A critical part of a successful learning and development (L&D) program is a multi-year strategic plan. A strategic plan defines the direction of learning solutions, informing and guiding key business decisions.
Strategically Align to the Organization’s Goals
A foundational resource in developing an L&D strategic plan is the organization’s overall strategic plan. The organization’s vision and goals provide the framework for determining the future goals of learning programs, supporting the organization’s vision for growth in the future.
When aligning learning programs to the future needs of the organization, there are two specific areas to consider:
- Changes in business operations and scope. What is the future of the organization and how does it impact the need for learning programs? How will policies and processes change in the future? How will technology impact business operations?
- Changes in L&D programs necessary to support the future. Are L&D programs teaching the right skills and competencies? Is training provided to learners at the right time? Are the learning programs provided effective and positively impacting the business?
Address Development of Resources
The L&D strategic plan must demonstrate how learning programs will maintain and improve business resources and partners. Employees, customers and stakeholders are all impacted by change. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and new developments in technology impact how we do business – as well as how we learn.
Strategies for supporting emerging policies, new product and service lines, and reskilling the workforce are key to developing an L&D plan that anticipates organizational change.
In addition to strategies to support organizational change, the strategic plan should efficiently optimize resources for the development of learning programs. The plan should address learning programs designed in-house, learning programs sourced from third-party vendors or a blend of both. The plan should also address infrastructure requirements to ensure that training facilities, technology and personnel are sufficient to meet the changing needs of the organization.
Plan for Flexibility and Continuity
The strategic plan should address flexible learning strategies, structures, support systems and processes. These aspects of the plan should remain aligned to the business mission and goals. Learning leaders should also seek to diversify the instructional methods, processes and supporting technologies that enable learning to continue when events outside of the organization’s control occur.
Identify potential scenarios that might impact learning strategies and operations, and create contingency strategies to counter the effects. If possible, identify trigger points that would initiate a review of training structures and processes, and implement contingency plans and solutions to resolve any roadblocks and meet the changing needs of the organization. Developing and utilizing a communication plan allows changes to be quickly communicated to both internal and external stakeholders as situations arise.
Maintaining the L&D Strategic Plan
The L&D strategic plan is a living, iterative document. Implementing a regular monitoring process along with L&D strategies will help determine if the L&D program is successful in supporting the organization and ensure its continued alignment to the organization’s business goals. Including success measures –such as key performance indicators – to track the effectiveness of the plan’s implementation and outcomes will ensure that it is practical and measurable. Part of the monitoring process is an annual review of the L&D plan, which should occur concurrently with an annual review of the organization’s overall strategic plan.
Developing and executing a comprehensive L&D strategic plan bridges the organization’s vision and strategy with execution, allowing training and education operations to align with and fully support the organization’s needs.