offering opportunities for career development can entice your top performers to stay and advance within your company, whereas a lack of career development opportunities may drive your talent elsewhere. According to the 2018 Linkedin Workplace Learning Report, 95% of employees stated they would stay at a company longer if the company invested in their career development. On the other end, Global Talent Monitor’s report on workforce activity found that 40% of departing employees identified the lack of career development as a dissatisfying factor in their employment.
The Management Mistake – Under-assessing your Workforce
Employees are often overlooked for senior opportunities within an organization because they do not have the required education or experience to meet the essential qualifications, even though they do possess significant, valuable knowledge about the organization and culture. Unfortunately, what management fails to consider is whether an internal employee could fill an opportunity within the company when provided with the appropriate training and experience.
By hiring an internal candidate, management can benefit from lower recruitment costs, lower risk, and reduced time to fill (FitSmallBusiness.com). Hiring or promoting from within does not require a lengthy and expensive recruitment campaign. Further, management is already aware of the employee’s current abilities and experiences, and it takes less time for an internal employee to understand the organization and role compared to an external applicant.
As an employer, it is important to consider how your employees may move within your organization over time and what internal opportunities they may wish to pursue. When combining L&D plans with workforce planning, employers can provide employees with the right tools and training needed to fill management gaps before they exist. Below are some strategies and examples when using L&D to strategically build your workforce.
- Assess Current Abilities and Potential Interests
What tasks can your employees perform, and what projects are they interested in working on? An important first step in any L&D plan is to sit down with an employee and identify their current abilities and potential interests. Gain a stronger understanding of what tasks they currently complete within their current role, what projects they’ve worked on in the past, and any additional training or education they have received. Aim to identify how they wish to grow their careers, and what type of roles they see themselves in within the organization. Consider the article “Conducting Effective Career Discussions with Employees” for ideas on how to conduct this conversation.
To demonstrate, let’s imagine Megan, who has worked as a Marketing Coordinator for your organization for two years. Megan has been an exceptional employee and demonstrates an eagerness to learn and advance her knowledge of marketing practices. You decide to sit down with her to get a better idea of her experiences and interests in career development. You ask her what projects she’s worked on, and what her short- and long-term career aspirations are. She describes the projects she’s worked on and her goal of becoming a Marketing Manager.
- Discover the Missing Pieces
Once you have gained a better idea of your employee’s abilities and career goals, consider what jobs within the company may meet the employee’s career goals and whether they are missing any required skills to allow them to succeed in these roles. One way to do this is by comparing an employee’s resume against a job description for a given role. Through comparison, you may identify skills and experiences essential to the role that the employee does not have. From there, you can begin to assess what opportunities you could provide your employee with to help fill these missing gaps.
When comparing Megan’s resume against the job description for the Marketing Manager, you may identify that although she has significant knowledge in marketing processes and procedures, she is lacking the leadership experience that would allow her to succeed. You realize that in order to help Megan reach her career goals, you will need to strategize ways in which she can gain the required leadership experience.
- Identify Learning and Development Paths
L&D paths provide employees with a structured and clear idea of what learning opportunities they may need to experience in order to meet their professional goals within the organization. A study from Robert Half Finance & Accounting identified that most employees want to discuss their career paths, however, 40% felt they did not have the opportunity to have these in-depth career discussions with their managers. As an employer, it’s important not only to discuss career goals with an employee, but to also demonstrate your support in helping them meet their goals through L&D paths. Consider the article “Using Assessments to Develop Employee Learning Paths” to learn more about L&D paths and the benefits they offer to your organization.
Megan required leadership experience before she could progress into a Marketing Manager role, and you decide to research different paths that she could take to gain this experience. Different path options include an online leadership course, participation in a mentorship program with senior staff, and/or shadowing a manager in a similar department. Every option offers a different path that Megan could take and allows her to decide which L&D path works best for her.
It’s the responsibility of your employees to tell you what their career goals are, and how they wish to progress within the company. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to listen to the employee’s career goals and strategize how you can help them achieve their goals in a way that’s effective for the organization. As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to ignore the benefits that arise when creating an effective L&D plan for your employees, such as reducing potential recruitment costs, increasing retention rates, and attracting new talent. If you are interested in strategically growing your workforce, investing time into L&D plans is an important place to start.