With new tools and technologies constantly emerging, companies must become more agile, ready to adapt their business processes and practices. L&D functions must likewise be prepared to rapidly launch capability-building programs—for example, if new business needs suddenly arise or staff members require immediate training on new technologies such as cloud-based collaboration tools.
The most effective companies take a deliberate, systematic approach to capability assessment. At the heart of this process is a comprehensive competency or capability model based on the organization’s strategic direction. For example, a key competency for a segment of an e-commerce company’s workforce could be “deep expertise in big data and predictive analytics.” After identifying the most essential capabilities for various functions or job descriptions, companies should then assess how employees rate in each of these areas. L&D interventions should seek to close these capability gaps.
Learning should be distinguished from training. ‘Learning is the process by which a person constructs new knowledge, skills and capabilities, whereas training is one of several responses an organization can undertake to promote learning’. The encouragement of learning makes use of a process model, which is concerned with facilitating the learning activities of individuals and providing learning resources for them to use. Conversely, the provision of training involves the use of a content model, which means deciding in advance the knowledge and skills that need to be enhanced by training, planning the programme, deciding on training methods and presenting the content in a logical sequence through various forms of instruction.
A distinction is made between learning, which ‘lies within the domain of the individual’ and training, which ‘lies within the domain of the organization’. Today the approach is to focus on individual learning and ensure that it takes place when required ‘just-for-you’ and ‘just-in-time’ learning.
Workplace learning Informal learning occurs in the workplace but there are a number of specific ways in which learning can be enhanced. The most important of these are coaching and mentoring, but other methods are job rotation, job shadowing, bite-sized learning through e-learning, cross-functional or cross-site project work.
The e-learning process comprises defining the system, encouraging access, advising and assisting individual learners, and encouraging and facilitating the creation of learning communities. E-learning focuses on the learner. It provides a means of satisfying individual learning needs. But individual learning may be supplemented by participation in learning groups or communities of interest in which members both gain and share knowledge. The emphasis is on self-paced learning learners control the rate at which they learn although they may be given targets for completion and guidance from tutors on how they should learn. However, while self-paced learning is encouraged and provided for, the impact of e-learning is strongly influenced by how well the support is provided to learners. It is the effectiveness of this support rather than the sophistication of the technology that counts.
Principles for e-learning programmes
• Learners must be stimulated by the learning process.
• The programme and content should be seen to be intrinsically relevant, the method of presentation should be interesting, use should be made of graphics, animations, audio, interactive simulations, scenarios, case studies, projects, question and answer sessions and problem-solving activities where appropriate – the programme should not simply involve ‘page-turning’.
• Learners must be encouraged to respond to stimuli and should be engaged in the learning process.
• Learners should understand their learning goals, preferably working them out for themselves but with help where necessary.
• The programme should be constructed in incremental steps and presented in ‘bite-sized chunks’ or modules, each with clear objectives and outcomes.
• Learners should be able to plan their learning (self-paced learning).
• Learners must be able to measure their own progress but should be given feedback as well.
• Learners should be encouraged to reflect on what they are learning by reference to their own experience.
planning is carried out by individuals with guidance, encouragement and help from their managers as required. A personal development plan sets out the actions people propose to take to learn and to develop themselves. They take responsibility for formulating and implementing the plan but they receive support from the organization and their managers in doing so.
Analyse the current situation and development needs. This can be done as part of a performance management process.
2. Set goals. These could include improving performance in the current job, improving or acquiring skills, extending relevant knowledge, developing specified areas of competence, moving across or upwards in the organization, or preparing for changes in the current role.
3. Prepare an action plan. The action plan sets out what needs to be done and how it will be done under headings such as outcomes expected (learning objectives), the development activities, the responsibility for development (what individuals are expected to do and the support they will get from their manager, the HR department or other people), and timing.