How People Leaders Can Create Effective Learning Strategies | The Definitive Guide

January 8, 2021
June 26, 2023

When it comes to your L&D strategy, you’ve got two options: do things the way they’ve always been done or create an environment where people actually love to learn!

People often make the mistake of planning their learning approach as if it’s separate from how people already work or want to learn, and then they’re disappointed when the uptake is low. That’s because they’re slow on the uptake! While their heads are buried in hour-long courses that live in an LMS, you’ve arrived at the guide that’ll help you create a process where people learn on their terms, without breaking their habits or draining productivity.

Or jump to the below aspect that help build great learning strategies:

What motivates people?

Consider how people like to learn

Develop new skills, but don’t forget to measure them

Empower people to take the reins

Create a learning culture where people enjoy the development process

What motivates people? Understand that before anything else.

Diving right into learning strategies without understanding people’s motivation is like booking a wedding venue on the first date! You’re getting way too ahead of yourself. Anyway, we’re less interested in dates and more intrigued by the data that has people saying ‘I do’ to developing and remaining at your company.

Did you know that 76% of people value opportunities for career growth and 68% the chance to train and develop? Why? Because they want to feel there’s a path to progression. Otherwise, what’s the point in sticking around! Another study revealed that 54% are open to learning new skills, but only 49% had been given the opportunity to do so alongside their daily duties. Leaders that have their best interests at heart would give them the tools and space to grow.

Most people just want to feel valued, like their role has a purpose, and they’re a productive part of the puzzle. When they don’t, they’re not motivated in the short term, and there probably won’t be a long term. That’s no exaggeration either – engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave. Leaders often overlook the importance of engagement, but it limits how often you lose people, knowledge and experience, and the costs associated with replacing them.

Failure to take engagement and development seriously spells bad news for motivation too. We’re going a bit further back, but a 2012 report revealed that those who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be motivated to do their absolute best (we’re talking 93% vs 33%).

So, what’s the common denominator? Learning! It’s what helps people progress towards career goals, gives them new skills that make them a more valuable part of the team, engages, motivates – the whole hog! The tougher question is how you get it right… Well, it was tough until we wrote this guide.

Consider how people like to learn, not how you’d like them to learn!

Have you got any of those habits that you find hard to break even though you know there’s a much better way of doing it? That’s a crossroads a lot of companies find themselves at with learning. They offer employees the chance to take a course once or twice a year, something they cram around their role before swiftly forgetting most of the information.

However, the average employee can dedicate less than 25 minutes a week to learning, just 1% of their working week, and that’s not enough time to gain much knowledge. Especially not a full course filled with hour sessions and a long list of reading materials. So, why are they still being backed into this development corner?

The good news is that we’re in the middle of a learning revolution! 68% of employees prefer to learn at work, 58% at their own pace and 49% at their point of need – the last one is arguably the most interesting. Why? The forgetting curve shows that as time elapses after learning, the amount we retain diminishes! Partly because we don’t do anything to put it into practice, partly because of how it’s presented and partly because we might not see an important meaning.

So, when we learn at the point of need, we tackle all of those issues. We’re highly motivated, we have the opportunity to put specific knowledge into practice and we can see the impact it has when it’s most crucial. But how can you do it?

In HowNow, we empower people to find knowledge everywhere they already work! They can search for information where they deal with customers, send resources as they message colleagues in Slack, create learning content as they browse online articles. Remaining in the workflow and having knowledge on tap cuts down on wasted time and helps you become more productive.

It also helps us learn and apply information in moments of need, where we can influence performance! So, ‘flow of work’ might feel like an overdone buzzword, but it’s a key pillar of effective learning strategies.

Develop new skills, but don’t forget to measure them

This applies to every plan and initiative, not just learning strategies! If we’re not building impact metrics into what we do, not only are we unaware of what success looks like, we’re far less likely to achieve it.

What you measure makes all the difference, take the old way versus new way argument. Let’s say the goal is for everyone to complete a course, it would be easy to hit that target and even easier to give ourselves a big pat on the back. But it would be miles harder to ask what tangible impact it had, what we’ve taken from it that has made us better at our jobs… Which is why we always preach about the power in developing and measuring skills.

Simply ticking a training box is a vanity metric. How do you know if that person has gained something that makes them better at their job? How can they know it? And how does that help either of you justify why they’re deserving of a promotion or positive performance review. Measuring skills is a far more effective way of investing in and tracking development. By measuring proficiency and how that develops, you get a tangible idea of progress and can tailor learning to become more relevant.

Here are the five steps you should take and why they’re important:

Understand the skills needed to drive your company towards its goals – otherwise, how can you understand if they’re feasible or what you need to accomplish them?

Measure skills and proficiency in your teams – who knows if you’ve got a skills blindspot until you measure the skills people have and how versed they are in them?

Work out the gap between the two – this is the gap between where you are and where you want to be, your skill gap. It should shape your learning strategy and be used to create learning experiences that increase proficiency for an individual or give them a new skill. Remember, by this point, you understand which will make people more productive and help to achieve your goals.

Review and refine the approach over time – periodically test and measure skill levels to understand progress and establish the current state of your skill gap. Doing this at regular intervals will give you more insight.

Use skill insights to understand people and check in with them – if you can understand where people aren’t developing or which skills haven’t progressed, you can check in with them more meaningfully and lead more effectively when it comes to their progress and development.

Upskilling is another word you might have seen so many times it’s lost meaning, but applying the above principles helps you build and grow skills to drive impact. As you should be doing with your learning strategies overall, starting with the skills and goals you need to reach means you’re aiming towards impact. If you understand that, you deliver relevant learning, and when you continue to measure, you refine that process over time.

The power of people development belongs to your people! Empower people to take the reins

Some people are happy to be chauffeur-driven, others love being behind the wheel, but most are happy with a balance between the two. It’s the same with learning! When you give people the keys to their own learning engine or at least let them hold the map, you’re enabling them to develop on their terms – which often means more effectively.

For leaders and employees, time is a barrier and so is micro-managing their learning. Sure, there are things you want people to learn, but what about the things they value or deem important as they go about their daily tasks. A traditional top-down approach to people development would probably mean waiting until your next catch up to suggest what they’d like to learn and waiting for approval or content creation. What a monumental waste of time! The moment where they wanted to learn that information has passed.

The idea is nothing new, we’ve been learning on the job for years, but more importantly, this reflects how we like to learn in the real world. If our TV stops working, we don’t wallow in self pity! We head to Google to try and find out why or how we can fix it.

Sounds simple, but you should be aiming to replicate this in your workplace learning. Google is our go-to because we know we can find everything in one place, which is what your learning platform should be – one place where all your resources live. A shared brain, a knowledge base, a HowNow! Our goal is to bring all your scattered learning together and help people find it easily, when and where they need it most.

We’ve got a second Google point too, and it starts with a fact! There’s more than 3 million searches per minute. So, even if you bring all your scattered resources into one place, there’s no guarantee that they won’t head to their favourite search engine when they need knowledge. That’s a fair point, it’s also why we developed our HowNow Browser Extension.

Each time somebody searches in Google, we search for and surface all your relevant internal knowledge alongside the search results. They find relevant information, you don’t need to force new habits on them – it’s a win-win situation.

Another key point is that if each employee is designated a certain pot of money for learning each year, shouldn’t they have responsibility for how it’s spent? That’s what we believe, and it’s why our learning budget features gives them control and transparency over their spend. They can see how much remains in their pot and choose when to make requests for paid resources that they feel benefit them, you get a notification and decide whether to approve, reject or if it needs more discussion.

Create a learning culture where people enjoy the development process

All of this fits nicely into the idea of creating a learning culture: simplifying the process of finding knowledge when you need it without breaking habits will encourage people to learn! And if they want to do it, that’s half the battle won! But bringing all the previous ideas together also helps you shape a vision and clear path for development.

For example, you give everyone a voice when they have a platform to share knowledge! Not only does it empower them, it lets subject matter experts share role and company-specific information with their peers. With the right platform, you can go from one person knowing everything about one topic to sharing that with everyone else in the team. Goodbye silos, hello collective brain!

You also reduce the burden on your L&D or HR team. If they don’t need to create every single piece of content, wait for sign off or perfect the design, resources can be created and shared easily. Together, these ideas really take the formality out of the learning process, and when it’s fun, more people want to do it!

Compare this to the top-down approach, and it feels as amazing as changing out of a tuxedo and into a pair of tracksuit bottoms when you get home from a swanky event. Your people are smart, so let them learn more casually!

Speaking of waiting around, we already touched on the idea of resources in one place and available on-demand, but it’s worth highlighting how useful that can be! It might be the difference between responding to a customer with the right information when they need it, as opposed to waiting hours or days for a colleague to tell you where it lives. A better employee experience often translates to an improved situation for your clients!

We believe that having one front door for resources is great, but it’s even better if people can open it wherever they work. What we mean by that, is that if someone can search for knowledge where they interact with customers or carry out their most important tasks, there’s no break in their productivity or workflow.

HowNow can help you do all of this and more as you build your learning strategies! And if you’d like to see how, we’ve got an on-demand product demo you can watch right now.

Check out our other people development resources