How great learning and development programs do it

By: Tim Schieffer

What you need to know 

  • Learning and development programs support brand growth in two critical ways: skills training and employer branding. 
  • Identifying how to segment trainings by role, supported by relevant timing and the right delivery format, changes how employees engage with the content.
  • Thinking outside the box to create fun, experiential professional development opportunities leads to success. 

group of co-workers participating in learning & development activity

More than 80% of HR professionals believe employee trainings are important to attracting and retaining talent, according to SHRM. So why are so many organizations’ learning and development programs behind the times? It could be that they’re doing what they’ve always done or aren’t sure how to adapt to changing employee demands. Regardless of the reason, a study by eLearning Industry found that 43% of employees say their employer’s trainings are outdated.  

In order to create a learning and development program that actually resonates with employees, you have to understand skills gaps, employee expectations and how your program will support and communicate the overall employer brand. If you already have a program in place, be honest about what needs improvement—whether that’s training content, delivery format or the leaders moderating the trainings.

The way forward is one that’s unique to your organization’s needs. 

Identify the best training content, tool and timing

The rapid evolution of training tools (and employee demands for paid professional development) means that there are more options than ever, and with so many choices, it can be overwhelming to get started. A critical consideration in the face of so many options is choosing the right training content for your employees. 

Once you’ve identified a training area, consider when and where your employees might learn best. Keep in mind that these answers can (and will likely) be different for everyone. That means having flexibility and determining the right balance of content, so it fits seamlessly into employees’ workflows. 

Related: 2024 trends HR professionals should evaluate for a connected culture

Employee examples

Someone who works in a warehouse may be better supported by a short e-learning module or hands-on demo prior to their shift starting while a member of the sales team could be best served by a training session delivered within their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.

Communicate trainings to create excitement

Promote trainings where employees are already looking—from email newsletters and internal websites to physical postings around the office and word-of-mouth from team leaders. Gaining buy-in from executives and managers also ensures that trainings are prioritized and taken seriously—and communicated to employees in a way that grabs their attention instead of in an email they might ignore. Just like trainings should fit within the daily flow of an employees’ schedule, communication about those trainings should feel as natural and accessible as possible. 

At ITA Group, we have a dedicated team that collaborates with internal instructors to create content that resonates with our employees. That group also works with a dedicated internal communications writer to ensure that training updates are added to the company’s weekly all-team email. Within the training portal, a technology platform for tracking progress and completing online trainings, each course has a spot for team members to share feedback. And that dedicated team? They’re always available to connect with employees on necessary training topics. 

view our webinar on creating a connected culture

Capitalize on experiential learning

The first time we have an experience, our brains create new pathways that help us better retain the information. In the same way, the act of “doing” is a powerful learning tool in the workplace; the retention rate for experiential learning is significantly higher. 

Implementing development programs that let your employees engage with the information gives them the chance to come to conclusions themselves. These active engagement environments help employees feel empowered to truly use their knowledge and skills within the context of the training. That empowerment not only helps increase team members’ motivation but also increases their interest in learning the content. 

Incorporating an element of “doing” into your training exercises also allows employees to use critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving skills that they may not always feel are needed in their day-to-day role. Using those advanced skills provides a new challenge for team members and helps them have the confidence to make better decisions in their work environment.

Related: Improve company culture with employee experience tips and trends

Make professional development fun

Fun might not seem like a natural part of mandatory trainings. But I think it should be—especially when it comes to learning and development programs. Adding some excitement to your organization’s offerings can have a significant impact on your team’s morale, engagement and information retention.

Get comfortable thinking outside the box when it comes to infusing your professional development opportunities with fun. 

  • Invite an expert from inside your company to serve as the training moderator, making the experience feel more personal. 
  • Keep presentation slides to a minimum or add gamified elements, like awards, for team members who participate. 
  • Rearrange the room so people can face each other and better engage in dialogue, breaking up the monotony of typical training environments.

It’s no secret that people learn more when they’re having fun or have a positive experience. Similarly, when trainings are engaging, more and more team members will be interested in taking part in them. Listen to your team members and lean into the light-hearted training methods that resonate for them, and soon they’ll be clamoring for more.

I’m the type of person who can be seen as very serious, but after people get to know me, they discover that laughing and having fun is an important piece of being my true self. Regardless of the setting, I like to smile and laugh as much as I can. When ITA Group incorporates fun into training sessions, I open up and feel more comfortable being my authentic self. That not only allows those sessions to be more effective but also makes me feel more connected with my co-workers and the organization overall. 

How learning and development programs support organizational culture

There’s often a disconnect between how organizations approach professional development and the way that employees believe their organization is delivering on the promise of high-quality training offerings. When both of these groups are aligned, learning and development programs have significant benefits.

How employees benefit

When done well, these programs help employees learn new skills and feel valued by their employer. Successful training programs also increase knowledge-sharing and promote stronger communication between team members. It only makes sense then that employees who continue to develop their skills feel more valuable to their organization and, as a result, have an increased feeling of job security. Employees that used learning paths developed by their employer often realize effective ways to further their skills and career.

How organizations benefit

When trainings resonate, organizations see improved performance and productivity through both measurable efficiency and a higher quality of work. Not only that, but a continuous learning approach also helps organizations develop teams that are able to adapt and better respond to the rapidly changing landscape. Employers that commit to their training programs also see more engagement from their teams through better retention. So much so that these strategies have become part of many employer’s brands, allowing their HR leaders to use their learning and development programs as a key selling point with potential hires.

By focusing on how everyone involved benefits from these initiatives, you’ll not only maximize the effectiveness of your training sessions but also ensure a robust, effective program that your employees find value in.

Related: How to develop a connected culture to attract and retain talent

Do what’s right for your organizational culture

There are countless ways to create learning and development programs that create connections with your team and promote effective professional growth. At the end of the day, the key to a program that delivers strong results is finding the right combination for your organization. 

It can still be a challenge to get started though. If you need help navigating the process, our team at ITA Group is here to share insights, expertise and ideas that create the best program possible for your team.

Want to learn more about building an employer brand that attracts and retains top performers? Get in touch with our engagement experts

view our webinar on developing a connected culture
Tim Schieffer
Tim Schieffer

Tim is the Employee Experience Insights and Strategy Leader for ITA Group. With 20+ years of experience serving clients in multiple industries, including e-commerce, communications and finance, he offers a unique perspective on how to attract and retain top talent. His passion for delivering personalized employee engagement strategies helps create cultures centered on empowering people. Outside of work, you'll find him cheering on the Green Bay Packers as a proud part-owner. Go Pack Go!