If you've ever struggled to navigate the overcrowded learning content market, you're not alone. Find out how Steve Thompson did it at Greystar.
How L&D can do more with less
One of the most common challenges for learning leaders is ‘How do I make an impact on company performance with an ever-decreasing budget?’... or, in other words, ‘How do I do more with less?’.
There are a few ways to think about this. Why not just ask for more money? More money = more learning activity = better results, right? Except… it’s just not realistic. When it comes to the L&D budget, we all know the limits, so to some extent our hands are tied. But that doesn’t mean we should just resign ourselves to the fact that the budget will limit the impact of L&D - it’s time to get creative and do more with less!
Flex your creative muscles
While a shrinking budget isn’t ideal for the L&D team, it gives us an opportunity to reframe the situation. It’s a challenge, sure, but it’s one that we as learning professionals are more than capable of taking on.
Over my career, I’ve noticed that, especially in larger organisations and learning functions, creativity and innovation tend to be suppressed. There’s an established way of doing things, and there’s a tendency to avoid rocking the boat or challenging the status quo.
But that won’t help us when we’re trying to achieve big plans on modest budgets. If we’re going to do more with less, we need to start thinking differently. Here are five ways I’ve identified for learning teams to start punching above their weight.
1. Dig deep into your company's strategy and goals
Learning leaders must 100% understand the overall company vision, strategy and goals. Being able to align learning initiatives and interventions against key organisational goals begins the process of ‘earning a seat at the table’, where you can ultimately demonstrate the value and strategic impact of your L&D efforts.
Equally, by understanding the commercial imperatives, you can start to use the same language as your stakeholders and senior leadership team - and that’s almost always different to the language of L&D. This will give you the best possible chance of landing your amazing ideas and proposals with the right people.
2. Understand the gaps in your skills and knowledge
Undertake a robust learning needs analysis to identify where the skills, knowledge, technical and behavioural gaps in your business are. This is a critical piece of work for any learning team, and will underpin your roadmap as you move forward.
Identify the themes and align them to your overarching business goals and performance, along with the data extraction and validation methodologies to support them. Also look at the capability of your leaders and managers, and don’t forget to examine:
- your performance culture
- the current perception of learning
- how people like to learn
- what content is currently consumed
- how quickly content is consumed
This will give you the full picture of learning across your organisation.
3. Ask yourself: is your learning culture fit for purpose?
There is so much rapid change and development in the learning technology space, but is your learning culture actually fit for purpose? The answer (broadly) will be no. Our learning cultures haven’t developed in line with the pace of technology, so if you’re looking at a new platform, content provision or considering how to leverage the wonderful world of AI, first think about if your learning environment is ready to house these new tools and support their use across your business.
On top of that, the world is becoming more automated, convenient and personalised, and your employees expect the same from their learning. Consider if you’re offering a truly self-directed learning culture that will meet employees’ needs.
Adopting a very simple, user-friendly learning platform like 5app can be the first step to success, which is exactly what I did at Greystar. No resource, minimal budget, but a massive opportunity. My vision was to create ‘the Greystar version of YouTube’, and with the flexibility of 5app, I could create and innovate, resulting in 92% month-on-month learning engagement.
4. Leveraging your in-house expertise for learning content
Having a solid learning foundation is critical, as is maintaining consistency. I believe there’s a place for both off-the-shelf learning content (especially around soft skills, leadership, management and personal skills development) and content created in-house to address those niche gaps and needs.
The most rapidly and repeatedly consumed content in my time at Greystar was content created by our team members, branded internally as ‘Greystar Originals’. Encouraging employees to share their subject matter expertise supports and reinforces the learning culture. This then creates a more collaborative and self-directed learning environment that leans on content that truly adds value… and even better, it’s free!
A key driver of the success of our content at Greystar was having a simple platform that made it easy for everyone to find what they needed. In just a couple of clicks, every employee had easy access to highly relevant content at point of need, making this a very powerful and impactful learning tool.
5. Brand is king
If you were to ask your employees how they’d describe learning at your company, what would they say? What associations would they make? Are they the associations you want people to make? Are you a reliable old Nokia, or a sleek new iPhone/Samsung?
Much like culture, brand is an often-overlooked aspect of learning, but it can play a huge part in the success (or failure) of your programme. In my experience, a learning brand is about creating a consistent user experience at every touchpoint for everyone, including senior leaders, stakeholders, employees, end users, partners and more.
Digital content is a huge part of your brand. Think of Netflix - when you’re scrolling through to find a film, imagery is key. You wouldn’t be drawn to a pixelated image or a film with no image at all, and the same applies to your learning content. What do you want your L&D offering to be known for, and are you achieving that with your current brand? If not, maybe it’s time for a change or a refresh.
How L&D can punch above its weight
Now, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to do all this on a limited budget. Investing in a cost-effective solution, consisting of a learning platform, any off-the-shelf digital content and any in-house content, is key to starting off strong.
Before Greystar started its journey of improvement, the employee satisfaction score for learning was just 17%. Following the steps outlined above, this rose to 83%, which was just the starting point. This platform enabled the creation of a new digital onboarding tool and Learning Academies, both of which were game changers. Supporting learning in the flow of work increased learner engagement by 328%, and uplifted skills, knowledge and technical capabilities by 32%, 43% and 57% respectively… all at zero cost.
By following this advice, you can punch above your weight in your own organisation, and continue to make a difference no matter what your budget looks like.
See it for yourself
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