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Becky Norman


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Ask the expert: How can I create a business-aligned L&D strategy with limited resources and time?

In response to a reader question, three experts offer their insights on developing an L&D strategy that is actionable, maintainable and fully aligned with organisational goals.
Four Rock Formation representing a strategy to align for growth

Reader question: With time and change pressures, as well as limited resources, what could be my angle to a suitable L&D strategy that is nevertheless aligned with the overall strategy?

Answer from Paul Matthews, CEO, People Alchemy

The first step is to get clarity on the organisational vision and the strategy in place to get there. 

What skills will be needed and within what time frame to execute the strategy effectively and efficiently? What is the gap between the skills that are needed and the skills that currently exist? 

This is your challenge – to bridge this skills gap within the time frame required and within the budget you have available.

Until you have defined this gap, and got that definition ‘approved/agreed’ by the senior stakeholders, you cannot develop your L&D strategy. 

Maybe the gap is too big and all the required skills cannot be developed or recruited in time. That is worth a discussion.

What is the gap between the skills that are needed and the skills that currently exist? 

Define the gap

Part of defining the gap includes defining what you will notice that is measurable as change occurs during whatever is done, L&D or otherwise, to bridge the gap.

Now you have an agreed outcome that is defined and measurable. That means you can begin to develop your L&D strategy to achieve that outcome.

Focus on what people need to do, rather on what they need to know. How can you help them do what needs to be done? 

This will require a performance consultancy approach before you even start thinking about training or learning.

Good luck!

Jackie Clifford

Answer from Jackie Clifford, Director, Clarity Learning and Development

This feels like a challenge facing so many organisations. 

One key thing that I believe we can all do whenever we are planning and making decisions about any L&D activity is to simply ask the question: “How will this plan support the achievement of the overall goals and strategies of this organisation?”.

If we fumble with the answer to this question, then we should think again about other options.

My other tip is to view strategies as fluid and flexible, rather than written on tablets of stone. 

On top of this, I believe that today’s strategies should be transparent and collaborative. Let’s build our L&D strategy with the business. 

Let’s focus on required/desired outcomes and ensure that the interventions we design have outcomes aligned with organisational goals. 

View strategies as fluid and flexible, rather than written on tablets of stone

Keep it flexible

Let’s choose methods and content which can easily be flexed and changed as the needs of the organisation change. 

An example of this could be to design programmes which are modular and deliver learning in bite-sized chunks (also good practice for effective learning) so that when change is required, it involves tweaks rather than large-scale re-writing.

And remember, just because a strategy may be focusing several years into the future, that doesn’t mean that we should lock it away in a virtual filing cabinet.

Let’s monitor, review and refine on an ongoing basis so that we can make minor course adjustments along the way.

Answer from Robin Hoyle, Head of Learning Innovation, Huthwaite International

The first rule of strategy is deciding what you are not going to do. 

It’s easy to try to please everyone and respond to every demand made upon you, but unless you have unlimited resources and the organisation can spare an unlimited amount of time to spend on learning activities, then you can’t do everything.

So, what do you do? 

  • What are the measures that your organisation is already collecting? 
  • Is there an area where the data suggests that the organisation could perform better? 
  • Can you move the dial on these measures through learning and development activity? (Always remembering that many performance shortfalls are not about individual and team skills and behaviours but about management, communications, resources - including people - and the way work is organised.)

The first rule of strategy is deciding what you are not going to do

Defining the true priority

Which is the priority? Don’t make it up – ask the business.

Then, using this data, create your L&D strategy to address the things the organisation is already measuring but where there is dissatisfaction. 

By creating learning which goes beyond knowledge and into skills, practice and workplace behaviour change you will improve performance in those key areas which are already important to the business and which form a component of the overall organisational strategy.

Are you an L&D professional with a problem you'd like to get different perspectives on? Submit your question here.

If you enjoyed this, read: Responsive strategic workforce planning for future-fit organisations

Author Profile Picture
Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman

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