L&D is a crucial part of La Fosse’s culture, starting from day one of a new starter’s induction, all the way through to their promotion to director and beyond. We’re trying to accomplish something different in our space, because we believe that a learning culture has a compound effect on growth: not only are great people attracted by the career development opportunities it gives them, but they are also more successful as a consequence of a world-class programme.
Consequently our L&D programme isn’t just a branch of our business, it’s at the heart of our entire strategy. We seek people with a bias for learning and invest heavily in their development, allowing them to achieve more and accelerate their careers faster. This is underpinned by a broader cultural emphasis on individual accountability, and owning your own development, at all levels and roles across the organisation.
We believe there are seven key considerations to keep front of mind for businesses seeking to develop an award-winning L&D practice.
1: Drive the policy from the board down
Every senior stakeholder, right up to the CEO, needs to be invested in L&D in order for it be effective and impactful. The CEO should have input in the formation of L&D strategy, and they, along with senior leadership, should clearly communicate their support for it to the organisation. What’s more, actions should be taken to distinguish token support from genuine sponsorship. This means that the individual responsible for driving the L&D strategy should have a seat on the board. By extension, the L&D team should be regarded as part of the business management team – not an outsourced, ancillary or ‘back office’ function.
Meanwhile, the business’s financial plan should incorporate plans for significant investment in the L&D infrastructure. For example, in 2017, we invested 13 per cent of our profit directly into staff development. Put another way, for every £100 of profit we made, £13 was spent on helping employees to get better.
2: Build a learning & development culture
Without question, this is the most important factor. The best L&D programme in the world will be lambasted without a committed culture of learning to drive it through. Foster the kind of mindset which will make employees sit up and take notes in their training sessions, give managers the courage to have difficult conversations and where taking time out of your day to learn – or teach – isn’t an inconvenience.
So how do you achieve this state of L&D enlightenment? Sell the story to every person, at every level in the business. Metrics are great for linking L&D to business performance – you can cite that high-performing organisations are five times more likely to have Learning Cultures (to borrow a few other stats, see the UK L&D Report: 2018.) But remember, people have different buy-in criteria and you need to push the message through a variety of angles and channels to convince everyone of its value. Stories, images and role modelling by management will all play a huge in part in bringing the culture to life.
As well as building credibility by publicising the L&D team’s big wins, learning should be celebrated at every opportunity. At company meetings, call out instances of learning and reward them as an explicit part of your culture. Institute a ‘Non-L&D Trainer of the Quarter’ to celebrate someone going beyond their day job to teach others. You want this culture to become self-perpetuating, so always look for people with a passion for learning when you’re hiring.
3: There are no L& D objectives. Only business ones.
Carefully consider the aims of the business and design the L&D programme to solve issues and achieve objectives. Improving retention, reducing attrition, increasing promotions (and the speed at which they happen) are all L&D KPIs.
Constantly measure the outcomes of your L&D programme against these targets. Boards want to know metrics, stats and results, so track both the successes and the failures. This way, everyone is crystal clear on how L&D is supporting the wider business strategy.
4: Learning starts at Day 1…and shouldn’t ever stop
Training should start on the first day of an employee’s induction, but the biggest mistake you can make is ending it at the end of their probationary period. A key tenet of a Learning Culture is an attitude of constant improvement – no matter how senior an individual is in the company, they can always learn from others.
Have modules specifically tailored to individuals at senior levels within your organisation, designed to develop relevant skillsets from management to leadership. If this necessitates bringing in the expertise of external partners, then regard this as an investment – in a 2018 survey of high-performing L&D teams, 63 per cent of the companies with increased turnover in the last year rated leadership and management development their top priority in training.
5: Encourage people to teach as well as learn
A culture of learning can only exist if there is a culture of teaching running alongside it. As a tech recruitment business, La Fosse is made up of industry specialists with no generalists, so inter-team learning is crucial to gain understanding of complex verticals.
Training should be built in collaboration with successful employees who have a proven track record of success. These individuals should work with the L&D team to deliver certain modules, and help ensure that training is of the highest possible quality and relevance. In this respect, the L&D team should be coordinators as well as trainers, managing a matrix of teachers across the organisation.
There are several benefits to this collaboration:
• Improves the relevance of the training: built with subject matter experts and grounded in hands-on experience.
• The sessions themselves are more engaging: provides real-life examples.
• Improves the visibility of role models in the organisation: gives new starters the chance to be inspired by successful senior employees.
• Improves L&D’s credibility: with senior employees involved in building and delivering training modules, they in turn will be invested in the L&D strategy. This results in a higher receptiveness to learning, and means they will be key advocates of the training within their own teams.
• Allows you to scale the skillsets of your most successful employees: multiplying their performance business-wide.
6: Be data driven from inception
Training modules should be data driven from their inception, then be consistently updated as an iterative process, using as much data as possible. Learning programmes are not static, but should be constantly evolving with a philosophy of ongoing improvement at their root: why accept good when you can achieve excellent?
Develop the training around a customer-centric strategy. Each person who receives training is an ‘L&D customer’, and as such the training has a responsibility to deliver results to them in terms of impact on their career. Collecting feedback on a constant basis is integral. This can be supplemented by management 360s, new-starter surveys, exit interviews NPS and data about performance, clients and candidates.
7: Bring in external trainers, but as partners not suppliers
Having an exceptional in-house training team is at the heart of any successful L&D practice, but it is sensible to sometimes bring in external trainers to sense check and challenge your perspective. You’re the only one that will lose out if you assume you’re the most knowledgeable business on every topic.
Leverage your network, and identify high-profile business leaders and ex-operators who may be interested in giving talks about their perception of what ‘success’ looks like. This can be particularly helpful when developing training for the most senior rungs of your organisation. According to the UK L&D Report 2018, 31 per cent of companies who had grown in the last year used external coaching for senior leadership.
Once you’ve identified them, keep hold of them. Treat them as an extension of the internal L&D team rather than a ‘plug-in’ solution; involve them in your feedback cycle and make them accountable where there is room for improvement.