If you don’t develop your employees, your business will die.
Now, that’s admittedly a little overly-doom and gloom, but employee development is both incredibly important and astoundingly ignored. As Victor Lipman described in an article posted to Forbes, employee development builds loyalty, which increases productivity. “Taking an honest interest in someone builds loyalty. Loyal employees are more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive.” So it’s not just something you do out of the goodness of your heart; it makes good business sense, too.
In addition, taking the initiative to develop your employees helps keep them around longer. The employees with the highest aspirations and the strongest drive to succeed are the ones you want to keep around for as long as possible. What’s important to note is that because of their drive, they want to constantly learn and develop. If you can’t offer that to them, they’ll search elsewhere for the opportunity.
So, to reiterate: employee development is pretty important. But what can you do to help start developing them? Well, it all starts with coming up with some strategies. Many companies start by using a learning management system (LMS), but you need to do more than just find a good platform. Luckily for you, we collected some proven employee development strategies beyond simply implementing an LMS:
Build a Learning Management Program
Did you know that only 8% of respondents to a 2012 survey say they love their learning management system (LMS)? This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many companies are unhappy with their LMS due to outdated interfaces, lack of customization, or incomplete reporting. Doing thorough research and identifying your team’s main objectives before installing an LMS can save your company lots of time and money in the long run.
Learning Management programs help businesses and educational institutions track, administer, and report on educational courses or training programs. These programs are often used when onboarding new employees, but they can also be used for external customer-facing training sessions as well.
If you’re wondering how to build a learning management program for your company, you’ve come to the right place. Choosing the right software for your company is no easy task, and there’s a lot of research to sift through before making a decision. We’ve provided some of the most important considerations for you and your key stakeholders when evaluating an LMS solution.
Determine Use Cases
The first thing to consider when looking for a learning management program is the necessary use cases and learning strategy that you hope to provide. To do so, ask yourself these questions, and share them with stakeholders:
- Who is our audience for the curriculum? Will we have one curriculum or multiple courses on different topics?
- Will the courses be instructor-led, video-based, or text-based? Or something completely different?
- What will the delivery method for the courseware look like? Will employees engage with training software online or on their local machines?
- What platforms will the content be hosted on? As more and more people use mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, is cross-platform compatibility important?
- Do we need an entire LMS, or just an LCMS (Learning Content Management System)?
Select Important Features
Learning management programs can have a wide variety of features ranging from critical to “nice-to-have”. Sit down with your key stakeholders and figure out what features are most important when looking for a learning management program. Once you have your short list of prioritized features, you can refer to it when demoing different vendors. Some common LMS features to look for include:
- Content Delivery
- Tracking and Reports
- Assessment Management (Testing)
- Employee Self-Service
- Online/Virtual Classes and Content
- Industry Standards Compliance (e.g. SCORM)
- Ability to Integrate with Your Existing Systems
Demo Your Options
You wouldn’t buy a car before test driving it, would you? The same principle applies to building a learning management program. You should never leap into building a learning management program before demoing the different options.
During a demo period, be sure to have your list of prioritized features at hand and ask questions like:
- What level of support and maintenance is available?
- What is the pricing model? (Per user, per year, or something else?)
- Does the vendor have similar customers?
- Does the vendor have compelling testimonials or reviews from similar customers?
- Will the system be user-friendly for both the administrators and learners?
Remember that a significant software purchase like a LMS affects people across the company. You’ll want to get buy-in from IT, administrators, and learners (your employees or students). Since these are three completely different audiences with different goals, be prepared to answer different types of questions for each group.
IT professionals are most often interested in the technical requirements for integration and the support required to maintain the system. You can ask these questions to evaluate the technical feasibility of the learning management program:
- How does this program integrate with our existing processes and software?
- What are the technical requirements for support and maintenance?
- What kind of customization is needed?
- Will the LMS be cloud-based or on-premise? What are the pros and cons of each strategy for our business?
Administrators want a system that is easy to maintain and has robust reporting capabilities so they can measure user progress and engagement. When speaking to administrators (these may be your training leaders or teachers), ask them these questions to get a feel for how the LMS will suit their needs:
- How easy is it to add a new course?
- How do I see which students have completed each course?
- What formats are supported for the learning content? (Web, text, video, etc)
- What kind of data can I access about my learners, and how do I access it?
For your learners (either in-house employees or external customers), you’ll want to focus on the user friendliness and experience. If possible, include some of your target users in the demo and be sure to get feedback from them as well as key decision makers.
Many companies end up cycling through multiple learning management programs before finding the one that suits them best, so doing your research and getting buy-in upfront can save a lot of money.
Ask your target users these questions to evaluate the user-friendliness of the product:
- What is the level of technical skill needed to use the product?
- How can I find out about new courses or information?
- How do I search for information, and how long does it take to find what I’m looking for?
- How do I see my courses and track what I’ve completed?
Implement Your Solution
Once you’ve settled on a solution, work with IT and management to ensure it rolls out smoothly across the company. Now is the time to track employee engagement, learning progress and other metrics to assess your curriculum’s success. The right LMS can help you do all of that, and ensure the success of your learning management program for years to come.
Conduct a Skill Gap Analysis
According to Lorri Freifield in Training Mag, “solving a skill gap is like solving a puzzle—not only do you have to make the pieces fit, you have to make sure you have all the necessary pieces from the get-go.”
What is a skill gap analysis?
A skill gap exists when the talents and competencies of your workforce do not match up to the requirements or needs of the job at hand. In other words, there is a “gap” between the skills your team has and the skills it needs. This can cost companies lots of money, especially if your company is competing in a fast-paced field like technology.
Companies can use skill gap analysis to catalog the skills and competencies of their current workforce and compare that with the needs of the company. This can be extended to future planning as well, such as 3 or 5 year plans. If your company is getting ready to take on a big new project, you want to know if your team has what it takes, right?
Why is skill gap analysis important?
Skill gap analysis in the workplace is important because you need to make sure your company has the skills it needs to succeed in today’s workforce. If your organization is targeting a new vertical, for example, it helps to know if your employees have the skills to perform successfully in this area. Sure, you may have hired them for one thing, but we all know that job roles and requirements can change over time.
Skill gap analysis helps organizations and their employees continue to grow and learn in today’s fast-paced world. And organizations that choose not to engage in professional development are often left in the dust by more innovative competitors. James Bessen at the Harvard Business Review suggests that many employers struggle to hire because of skill gaps in the workforce, so it definitely pays to have up-to-date and well-educated employees. Skill gap analysis doesn’t have to be difficult, costly, or time-consuming. We’ll go through a step-by-step process to gather information and make the most of your findings.
How to perform a skill gap analysis
Describe roles in your organization
First, take a good long look at the members of your organization. What teams and departments exist? What different kinds of roles? Sit down and make a list of the different job titles at your company. If some of them have very similar competencies, you may combine them into one role for the purposes of this exercise.
Describe skills and priorities
Now you want to understand what your company is up against. What skills are a priority for your organization going forward? Do you plan to take on new responsibilities or projects in the near future? This is also a good time to consider your company’s missions, goals, and values.
Come up with a list of the most important skills your team needs, and how important those skills are. Cognology suggests that you list both behavioral and technical skills. Both are important. For example, your list might look something like this:
- Database management
- Customer support
- Web development
- Digital marketing
Take a moment to assign a priority to each of those skills, as well. This list will come in handy for the next steps.
Perform an assessment
There are a couple of different ways you can go about performing a skill gap assessment. Ideally, you want something that can give you the most information with the lowest disruption to your employees. Workable suggests one of these strategies to collect information on your team’s current skillset:
- Use feedback from performance reviews
- Prepare a survey and distribute to employees
- Conduct interviews with employees
The method you choose will depend on your company’s size, resources, and goals.
Compile and analyze results
Once you have data from your assessments, interviews, or feedback, what do you do with it?
First you want to get it into a form that is easily manageable and ready to analyze. For many organizations, this takes the form of a simple spreadsheet. Using the list of skills we created earlier, you can compare the reported skill levels for each position with your requirements. Any discrepancies are your new skill gaps.
Addressing skill gaps
If skill gaps exist (and they often do), then you can use that knowledge proactively. Here are some ways to address skill gaps:
If there are large gaps and the need can be fulfilled by one or a few people, consider hiring externally for people who can help fill in these gaps. Of course, you will still need to develop your organization’s talents over time, but if you find the right person it can be a quick win. The feasibility of this option will depend on your headcount constraints and budget.
If you can’t hire new employees to fill the skill gaps, it’s time to make the best of the ones you do have. Over half the companies in a recent survey say they use training to develop their employees’ skills in-house, so they are able to fill open positions internally. Over time, your team will continue to grow and develop new talents to meet the needs of a changing workplace. You have options for employee training. Here are a few you can consider:
- Online courses/eLearning
- Individual training
- Hire a private training company
- Mentorship programs
- Offer a stipend to employees to attend conferences, take courses, etc.
When you address skill gaps in your organization quickly and carefully, both your team and your bottom line will thank you.
Use the Right Corporate Training Tools
How do companies use the best new technology to train workers? From onboarding to continual development, many modern types of software and vendor products can help to create better business models and better informed employees.
Here are some of the common elements that businesses use to create vibrant training models for workers on all levels of staff.
Learning Management Systems
As we touched on earlier, one of the biggest and most fundamental tools for corporate training is a learning management system. One of these comprehensive platforms produces a wide range of results for companies in terms of training on workplace safety, individual business processes and much more. Companies can get name-brand solutions like Oracle HCM Cloud, or many other types of custom-made learning management systems that operate as full “e-learning experiences.”
While providing a fully functional interface for workers to self-train, the best learning management systems also offer in-depth data on training sessions. By aggregating information about learning results, learning management systems can help show that training was successful and give top planners some visibility into what’s going on with employee training in general.
The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides companies with various learning tools. Specific certifications and trainings promote safety in many different industries. Those involved in heavy manual labor in fields like roofing can get specific safety information tailored to their job roles. OSHA resources are also commonly used for trades workers in areas like electrical, plumbing, and general construction.
In many other industrial situations, OSHA resources can also be useful, for example, in the handling of caustic chemicals, or in a processing facility that has potentially hazardous equipment as part of a production process.
Another great resource for corporate digital training is Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs. Many of these courses include video-based components that provide more of a hands-on training strategy for employees in many different fields and positions. MOOCs are becoming part of the U.S. educational system, but they can also be vital in an enterprise training context. Companies can find these resources on open platforms and integrate them into a training or e-learning process.
Workforce Management Systems
Another type of enterprise software that can be helpful with training is workforce management software. Workforce management or labor management software provides resources to track and evaluate the activities of workers in a given business environment. As such, it can integrate significant training functionality along with all of the other payroll, tax, scheduling and performance features that these systems typically offer. Workforce management systems can be particularly effective in evaluating the performance and learning of an employee over time as he or she advances within the company. For example, aspects of workforce management software may document continuing education and professional development.
360 Feedback Tools
360 feedback is a specific type of software tool in which employees can self-evaluate, and are also evaluated by others in various business roles. The versatility of 360 feedback means that these evaluations may be done by managers or supervisors, but also by peers or even by people outside the company, such as customers.
Having such a wide spectrum of feedback gets to the issue of how business intelligence almost always improves company function. By looking in-depth at actionable feedback on employee performance, company leaders can chart a course forward for the business, focusing on the important areas in which improvement is needed.
Digital Employee Assessments
Assessment tools are also critically relevant to ongoing training. Companies want to see results, either in core skills sets, or in other areas like general communications training. They’ll want to make sure that many of the above training strategies worked, and that employees have broadened their knowledge of a particular field. Assessment tools will show how processes are working over time, and whether the business needs to put key changes in place to drive a better-educated workforce.
All of these training technologies can be excellent resources for nearly any type of company. Consider how digital training tools help companies grow, expand and improve what they offer to customers in a sophisticated 21st-century business world.