As we know 2020 was quite extraordinary, we have all learned a lot about ourselves and our organisations resilience, but now is not the time to become complacent. Whilst 2020 was tough, the beginning of 2021 is going to remain challenging especially for learning and development teams. With job losses, flexi working, re-deployment of staff, organisations re-structuring or re-evaluating markets, it’s never been more important to make sure learning development organisations are serving business goals. So, are you clear on your learning and development purpose?

Traditionally, learning and development has focused on improving the productivity of employees. Whilst productivity is a product of a good learning and development, productivity needs to be focused in the right areas, but it should also have a broader scope than individual employee output.

Here are three areas key to a learning and development organisation’s purpose for 2021 and beyond:

Attracting and retaining talent. 

We have long shifted from the view that employees stay with one company throughout their career, to one which recognises that organisations need to provide learning and growth opportunities to attract top talent throughout their careers. Employees are retained or chose to remain if they add value to a business or if they believe they are developing.

Employees now have more autonomy over their personal and professional development and growth. This is a key reason that ‘opportunities to learn’ is often top criteria for joining a business. A lack of opportunities is often listed as reasons to leave.

Developing people capabilities.

Once an organisation has identified business priorities and strategies, they need confidence that their employees can deliver the strategy, so do they have the right skills and knowledge?

Companies need to continually assess employee capabilities and identify gaps in ability or knowledge. Effective businesses will take a systematic approach to capability assessments aligned to strategic business direction. For example, starting a new business area such as e commerce, or data – does an organisation have the expertise? Once the essential capabilities have been identified, assessments of employees occur with learning and development programmes delivered to close capability gaps where required. Capability assessments are reviewed annually and, companies that invest in a programmes like this are more likely to hit performance goals.

Motivating and engaging employees. 

One of the best ways to engage employees is to provide them learning and development opportunities so that they develop new knowledge and skills. In an article for HBR, John Coleman suggests that learning is good for employees health, reducing stress levels and enhancing motivation through creation and intellectual advancement.

However, learning and development programmes must be integrated with wider HR programmes and processes to succeed. Learning and development is integral to recruiting, onboarding, performance management, workforce planning and engagement programmes. If performance is removed from learning, it becomes harder for employees to receive constructive feedback, and for managers to identify development opportunities – all impacting employee motivation and engagement.

I believe that learning and development organisations who focus on their purpose will navigate successfully through the year ahead, now is the time to reflect, what is your learning and development organisation’s purpose?


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