Promote learning and development initiatives through line management in the first instance and make professional development a visible component of the performance management process.
If you have the means at your disposal, also consider using the organisation's intranet to promote learning and development by:
- Having a dedicated learning and development portal
- Publicising the successes and achievements of staff members in the area of learning and development. For organisations without such systems, an office notice board, or even a rewards scheme for those employees who achieved the highest results in a training course are good initiatives to boost staff buy-in.
Make sure training needs analyses are undertaken. These analyses should include
- Analysis of position descriptions and person specifications
- Consideration of the alignment of learning and development initiatives with the organisation's strategic and operational objectives
- Evaluation of learning and development activities to ensure transfer of learning back into the workplace
- Asking staff for feedback regarding training needs.
HR Managers should take the following approaches when dealing with this issue:
- Reinforce the link between learning and development and achievement of the organisation's strategic and operational objectives
- Endeavor to promote learning and development as an important recruitment and retention tool that will help the organisation secure and retain highly skilled and knowledgeable employees
- Outline the tangible benefits of learning and development to managers, e.g. acquisition of current industry knowledge and skills, the appeal of highly skilled and knowledgeable employees to customers and clients
- Also try to show managers how learning and development can assist in turning around poor performance in staff members.
Some options to combat poor attendance include:
- Communicate the benefits of learning and development
- Strengthen the links between attendance and the performance appraisal process
- Explicitly acknowledge attendee completion of learning and development programs
- Assess the relevance and currency and learning and development activities to ensure they meet the needs of staff members
- Encourage line managers to reinforce the importance of learning and development programs in building skills and knowledge.
In some instances where it is believed that non-attendance is a means of "getting out of work" it may be appropriate to include this behaviour as a form of unauthorised absence from work and could be referred to the unsatisfactory workplace performance policy and procedure for resolution.
The learning and development policy should clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each party in terms of all processes and procedures associated with learning and development activities of the organisation.
Human resource employees are pivotal in creating the learning and development framework for the organisation, and managing the learning and development function across the organisation. Line managers access and use the framework and its structures to identify appropriate learning and development for themselves and their staff members. Line managers also play a major role in helping those within the organisation learn – by coaching, mentoring, delivering training etc.
Conduct a training needs analysis. Consider the types of skills and knowledge that need to be acquired – this can help you determine whether a work-related learning technique is suitable, or whether off-the-job learning is required.
For more information, please refer to our information sheet: Methods of learning and development.
A training needs analysis (TNA) is the first step in the Learning and development process and should be completed following the job analysis and design process.
A TNA is the systematic problem-solving exercise of identifying a gap between the current skills and competencies of the job incumbent compared to the ideal skills and competencies needed for a particular job. Once a gap has been identified, a decision needs to be made as to whether this deficiency can be rectified by training, or if in fact it is something which requires alternative action (for example counselling for underperformance and discipline).
It is essential to correctly identify training needs in order to design, deliver and measure value to the organisation accurately and demonstrate return on investment.
Three levels of a TNA:
- Organisational: Considers where resources should best be invested in learning and development activities to help achieve organisational strategic goals and objectives. This level of analysis also incorporates things such as an organisation's culture, HR objectives and external influences.
- Task / job level: Considers what specific skills, knowledge and abilities are required to perform particular jobs within the organisation. This is largely related to the workforce planning process as it looks back to the position description and job analysis as a basis for analysing excepted standards of work outputs.
Individual level: Considers the actual performance of an individual compared against the expected performance standards to analyse whether training is an appropriate solution to address any deficiencies. Common examples of assessing this performance are the performance appraisal, customer feedback and by using the person specification to assess an individual's performance.
The training needs analysis is quite a complex task and should be tailored to the organisational setting, the job which is being performed and the individual who is performing it. As a basic guide to conducting a TNA, HR Mangers should follow these steps:
- Analyse the job
- Analyse the person's current skills and knowledge
- Decide on the skills/knowledge gaps
- Identify training solutions
- Evaluate performance after training. After these initial steps have been followed, a training needs analysis template can help assess how training solutions will be delivered.
For more information, please refer to our template: Training needs analysis.
Ideally, learning and development should be seen as a continuous activity which is fundamental to achieving continual improvement of individuals and organisations. On a practical level however, the need to train and develop employees is usually triggered by one of the following scenarios:
- Employees are new to the organisation and require induction and socialisation. This is sometimes referred to as the "on-boarding process" whereby new recruits become familiar with the organisations cultural norms, expectations, rules and procedures.
- Employees changing job roles (e.g. promotions, transfers or secondments) which require different skills, knowledge and abilities to carry out the new job-related tasks.
- A change in organisational strategy which dictates the need for new training and development initiatives to align staff skills, knowledge and experience with business goals.
- As a result of changes to the workforce makeup such as changing demographics and workforce composition and recruitment initiatives which may have long term effects on learning and development needs.
As a result of new technology or changes in how work is organised to achieve results more efficiently.
Learning and Development is a process which requires shared support and responsibility from a number of sources. Depending on the size and structure of an organisation, the following are usually responsible for the learning and development activities and outcomes within an organisation:
The organisation: Support at board level for learning and development activities is crucial to the success of any learning and development program and should be tied in with the business’s strategic objectives. Related to this the organisation's vision, culture and willingness to invest (by way of time and financial resources) in the continuous development of staff to better face future challenges and remain competitive.
Line managers: Line managers play a pivotal role in the success of learning and development activities in that they are not only accountability for the performance of their teams, they are in an advantageous position to observe and identify the knowledge, skill and ability gaps of their subordinates better than anyone else. Adding to this, line managers are furthermore able to monitor employees' improvement following learning and development activities.
HR Department: Some larger organisations may have a dedicated Learning and Development team within their overall HR function, however if this is not the case, the HR Manager will be responsible for coordinating learning and development activities. The HR Department is responsible for the effective analysis of training needs, overall design, structure and delivery of training programs as well as demonstrating return on investment of all learning and development activities.
Included in this category are also the training facilitators / instructors themselves. Whether learning and development be offered in-house as a part of a structured organisational development program, or offered out-of-house from a specialist trainer, the impact upon the overall training success largely hinges on how effectively material is communicated.
For more information, please see our information sheet: Keeping your trainees engaged.
Employees: Whilst the most obvious participant in learning and development activities within an organisation it is often overlooked just how important an employee's level of commitment to training and development is to the success of such programs. Through promotion by line managers and the HR department, employees should be able to easily identify the benefits training activities will have on their ability to perform their jobs more efficiently in the future.
Aside from the organisational context, employees need to take ownership of learning and development opportunities to better equip themselves with the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to remain competitive in today's changing business environment and to keep up with those around them if they are to progress career-wise.
As with many HR activities, learning and development is a process of collaboration and cannot be viewed in isolation from all other activities. Who is exactly in the learning and development process will depend on the size of an organisation, particularly on the level of dedicated HR personnel to manage the learning and development function.
Whilst it is quite common for larger organisations to have a dedicated learning and development team within the HR Department, smaller organisations may only have one manager who is responsible for all staff and need to manage the learning and development activities of everyone within their business.
Regardless of size restraints however, in all circumstances the two main roles responsible for learning and development are the direct managers and individual employees.