Our latest blog discussed the importance of learning & development programs within an SME business culture. But how easy is it to design and implement a program which suits your people and your organisation? The following article sets out 7 simple steps to creating an effective learning & development program for your business, to ensure you are able to maintain a motivated and productive workforce, enabling you to remain competitive.
Of course, as with anything, planning is essential in setting up a program for your employees. As an SME, the last thing you want, is to feel overwhelmed and so below are 7 simple systematic steps you can take to create your program, foster a learning culture and ensure alignment with your strategic goals. And remember, make sure you communicate with both the managers and employees within your business. This isn’t just for you as a CEO or General Manager to decipher in isolation; it should be created from within and the more opinions, ideas and advice you can gather, the better the program will be:
Where are your gaps? Conduct interviews, surveys and assessments with your teams, including managers and workers. Where are the bottlenecks and how can these be resolved? How easily are new employees learning their role and do your employees feel that there are areas which need more support? What are the types of career paths your employees want to take and how do you help to get them there? What training programs are your main competitors offering and how does this sit with where you would like to be as a company?
It’s more than likely that learning & development isn’t your expertise. Why would it be when your specialism lays with the company you are leading! So, don’t be afraid to engage with experts in this field. It may feel like an expensive way of implementing a program, however, as we discovered in our previous article, the expense actually lays with not having a program in place and losing skilled employees because they’re lacking job satisfaction in their roles.
Build your overarching program utilising the information gathered in steps 1 & 2 above. Depending on the size of your business there should be an overall vision, mission and strategic objectives linked closely with your business strategy. You will then need to create different learning and development programs and career blueprints for the different areas within the business. Pay attention also to the particular skills and behaviours required. It may be that you complete this exercise, you use a third party consultant, or a mix of the two.
For some of the learning & development programs you will be able to create your own course material or utilise other managers within the business to do so as well. However, it may be that you also have to use external training bodies to fill the gaps which can be extremely beneficial to all involved. For each of these routes, make sure you conduct test sessions to see how they fare and also gain feedback from attendees to see what they felt worked well and what could be improved.
Different people, learn in very different ways. Some find learning ‘on-the-job’ more effective than in a classroom environment. So, perhaps consider a learning & development plan that incorporates a good mix of e-learning modules, video-based training and workshops. Modules should cover specialist and role-specific skills as well as transferable ‘soft’ skills. It can also beneficial to offer collaborative learning such as intranet forums and hubs.
There’s a huge difference between leadership and management and your managers should be leaders within their own right. Train your managers as coaches: Coaching is a an empowering form of leadership, enabling employees to think for themselves.
As with any strategy, it’s imperative you measure your results. You are putting time and money into a scheme and so you need to understand the ROI. Gain feedback from your managers and employees, monitor productivity and employee satisfaction. Remember, your learning & development program is not a static entity – It’s fluid and will need to be fed, watered and properly maintained to ensure that it grows with the business, your strategic goals and enables you to remain competitive in the marketplace.
Business of all sizes can benefit from implementing well thought out learning & development programs, but don’t be scared off by the sheer thought of it, just because of the sheer size of it. If you’re looking with help and support with your program and strategy please contact me now on: 01453 297557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.