This piece is specifically for L&D professionals that are looking to create better, more effective L&D strategies for their organizations.
A coherent and data-driven L&D Strategy can help you and your organization make the most of the limited resources that are available, yet attain significant progress towards professional development of employees, developing teams, developing organizational capabilities – all of this for better business performance and creation of value for the stakeholders of the company.
An effective L&D Strategy is complementary to an L&D Plan, in the sense that the strategy provides the coherence, directions and guidance that you can build the plan upon. The plan offers concrete details for implementing the strategy. Together, the L&D Strategy and Plan offer clarity on what to do next for the whole organization, for its teams and for the employees.
Investments made through the L&D Budget are guided by the L&D Strategy and are linked to concrete endeavors articulated by the L&D Plan (implementing programs, leading initiatives, offering learning tools and experiences etc).
L&D Plans without coherent L&D Strategies might lead to ineffective use of L&D Budgets.
L&D Strategies without concrete & feasible L&D Plans might lead to inefficient use of L&D Budgets.
Given that most L&D Budgets are limited, creating a relevant L&D Strategy and an associated L&D Plan is a way to invest these budgets in an effective & efficient manner.
Given that most businesses and professional journeys are going through notable changes in shorter and shorter cycles, it’s important that both L&D Strategies and Plans become more adaptive, in order to keep fit with the organization & people they need to support.
That’s why in this explainer we’re going to explore how to create a relevant L&D Strategy, how to develop a linked L&D Plan, how to allocate various investments through the L&D Budget and how & when to adjust your L&D Strategy.
We’ll focus on core questions to explore with your L&D team and your stakeholders, along with some practical approaches to put into practice. Of course, given the variety of contexts in which you might find yourself in, my aim is to offer general recommendations and insights that can be applied both by an L&D professional supporting a Tech scale-up of 100 people and by the regional L&D team, part of an HR center of expertise of a large Banking multinational of over 10000 employees.
In my work as a Strategy & Organization Adviser, I’m partnering with L&D teams quite often, in our quest of enabling together organizations that are more effective and that create more relevant value to their stakeholders. At ForBetterOrgs.com, we’re aiming to inspire and equip leaders like you to build better organizations better – organizations and people that learn and perform better together.
Hope you’ll find this explainer useful and that you will use the ideas, questions and approaches covered here during your next L&D Strategy workshop.
If you’re interested in a hands-on learning experience, where we could work together on your specific challenges, we’re organizing a dedicated learning program about Creating your L&D Strategy, in partnership with the Offbeat team. See you there!
Any strategic exploration can be summarized through a series of questions to be answered together, questions that help you find your way forward in a specific context with limited resources and many options.
In the case of creating your L&D Strategy, L&D Plan and L&D Budget, here are 6 guiding questions that might be helpful:
For adjusting your L&D Strategy, L&D Plan and L&D Budget, there are two questions that provide the most clarity:
What follows is a deep dive linked to each of these questions. Of course, there are countless variations to the questions above, depending on your specific context. There are also countless different ways of exploring and answering these strategic questions.
My invitation is to adapt these questions to be better fit with your organization’s needs and culture and to use the recommended approaches below as starting points that you can build upon. Let’s dive into each of these facets.
”What’s happening outside the organization, generally and also close to our L&D radar?”
To balance an inside-out perspective that might guide the day to day work of the L&D team, when creating the L&D Strategy it might be useful to take an outside-in perspective first. Looking around and making sense of what’s happening and what might happen going further.
There’s a set of specific questions that might be relevant, pick the ones that feel suited to your own context:
A series of specific tools & activities can help answer this kind of questions:
“What’s happening inside the organization, business-wise and learning-wise?”
L&D Strategy needs to be grounded also in the reality of the organization. In order to connect and serve the Business Strategy, it’s useful to understand it and have specific strategies (Sales, People, Growth Strategy etc.) as important references.
Pick the questions that are relevant to your own context:
(e.g. growth strategy, sales strategy, product strategy, overall people strategy & workforce planning)
In this case, the specific tools & activities that usually help answer this kind of questions are:
“What capabilities and constraints do we have?”
Next, for the L&D Strategy to be as relevant as possible, it needs to take into consideration the current capabilities of the L&D team and of the other people involved in L&D activities, both internal and external partners.
Besides the capabilities, there are various constraints, like for example resource constraints, links with other people processes and programs, timing constraints, technology constraints, change readiness and so on. Clarity about these constraints will help the L&D Strategy be fit with the business and organizational context and will increase its feasibility.
The series of questions that can be helpful in this case are:
There are specific tools & activities that might help answer the capabilities & constraints questions:
“What could be some viable ways forward?”
Here the specific questions are:
The beauty is in exploring multiple strategic options that might help achieve what the organization, the teams and the individuals in the company need in terms of learning & development.
The most common activity that helps answer these questions is a strategy design workshop, in which various strategic options are analyzed based on the insights provided by all the previous exercises.
The most practical way of articulating an L&D Strategy is to see it as a mix of strategic directions, woven together through a coherent story.
Some of the tests of a good L&D Strategy are that it helps you:
Here’s a practical example of a recent L&D Strategy:
“Our L&D Strategy is to foster a continuous learning culture while focusing on upskilling the customer-facing teams, enabling better social learning through communities of practice and preparing for the future with programs in key areas like Data Science & AI.”
Hence, there are 4 strategic L&D directions that this company uses:
You can imagine that this L&D Strategy is relevant to a specific kind of business, in a specific kind of market and at a specific organizational maturity. Similarly, your own L&D Strategy is useful to reflect the “story” of your business context and where your organization is in its evolution.
“How would we put these strategic directions into a concrete plan?”
This is one of the most straightforward activities in the whole strategic exercise, in the sense that you already have the coherence and guidance provided by your L&D Strategy and you need to create a concrete plan with elements like:
“How would we allocate the budget to the various L&D initiatives & processes, so that we have confidence we’ll reach the desired business & learning results?”
Closely connected to both the L&D Strategy and the L&D Plan is the L&D Budget that provides acceleration for various strategic and/or required L&D endeavors.
One useful way to look at the L&D Budget is to view it as a mix of
The specific tools & activities that can be helpful at this stage of Planning & Budgeting are:
“When & how would we need to adjust the L&D Strategy, L&D Plan or L&D Budget?”
Now that you have clarity on the way forward for L&D in your organization, it’s useful to be aware of various triggers that might invite you to consider adjusting the strategy, the plan and/or the budget allocation.
Here’s a selection of triggers, with the invitation to pick the ones that are relevant and to add some others of your own:
A specific activity to consider when noticing a trigger like the ones above is to explore a Minimum Viable Adjustment, in the sense that:
For clarity about the change impacts, you could ask:
What could help during a MVA workshop is to put on the table some new strategic options for going forward (with estimated pros/cons), decide based on confidence of achieving Business & Learning results, adjust L&D plan if needed and/or adjust the L&D Budget if needed.
Continuously adjusting your way forward, the L&D Strategy, the L&D Plan and the L&D Budget is an effective way to keep them relevant for a continuously shifting business context and an ever evolving set of learning needs and capability development needs.
Developing these strategy and adaptability muscles is key to creating as much value as possible through L&D, with the limited resources at hand. I hope this explainer provides you some useful starting points, questions and trails for exploring further. Enjoy the journey!
Each Sunday we compile the best L&D resources we find and send them right to your inbox.