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Putting learning at the heart of talent strategy

Across industries, work and workplaces are shifting to keep pace with technology innovation and digitisation. Experts may debate its pace and progress, but no one disputes that the digital transformation is irreversibly under way. And by its very nature, this constant technical innovation and the accelerated pace of business are putting organisations of all types squarely in the learning business. That is, if they want to succeed, companies must invest in the programmes and technologies it takes to manage change, develop skills, grow knowledge, and instil desired attitudes and behaviours. Here’s more on the importance of putting learning at the heart of talent strategy from LEO Learning’s Chief Strategy Officer, Piers Lea.

Back in June 2018, LEO Learning’s parent company, Learning Technologies Group (LTG) set out to do something exciting: to bring together experts in learning and learning technologies with experts in talent management.

Needless to say, the last two months have been intense and full of change, including integrating a PeopleFluent technology into a new offering called gomo video, taking steps to integrate NetDimensions award-winning LMS technology with PeopleFluent’s talent acquisition and talent management solutions, and celebrating PeopleFluent’s latest recognition by IDC as a leader of integrated talent management solutions.

As I write this from PeopleFluent’s London office, surrounded by moving crates and other signs of change for my colleagues and I, I’m struck by how much we’re all learning. And how fast.

We’re not just merging offices. We’re integrating systems, processes, and teams. We’re adapting to new ways of working. We’re stepping into new or expanded roles.

Put simply, we’re learning.

And we’re hardly unique in this regard.

A team of HR and L&D professionals discussing talent strategy and talent management

Learning is the new work

Across industries, work and workplaces are shifting to keep pace with technology innovation and digitisation. Experts may debate its pace and progress, but no one disputes that the digital transformation is irreversibly under way1.

And by its very nature, this constant technical innovation and the accelerated pace of business are putting organisations of all types squarely in the learning business.

That is, if they want to succeed, companies must invest in the programmes and technologies it takes to manage change, develop skills, grow knowledge, and instil desired attitudes and behaviours.

It means that, as employers come to realise just how critical learning is to success in business, their talent strategies will refocus around learning, including:

  • Assessing a candidate’s interest in and ability to learn during the hiring process
  • Aligning L&D with performance, succession planning, and business impact
  • Giving employees the opportunity to learn and grow their careers, supported by the right L&D technologies
  • Incorporating learning proficiency, potential, and performance into compensation strategies – and investing rewards to drive business outcomes.

In systems terms, this also means companies need to adopt a constant process of redefining job roles and aligning qualifications – and compliance – with learning so that they can scale and flex to meet new opportunities.

The employee experience – what learners want from work

What this means for employees is that they must always be learning.

Predictions from Gartner2, MIT Sloan Management Review/Deloitte3, McKinsey4, and others paint a clear picture: From here on, careers will hinge on the ability to keep pace with continuous change. They will be defined, as noted in Deloitte UK’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report5, not by jobs and skills “but through experiences and learning agility.”

The good news is that employees seem to know this already. They see learning as its own reward and they expect to learn at work. It’s become a key part of the employee experience6.

The synchronicity of this is worth emphasizing: Employees want to learn. And employers need learners.

It follows that, in order to attract the talented learners they need, employers will need to create and embrace a culture of learning7 by:

  • Investing in L&D programmes and modern technologies
  • Building learning into every aspect of their talent strategy
  • Promoting L&D opportunities as part of their employer brand and EVP.

And with that, we’ve come full circle: Just as your talent strategy is your business strategy8, your learning strategy is your talent strategy.

A company HR department discussing how to put learning at the heart of a talent strategy

What a learning culture really looks like

The hallmarks of an organisation with a true culture of learning aren’t hard to spot, because learning is, by nature, transparent.
A few key features of a learning culture include:

  • Talent-centric approach: The talent strategy balances compensation, benefits, and other tangible motivators and rewards with learning and other intangible rewards.
  • Systemisation: Learning is baked into the systems and SOPs that manage the entire employee lifecycle – from recruiting and onboarding through performance, compensation, and succession, as well as enterprise workforce planning.
  • Continuous: Learning isn’t episodic. It happens all the time, right in the flow of work.
  • Consumer-quality experience: Employees learn at work the way they do as consumers – via video, mobile app, and impromptu collaboration. And they can create and share their own learning content with colleagues.

Learning in the context of your organisation and its operations

Because learning is cultural, it must be founded, fostered, and facilitated within the context of your organisation. And it must be incorporated across your operations, especially the talent strategies deployed by HR.

At LEO Learning, PeopleFluent and across LTG, we recognise that each client’s landscape dictates which solutions will work best. The complexities of modern business demand flexibility, not monolithic technology stacks that force them to adopt and adapt.

Across industries – financial services, retail, pharma and healthcare, aviation, manufacturing, and more – companies need a blend of learning approaches. For certain roles, the learning management system (LMS) must track training and certifications to ensure financial planners or pilots, for example, are qualified. Fail-safes must be built into the system to stop work if anything is missing.

A blend of colourful woven threads to symbolise the power of a blended learning approach for L&D

At the same time, companies are increasingly seeking low-touch learning tools that reach employees right in the flow of work – without interrupting sales, operations, or client care. And they need solutions that connect employees to one another to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, cross-functional mentoring, and coaching.

This need to blend and optimise solutions to suit each client is the reason we assembled a portfolio of best-in-class solutions: LTG’s high-performance, high-potential digital learning and PeopleFluent’s leading talent acquisition and talent management technologies.

Each of our learning, talent management, and talent acquisition solutions can stand alone to serve a specific client need.
And together, they can fulfill a broader vision of interoperability and integrated talent management9: A learning and talent management ecosystem.

The future of learning and talent strategy: 7 exciting questions ahead

When I say that learning is its own reward, it’s not just an industry sound bite.

I’m personally and professionally energised by the opportunities ahead to learn more about recruiting and talent management. And I’m inspired by questions that blur the boundaries between learning and talent strategy, such as

    1. How can an employer assess a candidate’s appetite and aptitude for learning?
    2. If they can assess candidates, how can they incorporate the results into the onboarding process?
    3. From there, how can learning assessments feed into an employee’s individual L&D and performance plan?
    4. How can an L&D programme help employees unlearn skills and behaviours in order to learn new ones – for example, to progress into management and leadership?
    5. How can line management gain visibility into the learning needs of their teams and the impact of learning on team performance?
    6. How can learning become so ingrained in the operating DNA of a business that it’s routinely surfaced in management reports?
    7. How can you measure all this against business outcomes?

As a lifelong learner myself, I’m eager to pursue these questions and their answers, and to conceive and develop innovations in learning technologies that will help our clients put learning at the heart of their talent strategy.

Talent management - retaining and hiring the best candidates - is vital for organisations to succeed

To discover how to put learning at the heart of your talent strategy, contact us today.

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Additional sources:
1. Newman, D. (Aug 20, 2018). ‘2018 Digital Transformation Trends: Where Are We Now?‘, Forbes.

2. George, S. (Dec 15, 2017). ‘6 Ways the Workplace Will Change in the Next 10 Years‘, Smarter with Gartner.

3. Kane, G.C., Palmer, D., Nguyen Phillips, A., Kiron, D., & Buckley, N. (Jun 2018). ‘Coming of Age Digitally: Learning, Leadership, and Legacy‘, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Insights.

4. Manyika, J. (May 2017). ‘Technology, jobs, and the future of work‘, McKinsey Global Institute.

5. Agarwal, D., Bersin, J., Lahiri, G., Schwartz, J., & Volini, E. (Mar 28, 2018) ‘From careers to experiences: New pathways‘,
2018 Global Human Capital Trends. Deloitte Insights.

6. Brock, M. (May 31, 2017). ‘L&D and the Employee Experience‘, Training Industry.

7. Smith, L. (Jun 19, 2018). ‘Creating a Culture of Learning: 4 Steps to Define a Continuous Learning Program‘, PeopleFluent Edge.

8. Howes, J. (Sep 12, 2017). ‘The People Strategy Is the Business Strategy‘, Mercer United Kingdom.

9. Miller, B. (Aug 14, 2018). ‘How to Create the Right Learning and Talent Management Ecosystems for Your Organization‘, NetDimensions.

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