“ANYONE WHO STOPS LEARNING IS OLD, WHETHER AT TWENTY OR EIGHTY.” —HENRY FORD
Above quote from Mr. Ford summarizes it all! To stay relevant and competitive, all of us need to continuously keep learning. Another quote which comes into my mind is:
“LIVE AS IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW. LEARN AS IF YOU WERE TO LIVE FOREVER.” ―MAHATMA GANDHI
For long, we humans have been fascinated by the quest to understand our world better. In other words, we have wanted to explore the world around us and learn about it. Learning has been an integral part of the human mind. Since perhaps the dawn of history, humans have understood that learning is a ladder to development.
As we get down to exploring all the elements of Learning and Development in this blog, let us first tune our thoughts towards a readily available, valuable resource on learning. This beautifully created course on learning is just what you need in order to get a clear, basic understanding of the elements of learning. Happy learning with this course!
While learning has always been on the top of the agenda for people across geographies, races and cultures, the need for Learning and Development has acquired near critical importance in business organizations. The need for learning has always been acute from the time our modern world started taking shape a couple or so centuries ago, but that need has only gone on to get intensified today.
We can say that the need for Learning and Development has become an imperative for organizations. Why the sudden upsurge in our need for inculcating Learning and Development in the corporate world? The reason is there to see: technological development. This is the real elephant in the room that has been giving Learning and Development an impetus and nudging it to acute levels.
In this blog, we will give you a solid understanding of all the topics related to Learning and Development. By the time you finish reading this blog, you will have gained clarity on these topics:
What is Learning and Development? What is skill development?
To start with, the most obvious question to answer is: what is Learning and Development? As we get down to dissect this matter, it is important to bear in mind that terms such as “Learning and Development”, “skill development”, and “Training and Development” are loosely and interchangeably used in the industry and in the corporate circles, and of course, in this blog.
So, what is Learning and Development? Pretty easy to understand by its definition, Learning and Development is an exercise that aims to augment the knowledge and skills in employees with an intention of helping them improve their performance at their jobs. That Learning and Development is essential for organizations and the employees is obvious, but what is the kind of Learning and Development that an organization should impart to its employees?
The ideal manner of going about Learning and Development is one that aligns the learning to the organization’s goals and objectives. This is the vital ingredient of a learning program, without which the learning is not going to serve the core purpose of helping the employees sharpen their skills for improving at their job. Learning and Development forms a central part of an organization’s talent management strategy.
The Importance of Learning and Development in the Workplace: Why is Learning and Development Important for Organizations? What are the benefits of training your employees?
The most important reason for which organizations and employees need Learning and Development at the workplace can be summarized in one sentence: to stay updated and ahead with the needs of the industry.
The most valuable benefit an organization and an employee get from Learning and Development is that they will be able to upgrade their abilities and be able to handle challenges and responsibilities. They can overcome constraints and limitations at work.
Any organization in which any employee is not up to the required skillsets can go down the drain. The need for Learning and Development has always been high; now, with the advent of the present-day technologies, this need has got accentuated like never before. It is a simple case of losing out and being unable to catch up if you are not up to it.
The cost that organizations invite when their workforce if not properly trained at their jobs is glaring:
- At a recent survey, Olivet University found that more than three fourths of the employees are aware of the need for Learning and Development, but only between one third and two fifths actually hired a mentor to help them improve at their profession
- In the UK, the reason two thirds of the employees change or quit jobs is that they lack the training needed for carrying out their job successfully.
When this happens, organizations find that they cannot stay in the race in the market. Most employees realize that the learning they had formally at college is more often than not grossly inadequate to help them deal with the demands of the job. This is a harsh reality that is present all over the world in varying degrees.
This skills gap is best taken care of only through the powerful tool of Learning and Development that is effectively designed taking the needs of the employee and the organization together and aligning them to each other. This is where Learning and Development play a crucial role in helping organizations and the employees stay updated and be competitive in the market.
A well laid out Learning and Development strategy offers these among other benefits:
- The Learning and Development strategy ensures complete utilization of the human capital in the organization
- It creates a strong executive and leadership team that is equipped to handle the needs and pressures of the industry
- It prepares the employee and the organization for future demands and uncertainties and helps to lay a succession plan.
Objectives of Learning and Development
The objectives that Learning and Development or Learning and Development should serve are simple:
They should help the organization create a clear roadmap for Learning and Development. The objective of Learning and Development should be to upskill employees to bring them on par with the needs of the industry in general and the organization in particular.
It is only employees who are equipped to handle the demands of the market that are able to perform using the skills they gain through Learning and Development. These are the ones that bring in ROI for the organization and benefits for their own selves.
Among the most important objectives that a Learning and Development program should serve are these:
Other supplementary benefits of a sound Learning and Development program include putting in place an employee-friendly and amiable workplace in which they feel respected and valued. In this sense, the Learning and Development program should be designed in a way that it brings benefits to both the employee and the organization.
Elements of a Learning and Development program
Now let us look at the elements of a Learning and Development program: in this superbly written article, Laci Loew, Vice President, Talent Management Practice, and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group, has put forth a highly persuasive piece about the elements of a Learning and Development program. These elements should ideally go into a Learning and Development program:
- The Learning and Development plan is the most effective means to skilling people and retaining them
- Learning and Development should be an ongoing process and not a one-off exercise
- It should be aimed at a macro level, where the organization’s strengths are built and not only the individual’s
- Learning and Development should be part of the organizational culture and should foster learning, competence and innovation
- It should be conceptualized and led by the organization’s leaders
- The Learning and Development program should have measurable outcomes, i.e., they should have SMART learning objectives.
Understanding SMART learning objectives
Now, a word about the last of these, SMART learning objectives:
SMART is a well-known principle of Learning and Development. It is an acronym for :
S – Specific: The learning should be clear about what learning the learner will be getting and what she will do with it
M – Measurable: There should be observable learning outcomes from the training
A – Attainable: That is, the learning should be accessible and available to the learners at the set time
R – Relevant: There should be relevance from the learning to the needs of both the learner as well as the organization
T – Time-framed: The learning duration should be set and the objectives should be achieved by that timeframe.
A quick guide here explains in an easy manner about how to write SMART Learning Objectives.
Why is Learning and Development important in your life? Why is personal development important?
Ah, now that we have discussed all these points about Learning and Development at the workplace and our professions, is it not worth considering if the same principles and concepts can be applied to life as well? That is, how important is Learning and Development to our lives outside our professions?
This is the way to look at Learning and Development in our lives: If Learning and Development are essential for our professional lives, they are indispensable for our lives. This encapsulates the importance of Learning and Development for life. Well, we need to develop first as humans and then as professionals, for the simple reason that a career or a profession is only a part of our lives, albeit a very important one.
Apart from just being professionals, we assume many roles in the family or in the society. It is only when we are open to developing ourselves in these spheres of life can we hope to become cultivated and make life meaningful and respectable. It is almost entirely the case that those whose personal lives are satisfactory find their professional lives too, the same.
This is well illustrated in the famed hierarchy of human needs enunciated by Abraham Maslow. This pyramid aptly explains the interdependence of our personal and professional lives and the interwoven nature of the two.
Our personal development is more important than our professional development because at some point of time, we can put a stop to our professional development, at least when we retire from work. But in the case of personal development, it is continuous and unceasing, and should go on as long as we live, or as long as our faculties permit us, depending on how lucky we are!
What is the importance of Continuing Professional Development?
A major facet of Learning and Development is what is called Continuing Professional Development. Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, is the Learning and Development that is imparted for a professional to grow in one’s profession, in a formalized manner. While the contents of Learning and Development explained above hold the same for CPD, a major component it carries is learning that is accredited with professional, trade or educational bodies.
This makes CPD a thoroughly finessed and formalized learning process. Needless to say, continuing professional development is highly valued by organizations as it helps their employees become more competent at their work and ensures that they are certified for their learning.
How is career development important for a student?
An interesting perspective that comes to mind is this: How is career development important for a student, or how important is career development for a student. We have heard the age old phrase, “catch them young”. This simple sounding saying has deep meaning and importance, simply because we learn best when we are young. Haven’t we noticed how much quicker the younger generation is when it comes to learning simply anything from the use of techno gadgets to car driving?
Why career development for students is important is that when their strengths and weaknesses are identified early on, it helps to build a solid foundation for their professional and personal lives. Parents, teachers and counsellors can play a major role in helping students to identify their areas of interest and passion and suggest ways by which they can learn and grow into these areas. This helps the student to choose something of her liking and eliminates the confusion that surrounds millions of them around the world who are at a malleable age and find making decisions difficult.
How to Create a Personal Learning Plan
The next logical step for anyone who has embarked on personal learning is to give it shape with the right planning and thought. This makes personal learning more focused, targeted, organized, and measurable. A personal learning plan is something that acts as a vehicle that takes us to our learning goals. These are some of the ways by which to set up a personal learning plan:
Step 1: Be Clear on WHAT & WHY of Learning: The most important first step, obviously, is to determine WHAT you want to learn and WHY you want to learn that. There has to be a very clear, strong and relevant reason behind it. It is only when the learner is clear about this, that the rest of the steps follow. Dig deeper to find answers to above questions and visualize the outcomes. This will help you to stay focused on the learning plan.
Step 2: Set up achievable and practical targets for learning: SMART Goals Framework is the key here! One may love to learn everything and anything, which is great, but in the context of a personal learning plan, it is important to get a measure of how realistic our learning is going to be.
Step 3: Skill Gap Analysis: Find out where do you stand with respect to set targets and how much gap you need to cover. Based on the gap you need to fill, chart out a plan of action or learning blueprint. Based on this, create a learning schedule and ensure that you stick to that.
Step 4: Evaluate the learning from time to time: You need to regularly monitor your progress against set milestones. If you are following a trainer, then getting continuous objective feedback from the trainer is an invaluable tool to help assess where you stand at different points of time in your learning. Note down your progress made and evaluate this information during the next evaluation.
Step 5: Collaborate to the extent possible with peers: Sharing helps to widen our horizons. Networking with our fellow students helps other and enriches our own knowledge. There are various online networking communities for each area. You can choose and join one based on your niche.
Step 6: Application of the knowledge acquired: Finally, in order to master or develop any new skill, the most important part is its application. You need to apply the knowledge to build something with it. Application part is where REAL LEARNING lies and helps further evolution of the skill.
We can sum this up in the following graphic:
Why is e-learning important? What is the best site to learn online courses? What are some good resources for learning ‘Soft skills’?
Well, now, let us move on the one trend that seems to be making waves in the Learning and Development arena the world over: eLearning. With the developments in technology, especially those powered by the Internet, distance learning has gained an explosive push and has crystallized into what is called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). This concept is simple to understand from its nomenclature.
Employers or employees can enroll to various courses-many times offered at the price of a coffee-at platform like Simpliv to boost their carrier. Simpliv offers a wide range of free, as well as paid courses, to address the skills gap in hard and soft skills areas. Employers or individuals can make use of various pre-recorded or live bootcamp courses to learn about the latest best practices offered by leading industry experts.
Talking about soft skills courses, Simpliv’s courses on soft skills are effective in many ways. They are current, relevant, taught by the best experts, and are certified. This is certainly a good bet for anyone wanting to hone their soft skills.
What are the best Books on Learning and Development?
Although online learning has been making a splash in the field of Learning and Development, hardbound versions never lose their charm or their relevance, at least for some more time to come. This is our selection of the best offline resources for Learning and Development:
- Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen
- How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey
- Learning Technologies in the Workplace: How to Successfully Implement Learning Technologies in Organizations by Donald H. Taylor.
Benefits of e-Learning for Employee Learning and Development
eLearning, a tool that has advanced by leaps and bounds, has very clear benefits for organizations and their employees. Let us examine some of them quickly:
- Helps employees stay updated with the market needs
- Saves companies a lot of money, as employees are more productive and adapt the latest technologies and best practices
- Helps organizations produce the best products and services
- Assures continuous learning for employees
- Inexpensive when implemented on a large scale
- Most knowledge platforms are easy to administer and oversee.
Best Corporate Learning and Development Certifications
Well, as we close this blog, let us take a peek at some of the best corporate Learning and Development certifications:
- Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) from ATD
- HRCI’s Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
- Senior Certified Professional from SHRM
- Certified Performance Technologist certification from The International Society for Performance Improvement’s (ISPI).
Do you think Learning and Development are a useful tool for individuals and organizations? Do you think this has more value for employees than their formal learning and degrees? Do you think the huge amounts of money that organizations spend on Learning and Development are worth it, or are they spending meaninglessly?
Also, we would like to understand your perspective on whatever we have covered in this blog. Kindly write to us in the comments section, which will help us to improve the quality of our content.