Creating business impact and identifying return on investment (ROI) is crucial for learning and development (L&D) professionals to gain a seat at the table with organizational leaders. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic created certain new challenges for L&D teams.

Depending on how a given organization was delivering training pre-pandemic, they were either able to tackle pandemic-related learning challenges head on, or they really struggled. Now, amid the “new normal” of hybrid work environments, we realize that learning will never entirely go back to the way it used to be. So, how can learning professionals manage and leverage existing learning technologies to create optimal business impact? While there is no easy answer to this question and it’s not a quick fix, let’s consider three key steps to begin the journey.

Step 1: Take Current Inventory, Gather Data and Analyze It

To begin optimizing your learning tech stack for better business results, start by taking stock of what you have. Gather data on your current learning technologies and tools by looking at both business needs analyses, and a survey of your tools and resources.

A. Conduct business needs analyses in coordination with as many functional teams as possible for insights on the following:

  • Business or organizational strategy and goals.
  • Business needs that learning needs to address.
  • Primary pain points, along with key business challenges, opportunities and skills gaps
  • Engagement survey insights around growth and development opportunities.
  • Whether or not feedback surveys are providing useful feedback and data.
  • Which training initiatives to prioritize and which to put on hold.

B. To gather data around tools, technology and learning content, ask the following questions:

  • Which tools and technologies, such as a learning management system (LMS) or mobile app, are being used well?
  • Are there essential tools or technologies not being used well, or that need to be outsourced?
  • Are current learning offerings being utilized by the target audience(s)?
  • Are existing marketing and promotions working as expected?
  • What are the sources for the training content offerings (external vendors, internal instructional design teams, subject matter experts, etc.)?

Step 2: Planning

Armed with data and analysis from step one, you can begin to compose a detailed action plan. Engage key stakeholders to review you findings and agree on next steps. During this step, consider:

  • What areas need focus or improvement? Are there specific needs around existing learning gaps, engagement with learning content, utilization of specific learning technologies and tools, functional versus enterprise level needs, or attention to how learning content is promoted?
  • Drafting a project plan that identifies the steps, action items, personnel and any tool set-up or testing requirements for specific learning
  • Develop a strong change management plan in coordination with stakeholders, the marketing and/or communications group and influential leaders (perhaps a human resources officer or functional leader). Include promotions, an agreed upon timeline, core responsibilities and plan for collecting feedback. If you’re capitalizing on a preexisting technology within the learning space, consider a rebranding if appropriate or reframing the engagement experience for learners.

Step 3: Implementation

With proper planning and leadership buy-in, it’s time to move forward with and leverage the learning content and tools at your disposal.

  • Start small, with a pilot group if possible, such as a single business unit. Expand to others once you have demonstrated success and course-corrected based on feedback.
  • Ensure that near- and long-term support structures remain in place. This need will largely depend on the size and scope of the learning technology undertaking.
  • Maintain focus and energy on the tools: True development of a proper learning culture and habits does not end at implementation. Develop a cadence of analysis and dedicate resources to monitor the growth of any learning tool and adjacent technologies.

Example Scenario

Consider the following example, which puts the best practices we’ve covered into a real-world scenario:

A commercial sales team is struggling with developing a clear strategy and meeting goals. Leadership believes that reskilling and providing a renewed focus on the sales process may lead to better business results. Through your L&D team’s discovery process, you’ve identified the following:

  • Feedback surveys show that there may be gaps around salespeople’s negotiation and presentation skills, which is impacting client relationships.
  • Content that addresses these needs is available in the LMS.
  • The organization has a mobile app integrated with the LMS, though utilization is only in sparse pockets of the population.
  • Sales leadership has identified several learning modules which may drive the results the group is looking for. They have also committed to measuring improvement on targets and providing feedback on effectiveness.
  • You devise a campaign to revisit the benefits of learning via the preexisting mobile app, targeting the entire colleague population, but with special messaging to those in sales roles. This includes a tailored curriculum of select trainings assigned to salespeople.

When it comes to learning technologies, remember not to dismiss the tools you already have. As our businesses evolve and new learning needs are identified, we may not have the appetite (or resources) for the next shiny solution. However, a review, analysis and targeted plan to reengage with preexisting resources may successfully support current and new learning needs through an optimized learning tech stack.