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Demand for Learning & Development (L&D) is growing. With more champions in the C-suite, interest from employees and rapidly transforming business needs, it’s no wonder that talent development is being recognized as a vital part of organizational strategy. The shift presents opportunities for employees and training professionals.

As you consider the year ahead, I imagine that there is no shortage of potential priorities for your L&D team, and I’m hoping this blog will provide a starting point to hone your focus.

#1 – Identify Your Metrics

Since the pandemic, L&D professionals have had a greater voice at the executive table. Being involved in these conversations is essential to ensure your work aligns with the overall business strategy. It also keeps department leaders across your organization informed and connected to your efforts. To cement your place in these discussions, I encourage you to assess your impact.

Reflect on the metrics you currently use to measure your program’s success. Identify which ones have a direct connection to business goals and be mindful about how you articulate the story behind the metrics and their implications for the company. I encourage you to also partner with your fellow executives to identify performance indicators and evaluate how your initiatives support the bigger picture. The metrics can then guide you as you optimize your offerings.

#2 – Evaluate Your Delivery Systems

How are you currently providing development opportunities in your organization? Are you leaning heavily on a certain style – like digital courses or classroom trainings? Are you utilizing mobile or community learning methodologies to engage staff? Take stock of the different ways that employees can access your programming.

Then, get feedback to understand what has worked well, where they are most engaged and what could be improved upon. I invite you to survey your staff on other delivery mechanisms that you are not currently using to identify new approaches. While you may ask about more expensive options – like virtual reality – suggest simple concepts too like easy-to-access templates to address common challenges.

#3 – Make Learning Part of Everyday Work

While this concept is related to priority #2, it has broader implications than just your delivery systems. We know that most learning takes place outside of the classroom. It happens on the job through experiences and challenges. To help individuals thrive, it’s important to find ways to support their growth every day.

Empower your managers and their direct reports with valuable skills in giving and receiving feedback. You may also consider creating short reference guides from your trainings programs so staff can access relevant takeaways when they need them. For more ideas, read my recent blog post, and host a focus group with employees and leaders to find out how they would like to see development show up in their workplace experiences.

#4 – Hone Your Hybrid Training Skills

L&D professionals have had to really test their facilitation capacities over the past few years, jumping from in-person learning to fully remote sessions and now somewhere in between. While most people recognize the power of face-to-face education, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. That means trainers need to get comfortable leading engaging sessions for attendees in any location.

If you have been collecting data on your programs, revisit the findings to identify any common themes about what has been successful and where you may need to make adjustments. If you have not received input on this topic, ask some of your trusted colleagues to sit in on a few of your hybrid trainings as in-person and virtual participants. You can then use their input and feedback to optimize your approach. Researching tips from outside experts can also provide ideas to adapt your programming to support dispersed groups.

#5 – Promote Soft Skill Building

As companies push for greater digital transformation, the capabilities that people need to succeed in business will change. While some of those skills will be hard skills, individuals are likely to find that their jobs are becoming more human rather than less as machines complete task-based functions. That means employees will benefit from having a host of soft skills including teamwork, empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and more.

To prioritize your focus, conduct a skills audit to identify capabilities that your staff will need to develop for long-term success as well as determine existing strengths and weaknesses. You can then create development plans and career paths to support skill building. I also recommend partnering with your Human Resources colleagues to integrate targeted capacity building into performance evaluation systems and processes. In addition to formal training, consider incorporating mentorship and coaching programs to help individuals with differing talents learn from one another.

#6 – Weave in Wellbeing

It’s no secret that employee wellbeing has become a focus for many businesses. In addition to physical and emotional impacts, the Great Resignation is an extreme outcome of the buildup of employee burnout. While everyone in your organization can play a role in supporting wellness, L&D has a unique opportunity to lead the charge.

Review your offerings to determine if you have any initiatives that are designed to enhance mindfulness or wellness. If not, find ways for staff to expand their self-care capacities. One important aspect to wellbeing is making sure that individuals feel respected and valued. To promote a sense of belonging and community, identify programs like Emergenetics® that help your people feel understood and appreciated for their perspectives.

#7 – Build a Growth Mindset

This last recommendation is as much one for your L&D colleagues as your company. If we have learned nothing else in the past year, I hope it is that our world is ever-changing. And, if we are open to it, we will find even more ways to evolve to improve work and life for our employees. As you approach this year, I invite you to adopt a growth mindset – and encourage your staff to do the same.

L&D teams have a lot to look forward to as they help their employees and organizations grow and thrive. By spending the first part of the year looking back on your own learnings, assessing future opportunities and thoughtfully prioritizing your approach, you can proactively plan for a great 2022.

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