All too often, learning and development (L&D) and performance management happen in silos. However, these two essential business processes may have more in common than you might think. Chris Milligan, vice president of career mobility at Degreed, says, “Learning and talent management are intrinsically linked. You cannot effectively manage your talent if you don’t understand what drives them, what their skills are and what learning they are engaging with.”

In today’s fast-paced business environment, more organizations are realizing that it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” to manage talent and learning separately, says Lars Hyland, chief learning officer at Totara Learning. Fusing learning and talent management into a seamless experience can help organizations “better cope and be more resilient in times of change,” he says.

Let’s consider how the right technology, combined with a broader culture shift, can help organizations create a comprehensive employee experience that benefits both their people and their bottom lines.

It’s All in the Tech

There are numerous platforms on the market offering a one-stop-shop for performance management and learning. The Totara Talent Experience Platform, for example, brings performance management and training together in a “common, integrated” solution, Hyland says. The platform, which manages both formal and informal learning, allows learners to share and curate content with their peers. Freeing employees to “share openly, across silos” can stimulate problem-solving and innovation — which all departments need, Hyland says.

Engagedly, a performance management software, optimizes performance by giving employees access to coaching and mentoring opportunities and manager-recommended training, says Srikant Chellappa, Engagedly’s president. This holistic approach to talent development improves organizational alignment and ensures employees are not only “doing things right” but are “working on the right things,” Chellappa says.

Many platforms that manage learning and performance simultaneously create personalized learning journeys with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). For instance, the ARCET Global Talent Management platform leverages AI to “link all [aspects] of the employee journey” and determine an “evidence-based” performance management score, says Gerry Donaldson, the platform’s creator and chief executive officer of CCR3, a global performance management firm. Another platform on the market, Leapsome, creates “personal learning paths” for employees based on feedback they receive from their manager, whether during a formal performance review or casual one-on-one meeting, says Kajetan Armansperg, Leapsome’s co-founder and managing director.

There’s no shortage of technologies that can help learning leaders unify performance management and learning at their organizations. It’s important to remember, however, that selecting a learning technology is a strategic decision. Referencing your L&D plan can help you determine which technology, if any, can help you drive business results.

Shifting to a People-centric Culture

Managing performance and learning simultaneously requires more than the right technology. It also requires a widespread culture shift toward innovation and learning. L&D leaders can help enable this shift by finding the “sweet spot” between learners’ interests and career aspirations and business needs, Milligan says. Donaldson echoes this sentiment, adding that the “best learning outcomes” happen when learners know training is “linked to their own sense of mission and values.”

To create a culture that supports learners throughout the entire employee life cycle, organizations must take a “person-centric approach,” Milligan says. Degreed Career Mobility, for example, links career advancement opportunities to learning, giving employees both the “why” behind learning and a greater sense of purpose. Armansperg agrees it’s important to create a people-centric culture, noting that as employees improve their skill sets and “create more impact in their roles,” they will likely become “more satisfied and fulfilled.” As a result, both engagement and productivity will increase, he says.

To succeed in a constantly changing business climate, Hyland says that smart organizations “invest heavily in creating a learning culture” and give employees the tools they need to keep pace. The ones that don’t, he says, will struggle.

Benefits for All

Managing learning and performance simultaneously offers myriad benefits for both businesses and their people. One of these benefits, Hyland says, is that it “frees people to share openly, across silos,” leading to greater problem-solving and innovation. It also improves organizational agility. When companies have a holistic view of employees’ skills and areas for improvement in a single platform, they can better mobilize their workforce in response to a sudden crisis or disruption, Milligan says. On the other hand, organizations working in silos are less likely to remain agile in the face of disruption. This is a “hard lesson” that many companies have learned firsthand amid the coronavirus crisis, he says.

Lastly, combining performance management and learning can help improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Giving employees from underrepresented groups access to learning in areas that can help them advance is critical in creating a diverse leadership pipeline, Chellappa says.

Combining two historically separate business processes isn’t easy. But with the help of technology and a powerful learning culture, organizations will reap the benefits. After all, Donaldson says, when managers, leaders and innovators are all free to think clearly and create new ways to innovate, “the difference to the bottom line is financial, cultural, engaging and impactful.”

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