How to build a development cycle with impact
In a tight job market, getting the most out of in-house talent is key. Talent managers and Learning & Development professionals have their work cut out for them. Employees on all levels must upskill a reskill quickly and with a swift impact on the bottom line. Never has HR been asked to guide so many people through a development cycle. This blog is about what makes people take positive action towards development.
As 62% of business leaders believe that L&D is either highly important or critical for business success (Brandon Hall 2022), it is no wonder that close to half of companies (49%) are increasing their L&D budget in 2022, compared to 41% in 2021 (Westfall, B. 2022). 55% of respondents in a recent Brandon Hall survey reported their learning organizations were unable to measure learning’s impact on business performance (Brandon Hall, 2022). On the employee side, the picture is equally grim: only one out of every five people would recommend their organization’s learning and development opportunities & offerings, while nearly half wouldn’t (Westfall C. 2019).
That last number strikes me as odd: never have I seen companies invest more in making a learning & development offering available. Learning Management Systems with vast high-quality content seem to be implemented everywhere. On the other hand, it does also not surprise me, as making the right choice out of this vast offering can be daunting to the average employee.
So, it is not only about making learning content available. If we want the ROI of our L&D efforts, we must make sure people can go through a development cycle, in such a way that impact of the learning effort is maximized for both the individual and the organization.
We all know we can’t make the grass grow by pulling it. Learning new things is for the most part about choosing to engage in a learning activity. For people to make a positive choice towards development, they need to go through a four-phase development cycle:
Every step in this cycle is a vital one:
Feedback: people need to understand their ‘as is’ situation. What is the effect of their current attitudes and behaviours? They need a ‘mirror’ so to speak. Preferably one that is quite clear in its reflection of the current reality. It’s the organization’s responsibility to provide such a mirror.
Reflection: only when people get to reflect on what they see in the mirror they can decide what parts of that reflection are a) relevant to them and b) a priority. If what they see in the mirror is considered neither, development will NOT take place. Looking into the mirror is the responsibility of the individual contributor.
Menu: in terms of development actions, what is the offering they can choose from? In other words, with regards to the things they’ve seen in the mirror, is there a one-to-one mapping on development actions they can choose from? Preferably, this ‘menu’ is not too long, nor too short and it offers different ways of learning to suit different learning styles. It’s the organization’s responsibility to make an offering.
Positive action: in the last phase, the choice towards a specific development action is made. If all the others steps were done right, the specific choice for a development action will be a good one, i.e. one that will produce impact. Making that choice is up to the individual contributor.
Here are some tips for implementing the development cycle:
- Try to include evidence-based instruments to create a mirror. Preferably instruments that not only measure but also visualize the feedback in such a way people can understand the relevance of the feedback. Look for dependable partners who have these kinds of instruments and feedback reports in their offering.
- Make sure that what you put forward in the mirror is directly linked to your strategy and performance indicators, so you can calculate the ROI of your L&D effort further down the line. Remember that the lack of effective measurement related to business KPIs makes it extremely difficult to convince business leaders that learning projects are well-targeted and worth the investment (Brandon Hall, 2022).
- An individual contributor in the reflection phase will benefit from having a sounding board to help reflect on what is relevant and a priority. Organizations will always need people who can take up this role. Even in a time where AI will continuously gain more influence, I think a professional (learning-) coach in this phase of the development cycle will pay off.
- Providing content in a Learning Management System (LMS) is not enough. Make sure to make a mapping of your broad L&D development offering to the skills, competencies, attitudes, etc. that you show in the mirror. When you have a mapping in place, you can provide people with a menu of possible L&D actions that are suitable for them specifically. No need to say the offering can be anything from small knowledge crumbs in an app to a multiple-day classroom program.
- Although I believe people are naturally intrinsically motivated to learn and develop, it can help to install a learning culture that favours self-management, so people feel empowered to take action.
In conclusion, the development of individual contributors can only happen if you guide people through a four-phase development cycle. It all starts with in-depth feedback and every new phase builds on the previous one.
TalentLogiQs helps organizations and individuals to go through the development cycle, by offering talent intelligence in the feedback phase, personal reports to support the reflection phase and making a mapping of your L&D offering to fit the feedback with our recommender system in the Talent Review Profiler. Contact us for more information.
Brandon Hall Group. The State of Learning: 2023 And Beyond. Survey report (2022).
Westfall, C. Nearly half of workers unsatisfied with earning and development programs, Forbes (2019).
Westfall, B. To close skill gaps, nearly 50% of companies are spending more on upskilling employees in 2022. Capterra survey (2022).