Learning and development (sometimes called training and development, human resource development or other similar terms), encompasses a range of on-the-job and off-the-job methods for acquiring necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours.
There are many reasons why an organisation should invest in learning and development. Some of these include:
- Improving business performance, productivity and efficiency
- improving employees’ skills and knowledge for their current job role
- Increasing employees’ generic skills, for example, employability skills or key competencies
- compliance with legal requirements
- organisational development, for example, workplace attitudes and values, change management…
- talent management and succession planning
When planning or organising training refer to the relevant learning and development strategy and policies. These should focus on meeting the business objectives and reflect the organisation’s mission, values and culture.
Capability needs analysis
Organisations should ensure that appropriate analyses are undertaken to identify the learning and development needs of the organisation. Before planning any training, it is important to conduct a capability needs analysis (sometimes called a training needs analysis), to determine the methods and desired outcome, aims and objectives of the training.
To consider when choosing a method of learning and development
People are considered to have different ways of learning. Consider these different learning types when developing learning and development in the workplace.
- Linguistic (language based)
- Logical / mathematical
- Visual / spatial
- Musical / auditory
- Interpersonal (social)
- Intrapersonal (solitary)
For more information on learning types, research Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
When organising learning and development make sure to address any barriers that people may have. For example, language needs, learning needs, and sensory abilities. You may need to undertake a language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) analysis prior to developing the activities. This could be a simple questionnaire given to staff prior to learning.
Common learning and development delivery methods
Face to face presentation-based learning
The face-to-face approach largely aims to train using classroom-based presentations and interactions.
can deliver to groups
knowledge based (e.g., how to do something or knowledge underlying workplace tasks)
can be made interactive through questions and discussions and use of technology
can address language needs by including subtitles or using an interpreter (including an Auslan interpreter).
- Not everybody will be able to recall and apply the learning to the workplace
- as it is a common delivery method it is also overused, leading to lower learner engagement
- may need equipment hire.
Online learning / e-learning
This method of training uses online tools such as webpages, interactive scenarios, online quizzes and pre-recorded online webinars or live sessions. The training is usually computer-based.
- Can be cost effective
- access from anywhere with a computer and internet connection
- may be used as ‘refresher’ training (to re-learn information that may have been forgotten)
- can be self-paced, allowing learners to access the materials at their own learning pace
- can be automated with reminders for training
- training can be easily tracked
- good for mass-learning, e.g., compliance-based knowledge learning such as WHS and EEO.
- Learners may try to rush through the content and complete tasks without learning the materials
- some people may find it difficult to engage and commit unless without social interactions
- doesn’t accommodate people without computers, internet connections or who are not confident on a computer.
Hands-on / practical learning
Practical learning is learning by doing rather than learning knowledge. This usually involves performing the task and getting feedback. This is usually on the job training, mentoring, coaching and similar training types.
- Accommodates for a wider variety of learning styles and needs
- can set up a space to use role plays or simulations where the real event rarely occurs
- learners can practice key skills with advice and guidance
- can reduce safety risk for high-risk tasks e.g., driving training, medical training,
- Can be costly if using specialist trainers or training organisations
- if using in-house coaches or mentors they need to be competent in their job and able to provide a good example to the learner.
Professional bodies, networking, conventions and other events
Attending events or belonging to professional associations provides employees with opportunities to expand their industry knowledge and awareness, keep up to date with changes and trends and connect with other employees from similar businesses. Networking and events can help gain a greater perspective of industry trends and the latest ideas. Employees may bring new ideas back to the business and have a greater sense of motivation and commitment.
Organisations may offer membership of professional associations, societies or groups that have a particular focus on the industry or jobs of the employees. (e.g., an AHRI membership for HR staff, a CPA membership for accounting staff, or a Law Institute of Victoria for legal staff).
Employers should keep a record of membership and training that occurs outside of the workplace. This may contribute to professional development,
Evaluating learning and development
When organising learning activities, it is important to evaluate the return on investment, how this contributes to the ‘bottom line’ and improved workplace performance.
Evaluation activities aim to answer the following questions:
- Was the goal/s of the training achieved?\
- Was the effort of all parties concerned worthwhile?
- What did not work in the training / what needs to be changed for next time?
- Was the budget adhered to / adequate…?
Model of Evaluation
A commonly used model of evaluation was proposed by Kirkpatrick in 1959. This comprises four levels of learning evaluation. Many modern learning evaluations still follow these four levels.
1. Participant reaction. The degree to which participants find the training favourable, engaging and relevant to their jobs
- How did trainees feel, think and react to the training process?
- Did they find it useful?
- What was done well?
- What needs improvement?
2. Acquired learning. The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation in the training.
- tests and examinations (pre and post training tests to measure the effects of training)
- self-assessment (forms, questionnaires, interviews)
- observation of trainers / assessors
- other assessments.
3. Applying learning (behaviour). The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
- performance appraisal
- manager/superior observation
- re-assessment of original deficiencies
- work samples
- critical incidents.
4. Overall results. The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training, support and accountability package.
- level of output and time taken compared with pre-training levels
- customer complaint levels
- incidents and accident numbers following training
- quality of output
- absenteeism rates
- financial data (e.g., overhead costs)
- engagement survey results.
When to Evaluate Learning and Development Activities
Evaluation of learning and development activities should be conducted at more than one point in time. Evaluation timing depends on the type of learning activity, resources and desired outcomes.
- Prior to activity. Establishing the need for the learning activity helps to set the current workplace benchmark to then evaluate the outcomes against.
- Time of activity. End of study assessments and reactions to the learning are best evaluated at the time of the activity or shortly after the activity.
- After activity and ongoing. Medium to long term evaluation should be undertaken at regular intervals following the activity. This will help give an indication of the quality of knowledge acquisition and/or behaviour and skills. These can be compared against the benchmark made prior to the activity.
Who Should Evaluate Learning and Development Activities?
The responsibility for evaluating learning and development activities generally falls to four key stakeholders:
- Evaluation by self-reflection and reactions to learning and development activities.
- Trainers/assessor/facilitators. Assessing learning by rating employee performance during learning and development activities. Marking graded assessments.
- Assessing behavioural change via a range of evaluation techniques, frequently observation.
- HR department. Assessing organisational results via a range of evaluation techniques.
At the end of evaluation activities, an evaluation report should be prepared. The way this report is prepared, and the contents will depend on the audience being addressed in the report (e.g., senior management team, accounts department, internal HR report, a report for the external training provider etc.).
The report generally covers:
- Specifics of training (dates, location, external/internal etc.)
- goals and objectives of the training, including the identified needs
- results of the training (evaluation summaries)
- any recommendations resulting from the training.
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Updated February 2022