L&D (Learning and Development) professionals are expected to come up with innovative strategies and the best of methodologies to help employees scale up their skills. That’s a given! The L&D team plays a key role in ensuring that the company’s performance stays in tune with the vagaries of the changing market by providing effective training interventions to employees. That’s a given too!
With businesses needing to be more agile than ever in response to the evolving demands of the economy, the face of L&D is changing and how!
Along with the ‘givens’ and the continuous changes, is a unique set of challenges and hurdles that L&D professionals and teams face. Almost every day. At multiple instances.
In this article, we will look at the challenges that stand between the L&D Management and Executives and the success of their training programs, along with distinct solutions for each.
Issue 1: High training costs
Often, the biggest challenge faced by L&D is the shoestring budget that is provided for operations. In fact, most L&D departments have limited resources and have to provide the best they can with what they have.
Solution: The first step is to carefully estimate the overall budget that includes all costs for the training/learning program. In case of a narrower budget, there are various ways to ensure that the costs are controlled by implementing some intelligent solutions. Like online/eLearning modules, for example, where the cost evens out over the period of the module (and time and learners). When thinking eLearning, Off-The-Shelf eLearning (OTS) is a great option!
Another solution is to not be Instructor-Led Training (ILT) heavy, which is both time- and cost-intensive. Introducing Blended Learning, which incorporates a combination of eLearning, Classroom and Virtual Classroom instruction, and Informal Learning for a holistic learning experience, helps keep the budget under control. And the L&D team stress-free!
Issue 2: Different learners, different needs
For a company demonstrating versatility in its “learner demographics,” with people belonging to different hierarchies in the organization, different experience levels, and different accountabilities, a one-size-fits-all training approach may not or rather, will not, work.
Solution: To begin with, it is good to study the profiles of all learners who will be taking the program. Identifying the target audience is the basis of creating a good learning intervention. Once the research on the audience is done, this data can be used to create learner groups so as to “customize” (‘customize’ being the keyword) the training program based on the experience level, learning style, nature of job (in office or on-the-go), and tech-savviness, among other factors.
It’s also worthwhile to enable employees/ learners to select/ request specific training from the available catalogue or ‘request for training’ (many Learning Management Systems offer this as a separate module) to meet their unique needs.
Issue 3: Low learner motivation and engagement
One of the cornerstones of L&D programs is how successful they are in engaging learners and creating good user experiences. It is not uncommon for L&D professionals to have to deal with low motivation and even low retention levels among employees. Most of them may be distracted, busy, or unmotivated and find it tough to assimilate the benefits of the training itself!
Solution: While the easiest piece of the puzzle is to provide eLearning content that is interactive and immersive to hold the learners’ interest and attention, it’s not the end-all and be-all of learner engagement. It is crucial for L&D to encourage learning beyond formal training. Making appropriate use of the 70:20:10, Learning 3.0 and similar approaches that balance formal instruction with informal learning and performance support, through a Learning Management System with support for Social Learning, Knowledge Collaboration and Mobile Learning, helps in dealing with motivation and engagement issues to a great extent. Supporting this is a research report by CGS, which finds out that ‘for 85% of respondents surveyed who were planning to maintain /increase use of social media, decision makers felt that the benefit of tapping into collaborative learning environments would allow subject matter experts in the workplace community to share their expertise directly with their peers’. Informal learning in all its avatars is here to stay!
Besides Informal Learning, Learner Motivation cannot be complete without mentioning about the gami-ness of the learning/ training program, which can be brought about either through Gamification in an LMS (more about this below) or investing in Game-Based Learning.
Issue 4: Creating great learning experiences with dreary subject matter
Overlapping with the earlier issue, another common problem faced by L&D professionals, along with creating engaging content for learners, is to transform dull subject matter into a thing of interest. Employees show alacrity in learning only if they find the content to be appealing enough. A tall order, indeed!
Solution: Using innovation, creativity, and strong ID principles while developing the content is a sure-shot way of ensuring a good learning experience for the learners. But beyond the learning/training content, there is one important tool that can take the learning experience from good to ‘great’. It’s Gamification. Badges, Points, Leader Boards, whichever avatar Gamification takes on, can not just promote corporate training programs and incentivize the right learning behavior, but also create a fun and competitive atmosphere where learning doesn’t happen, it thrives!
Issue 5: ROI measurement
Demonstrating the success of a learning/ training program, and hence a positive Return On Investment (ROI), with quantifiable/ measurable data points is a part of an L&D professional’s life. Sooner or later. But how can this be done in the most accurate and transparent way possible?
Solution: When it comes to ROI measurement, the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model has been the go-to, time-tested evaluation tool adopted by managers to measure the success of a training program. And it all begins with aligning training objectives with the learning purpose of the organization. Implementing a Learning Management System with comprehensive MIS & Reporting capabilities helps in measuring the tangible and measurable components (like learner attendance, pre- and post-assessment scores, learner feedback, etc.), which can be translated into business-worthy metrics like cost-savings, time-savings, productivity enhancement and other, based on the organization’s base training objective(s).
Every vertical in an organization faces its own set of challenges, and L&D is no exception! While there are no cut-and-dried solutions to the challenges, owing to the evolving nature of the business, learning and human behavior in itself, there are clear winners; the ones that can convert these ‘obstacles’ into ‘opportunities’.