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Building an Enterprise Learning Strategy that Works

In the past several years, the workforce has completely changed. Add that to a business landscape that has only become more complex and competitive over time, globalization, the data explosion, and the introduction of so many technologies via the digital revolution. 

It's no wonder that it is more challenging than ever to lead a business that will grow and keep pace with the rapidly changing world.

Today, your most significant assets are information, skilled leadership, and a workforce that can quickly use that information to solve problems, innovate, and help you meet your organizational goals. 

Even though these are all intangible things, they have a proven and genuine impact on the market capitalization of publicly traded companies. People assign a dollar value to enterprises based on their perceived knowledge and ability to use it.

It's no longer possible to treat knowledge as a simple matter of providing training to the right people at the right time. Instead, knowledge is the driving force that keeps a business moving towards its goals. That's why it's crucial to develop and implement an enterprise-wide learning strategy.

What Is an Enterprise Learning Strategy?

An enterprise learning strategy is a strategy that ensures everyone in an organization has access to the knowledge they need to execute their role in helping the organization meet its goals. 

Enterprise learning includes training, skills development, and other assets used to convey knowledge. It also involves the development of a framework that delivers this knowledge as efficiently as possible. 

9 Steps to Create an Enterprise Learning Strategy

It's not easy to create and implement an enterprise learning strategy. It's a complex and time-consuming undertaking, but one that will pay off immeasurably over time. Like any other strategy you use to operate your business, it must evolve. Essentially, your enterprise learning strategy is never complete.

1. Conduct a needs assessment

Enterprise learning intends to deliver knowledge in a way that helps organizations achieve business goals. Of course, this is where things get complicated. 

Most companies will have overall goals that relate to the direction of the business as a whole. Those goals may rely on several business areas to successfully carry out the required actions. 

Because of this, an enterprise learning strategy must take those high-level goals and break them down into desired competencies for various departments and other groups in the organization. To do this, you'll have to conduct a needs assessment.

Conducting a needs assessment involves three major steps:

  1. Write down the organizational goals to be addressed.
  2. Gather information from company leaders, department heads, and other stakeholders to identify what knowledge and skills are required to achieve those goals successfully.
  3. Work with the same stakeholders to prioritize the competencies created during the needs assessment.

At this point, you will have a list of learning and information needs that is divided by business area and appropriately prioritized. 

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2. Complete a gap analysis

Once you've identified your organization's needs, it's time for the gap analysis. This analysis uncovers the gap between what your teams need to know and what they already know. 

As you conduct the gap analysis, consider that the goal of an enterprise learning strategy is to make knowledge and skills development as accessible as possible.

It's no longer enough to have one or two key players with knowledge or skills in a particular area. If that knowledge or relevant training isn't accessible to everyone, a gap exists. If that's true, knowledge is in danger of walking out the door every time a worker leaves. 

Furthermore, building a more communal approach to learning and information helps prevent the information silos resulting from individuals or departments not sharing knowledge.

The most challenging part of conducting a gap analysis is ensuring you're getting the correct information. While it's important to gain insights from team leadership, they may have unintentional biases that prevent them from seeing all the knowledge and training shortcomings. 

Here are some tools and resources you can rely on to get a more comprehensive view:

Team member interviews

These are one-on-one sessions conducted with team members, supervisors, and other stakeholders. Encourage absolute honesty and openness in these interviews. 

Ask questions that will help you to understand where workers:

  • Feel like they don't have the support or skills they need to do their jobs 
  • Notice others falling short
  • See frustratingly avoidable mistakes 
  • Detect a lack of knowledge or training

Depending on the nature of your business, you might consider expanding the reach of these one-on-one interviews. For example, vendors or clients might be willing to add their input.

Surveys and questionnaires

It probably won't be possible to interview everyone in your organization. However, you can expand the reach of your research by using tools like surveys, polls, and questionnaires. These same tools can also help you reach customers, partners, and others outside of the company.

Here are some examples of helpful survey questions when building an enterprise learning strategy:

  • Can you find the information you need when a unique challenge or problem arises?
  • Have you ever missed an opportunity to innovate or deliver excellent customer service due to a lack of knowledge?
  • In which areas do you struggle to perform as well as you'd like?
  • What training have you received that seemed irrelevant?
  • Do you feel as though you have adequate control of your professional development?

For customers, the focus should be on their experiences, particularly areas of frustration.

Group interviews

When you interview or poll an individual, you get insights from their perspective. While that's a great thing, those insights aren't challenged and may be influenced by the interviewee's limited perspective and biases. 

When you interview people in groups, they tend to discuss ideas, seek consensus, and challenge one another's recollection. This approach can help you gain valuable information on where your knowledge and training gaps exist.

3. Use customer support data

Customer support or help desk records can be a goldmine of information. When you search through these records, look for patterns that indicate an inability to meet customer needs. 

Then, circle back to data you've gathered from your team. With enough analysis, you can discern where training gaps make it difficult for them to deliver top-tier service to your customers.

Here's something else to consider: Organizations thrive when their customers have access to the information and knowledge they need as well.  A good enterprise learning strategy should consider that.

Identify where customers seem to lack understanding to the point that it hinders their ability to get the best use out of your products or services. Creating an enterprise learning strategy might include plans to provide learning resources for your teams and customers.

Human Resources records

Like customer support records, human resources data is another excellent source to find the knowledge your organization needs to grow and meet its goals. HR is often the steward of job descriptions, incident and accident reports, exit interviews, and employee satisfaction polls.

Additionally, since HR is often responsible for designing and implementing training within the organization, they'll also have that information. It's crucial to know the details of the current training strategy to compare it to your goals and close the gap.

4. Determine the training required to close the gap

Once you've created the gap analysis, you should have identified where your training needs lie. Now you can prioritize those needs according to organizational goals and necessities. Consider using buckets such as: 

  • Important and Critical
  • Important but not Critical
  • Of Limited Benefit
  • Not a Priority

Here are some questions to ask when determining if a training need rates a high priority and if pursuing it is currently viable:

Does it solve a problem?

You want the changes you make to be effective and solve your identified issues. Imagine that a person or team is consistently having trouble meeting production quotas. Your gap analysis shows this is absolutely a training issue.

If the team had access to proper training, they would develop the skills they need to meet or exceed the production quotas they have been missing. Expanding and updating this training would be a high priority because it solves a big problem.

How much will it cost?

How much will it cost to implement training or provide access to the information you need to close a gap? That's an essential factor to consider when your training budget isn't limitless.

To calculate the total cost of a particular training initiative, take the total cost of training and multiply that by the number of people who will receive the training. However, remember that expense alone shouldn't determine how you prioritize. 

For example, spending more money on training that can directly impact company goals may be worthwhile.

Is the return on investment worthwhile?

ROI is as important a consideration as cost. This analysis determines whether the benefit to the organization is worth the cost of the training. It can also identify how long it will take to recoup the money spent on training through improved sales, growth, fewer incidents, etc.

Is it a Matter of Legal Compliance?

Unfortunately, your gap analysis may uncover some issues of safety or compliance. For example, you may determine that you have employees processing financial transactions who haven't received mandatory training on customer data protection or fraud detection. 

Likewise, if you discover several safety incidents, implementing the proper training could help you avoid the ire of organizations that monitor workplace safety. Another priority would be the training required for employees to maintain the licensing they need to do their job.

How long will training take?

When people are in training, they often aren't doing their jobs. This overlap can interfere with daily operations and make it challenging to meet customer needs. Usually, you can resolve this with planning and intelligent scheduling. However, it may be necessary to hire temporary help or outsource specific tasks in some cases.

Do we need this to remain competitive?

Are this knowledge and training necessary to remain competitive? That question is the key consideration here. Suppose your competitors are better able to create innovative products, deliver excellent customer service, and pivot to meet new challenges. 

In that case, it doesn't matter how much time or money you save on training. Any training that allows you to increase your ability to compete in the current business ecosystem should be a high priority.

Identifying Training Options

So now you have a prioritized list of training needs. These should address organizational objectives as a whole and goals for each team. Now, it's time to identify the training options available to you and which of those will best meet your needs.

Here are some of the most common choices:

  • Classroom training at external sites
  • Internal classroom training
  • Self-paced online training
  • Instructor-led online training
  • Video training
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Self-paced training that's not online
  • Instructional and demonstration videos
  • Frequently Asked Questions documents
  • Discussion forums
  • Manuals and guides

All of these are means for workers or others to receive training or obtain the knowledge they need proactively.

This determination is a crucial step as you create an enterprise learning strategy. Figuring out which training solution will best satisfy each of the identified gaps is the next step toward filling those gaps.

Research Existing Resources

Before you invest in expensive training solutions, take a closer look at your existing resources. Do you have guides, instruction manuals, diagrams, or other information that can be digitized and added to a knowledge base? What about instructional videos

The chances are that you don't have everything you need to execute your enterprise learning strategy, but you may have some assets to build on.

Additionally, this is an excellent way to determine where you have training and knowledge resources that have only been made accessible to specific employees or departments. Now is a great time to break down these silos as part of your effort to create an enterprise learning strategy that benefits your entire organization.

Identify the Metrics to Measure Progress

At this point, you've solidified your initial enterprise learning strategy. You have identified your needs, determined your priorities for addressing those needs, and matched each need to a training solution that meets them. 

Additionally, you have found existing resources that you may use to create a knowledge base or accelerate your efforts to implement your strategy.

You have to determine how you will measure progress towards your goals. Specifically, how are you closing those training gaps, and is the training you provide positively affecting your organizational goals?

Establish metrics that are specific and trackable. For example, if your goal is to reduce customer service complaints, you might take an existing count of average complaints over a month. Then, you can establish a plan to decrease those by 10% each month.

Select a Learning Amplification Solution

How will you deliver the training you need to implement your enterprise learning strategy? Many strategies have failed because they didn't involve selecting and implementing a learning amplification platform.

What is a learning amplification platform? It's a platform used to create, store, and deliver knowledge, training, and related assets. Think of a single resource that team members can use to get the training they need, track their progress as they move through various course tracks, take assessments, and access knowledge base materials. 

A learning platform also allows supervisors and managers to assign courses, review assessments, and otherwise track the progress of their team members.

Create the Coursework

You have to create or source the training materials and coursework to implement your enterprise learning strategy. In some cases, that will mean working with HR and other stakeholders to develop training from the ground up. 

However, this is rarely your only option. You may be able to update existing training resources or obtain training from third-party sources as well. For example, many agencies provide training materials to help organizations remain regulatory compliant.

Implement Evaluate and Iterate

The final phase is putting your enterprise learning strategy into action. Then, use the metrics you have established to evaluate the effect of that strategy over time.

Remember that it's almost certain that your strategy will change significantly over time. You'll identify areas where it simply isn't working as expected. Additionally, organizational learning needs to change over time. Business ecosystems undergo significant shifts, and your strategy will need to be adjusted to keep up. 

Start Building your Enterprise Learning Strategy Today

It's up to you to create a learning strategy that ensures your company can remain productive and competitive. This undertaking is a challenging task but entirely worthwhile. 

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