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March 9, 2021

How to justify the value of developing a learning plan

Free Guide: 5 L&D Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

Learning and development is changing and to stay ahead of the curve you need to know the ways in which it’s doing so.

L&D Trends to Watch Out for in 2021 Book

Are you looking to improve your organisation’s learning and development strategy? 

Then consider helping your people develop a learning plan. By defining goals and the steps needed to achieve them, you’ll improve the efficiency of L&D for both your staff and your business.

The only downside is that learning plans can be time-consuming to create. 

But you shouldn’t skip this crucial step. This article will help you justify the value of developing a learning plan to both learners and your company by clearly highlighting the benefits of doing so.

What is a learning plan?

A learning plan written on a whiteboard

A learning plan is a road map people can use to guide their personal learning and development. It contains a goal and the specific training steps needed to reach this target. 

The best plans are personal to individual learners. When creating the training plan, staff and team leaders should work together to identify areas they want to improve and then define the steps required. 

When creating a learning plan, consider:

  • The staff member’s existing skill set and skill gaps.
  • Their favoured way of learning.
  • Their future work goals.

Learning plans can target general development. But they are most useful when they also consider the needs of the organisation. For example, if an employee is missing the skills required to take on more responsibility, the training plan should target these knowledge gaps. 

Combining both company and individual needs is a win-win situation for all involved: you get a higher-skilled team member without hiring from outside, while the team member gets the role they wanted.

A learning plan doesn’t have to be a complex document. Its aim is to facilitate training by being as easy to understand as possible. 

Include factors like:

  • The employee’s learning goals.
  • Steps to achieve this objective.
  • How you will define success.
  • Potential training challenges to overcome.
  • The support and resources the staff member has access to.

We’ve created a free simple template that you can use to help develop great learning plans. Check it out here.

What is the value of a learning plan?

The list below identifies some of the main reasons why you should develop a learning plan for people in your team. Use these ideas to explain their value if somebody questions why you are creating these documents.

How your staff benefit from learning plans:

They gain clarity in their career goals

Creating a learning plan helps your staff define their individual career goals. This can increase participation in L&D, as goal setting has been found to improve motivation and performance in a variety of situations. 

The issue is that setting learning goals isn’t always easy. While some people have a good idea of what they want to achieve from work, others are less clear. 

If learners are struggling, there are plenty of steps you can take to help them define what they want from their career over both the long and short term. 

At Learnerbly, we find that encouraging our staff to define their North Star Goals when creating training plans is helpful. These are long-term career targets that learners look to when identifying shorter-term opportunities for growth. 

This article contains the exact strategy we use when helping our team set North Star Goals. 

These goals generate specific results

Once the employee has defined their North Star Goal, use the learning plan to ensure their learning and development efforts generate results that push them towards this work goal. 

Ideally, you want to look for places where their training needs and the company’s needs align.

Imagine an employee in the marketing team who has the North Star Goal of one day leading their own department. They know that to achieve this, they have to show an ability to implement marketing strategies that help the business.

With this in mind, they may spot an opportunity to grow the company’s brand through an Instagram account. 

They could, therefore, focus their learning and development plan on Instagram marketing, with the goal of running the company’s account. If this goes well, the learner will be able to show how one of their ideas generated results for the company.

The staff member is happy because their L&D efforts have resulted in an impressive achievement to add to their CV. The company is happy because they built brand awareness on Instagram.

Defined steps make reaching goals easier

Learning plans provide staff with specific steps to reach their goals. Having their journey mapped out in advance removes decision paralysis, thus smoothing the path to success. 

The exact makeup of the journey can differ drastically depending on:

  • The person’s favoured way of learning. 
  • Their development goals. 
  • Available training resources.
  • Your company.

For some, the best path to take involves on-the-job learning that helps them get up to speed with a wider variety of job-relevant skills. A senior team member or mentor can guide the person through the work required for each task and then sign them off when they are proficient.

For others, the journey will revolve around self-directed learning. This could be taking online courses to learn different skills or attending classes and seminars. 

Staff feel supported in their career development

A lack of development opportunities is often cited as a reason why employees feel dissatisfied with their role. Taking the time to work with them to create a dedicated learning plan shows them that you value their development.

While you’re building your plan, be sure to support learners in their journey. You can do this by: 

  • Creating time specifically for learning.
  • Providing access to the resources they need.
  • Encouraging them to stick to the plan.

How your organisation benefits from learning plans:

Your people become more valuable

Creating a plan encourages learners to participate in the opportunities available to them. While some employees are happy to participate in self-directed learning, for others a plan is the motivation they need to work on their goals. 

This benefits your company by encouraging employees to independently develop the skills they need to progress, making them more valuable within your organisation.

Organisations can align their learning plans with positions they need to fill

Hiring can be expensive. Upskilling your existing workforce can be a better option. You just need to make sure employees are learning the skills you —  and they —  need. Before creating plans, identify roles that need filling in the near future and identify if anyone in your current team has an interest in upskilling those areas.. 

You can then align your learning and development around these shortages. Your employees gain knowledge that will directly impact the work they do at your organisation, and you’ll gain people with valuable skills.

You can identify potential future skills gaps

Creating learning plans will also help you identify where potential skills gaps could arise. 

For example, if one of your team is training to apply for a senior position, you need to consider how to fill their current role once they have achieved their aim.

This could either be by helping someone else develop the required skills, or by recruiting for the position.

Show how your L&D strategy generates results

Learning plans provide a deeper insight into your L&D strategy. 

You get more visibility into the types of opportunities learners are taking up. If lots of your people have similar learning goals or enjoy similar types of learning, you can focus your L&D efforts on these needs.

You can also use employee learning plans to show the concrete results your L&D strategy has generated. 

For example:

  • The skills that team members have gained through L&D.
  • When L&D has resulted in an employee taking a more senior position.
  • When knowledge generated through L&D has led to positive business results.

Without a learning plan you won’t have a record of what your employees are working on, which makes showing these kinds of results difficult.

Learning plans are key to effective L&D

Ultimately, learning plans make L&D more effective. Not only will you set better goals, but defining the required steps ensures learners are more likely to hit these targets. 

This helps your staff, who are able to develop more effectively, and your organisation, which benefits from a highly skilled workforce.

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L&D Trends to Watch Out for in 2021 Book

Free Guide: 5 L&D Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

Learning and development is changing and to stay ahead of the curve you need to know the ways in which it’s doing so.

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