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Dipak Patel

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Five tips to a people-centric approach to learning and ongoing performance


In the past, the performance management process was very much backward looking. Typically, an annual performance review meeting would make a judgement on past performance and use it to determine learning and development plans for the next year. But HR and L&D leaders know this approach just doesn’t meet the needs of today’s workforce.

According to Gartner, “Traditionally periodic events, such as performance evaluations, have been disrupted by continuous coaching practices that aim to improve employee engagement and productivity. As a result, historically isolated processes are blending and new cycles are emerging.”

In addition to a movement towards ongoing performance management, a shift is happening in learning and development, as well. An employee might have a productive one-on-one conversation with their manager, identifying areas where they might develop.

But, what employees actually want or need isn’t always easily available in their organisation’s LMS. Part of the challenge is L&D professionals tended to focus on the tick box, compliance-style training, which is generally included in most traditional LMS implementations.

However, in the context of a people-centric approach requiring greater personalisation and more focus on the specific needs of individuals, L&D needs to consider that learning is taking place beyond the traditional LMS and people want to own their development.

Meeting the needs of today’s modern workforce

HR and L&D leaders are also aware that the success of their talent management programme will be judged by the level of engagement that employees have with their organisation – a key indicator for business success. Improving employee engagement comes down to how organisations can help people be their best and make it clear how their contributions matter.

After all, what we do at work is a big part of our lives so it’s reasonable to understand why employees today want more input in the decisions that impact their job. If we take it one step further, there are three areas of talent management that can have an immediate impact on employee engagement – a modern learning experience, ongoing coaching and performance management, and always-on feedback.

So, here are five tips to develop a people-centric approach to performance and learning management that can help improve the employee experience:

1) Assess your organisation's progress on the journey to ongoing performance and continuous learning

How mature is your organisation when it comes to moving away from traditional top-down training delivery and the annual appraisal cycle? How receptive would it be to change? In this new era of ongoing performance management, the removal of traditional scorecards may be a step too far for some organisations.

There has been an over-reliance on ratings and scores for talent management, but the reality is that many organisations will still require a middle ground with some hard data on which to base promotion or salary decisions.

2) Communicate the change

Make sure that people understand what you are trying to do with an ongoing approach to performance management and learning – and how it will benefit both them and the organisation.

This needs to be set in the context of the accelerating pace of change in business. Organisations need their people to build new skills responsively and adapt to change. Problem-solving and analytical skills are as valuable as specialist knowledge.

3) Focus on personalisation

Effective, regular one-to-one check-ins will result in a more personalised experience for employees. This allows for development to happen regularly through micro-sized learning experiences so employees can achieve the desired development they need and organisations the ability to build the skills it needs to thrive.

As managers check in with team members more frequently (it could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly), it is easier to adapt individual goals or development plans quicker to suit the needs of the individual and the organisation.

4) Support modern learning behaviours

There is a trend towards employees becoming creators of training content while training professionals become curators. People are much more likely to search Google or YouTube for help than to access the LMS.

The likes of TED talks, coaching videos or a great how-to video can be highly effective for learning and development.

However, there is a real challenge in bringing the learning that happens outside the corporate LMS into the fold. Many traditional LMS are simply not capable of tracking or managing this type of external or informal learning. 

L&D professionals need to become curators of self-discovered content, making it accessible, sharable and rate-able, to support a modern learning experience for employees.

If learning professionals can find a way to bring external learning into the organisation, there are many benefits. Learners can demonstrate that they have accessed learning content and developed their knowledge and practice. They can share useful coaching and information with their peers throughout the organisation.

HR and learning professionals can also access and evaluate the content, not least to ensure that learners are accessing content that is valuable.

5) Mobile-enable learning

Make it easier for employees to access learning – and give feedback on their learning ­– from anywhere, at any time. Mobile technology is the key to real-time and ongoing performance and learning development.

Talent management processes that include regular goal setting and monitoring, continuous feedback and coaching, and ongoing employee development can help make the connection between personal motivators and work that much stronger.

Technology is a huge enabler for the change that needs to take place in most organisations if they are to get the best from their learning and performance management and empower their employees to success long term.

Forward facing, ongoing performance management, supported by effective coaching and always-on feedback mechanisms, not only helps employees feel engaged and connected with the organisation, but also provides insight into performance that enables the business to stay on course for success.

Dipak Patel is Director Solution Consulting at Saba and recently appeared on a TrainingZone webinar looking at what digital skills your organisation needs to succeed. You can view the recorded webinar here.


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