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Complete Guide to HR Strategy: Learning and Talent Development (With Examples)

Continuous improvement and development are traits of highly successful companies.

Not content with the status quo, they encourage their staff to become better and push them to succeed.

By promoting this kind of culture, employers benefit from increased productivity, lower staff turnover and boosted morale.

The commitment to learning and talent development should be clearly outlined in your strategy document, as it’s an essential part of people management.

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Outlining the Learning and Development Strategy

Outlining the strategy that you propose is the first step to success. Start with the need for training, what issues does this solve? Which areas in the current environment could be improved? How will you measure success?

HR must act strategically when advocating for employee training, as this often incurs a cost for the business. Therefore, you should be ready to define the profits that will come from this. This may be fewer mistakes as a result of skills gaps, reduced costs when compared to recruiting skilled staff members or the profit from increased productivity.

How long will your strategy take to implement? This should tie in with the scope set out in the overall HR strategy. If you’re forecasting your organisation’s needs for the next 5 years in the HR strategy document, then lay out what steps can be taken to implement this strategy during this time. If this limits your vision for the strategy, then you can expand on this in a dedicated strategy document.

Delivery should also be considered, as this will be a main decider for the C-suite. If they have to send valuable members of staff out of office for training, the lost productivity from doing so may prevent this from being approved.

The introduction to this section of your strategy can be boiled down to a few succinct points, to be elaborated on later in the document. There may also be some crossover between this section and others in your strategy, as it relates to talent management, reward management and organisational design.

Analysing Business Needs

To analyse the needs of the business, HR practitioners should consider the current environment, as well as any arising needs that they perceive. This should involve a period of consultation, with employees and higher-level executives, to ensure that training can have the desired impact.

Consider the need for skills within the organisation and the skills that would be required to replace existing staff if they choose to leave. These wheels should already be in motion, far before an employee hands in their resignation. This avoids the need to push an under-skilled employee into a role that would put them outside of their depth.

Consider the time that training takes; an academic qualification may take months to achieve but practical training may take as little as a few hours. For some training, access at the point of need is appropriate, but for others a timeline must be in place.

The simplest way to take both of these into account is to focus on the separate concepts of training needs and development systems. Short-term training will fall into the former category and can be delivered a little before required, whereas longer-term academic development will generally fall into the latter.

Training needs will be agreed upon as a department, for example in the finance department all new staff will receive training on the payroll software, data protection and accounting methods.

Development strategy will be agreed upon with the individual and their line manager, for instance the finance assistant wants to become an accountant and would like to study a qualification to achieve this. This may fit in with your succession plans too, as the existing accountant may plan to retire in the next year and leave a skills gap behind.

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Correcting Skills Gaps

With a proactive and accessible training strategy, the ideal scenario is that there are no skills gaps hindering productivity. However, you may have existing skills gaps to tackle before your strategy becomes fully-fledged.

It’s not possible in most organisations to train every employee on different subjects simultaneously, so HR often needs to prioritise the most pressing skills gaps. By focusing on issues arising from lack of training, you can work to prioritise those that need this training first. For example, a manager acting in a way that puts the company in legal jeopardy should be given management training as soon as possible.

Condensing required training into group sessions, while still maintaining the required level of cover, can be helpful for larger skills gaps. These can impact an entire department, which may be reducing the bottom line of the business.

If the training requires an expert to come into the workplace and deliver it, then doing this in fewer sessions will reduce the cost. Take all of these criteria into account when you plan for these training provisions.

In house training schemes can reduce costs, but it’s important that those delivering the training can do so effectively. They need to have the knowledge and confidence to impart the key competencies of the training. Without this, the message won’t be absorbed and skills gaps will still remain in the organisation.

Performing a Skills Gap Analysis

Assessing where skills gaps lie is key to providing relevant training to the workforce. Remain objective as you assess individuals and teams alike, learning about their role before suggesting the necessary improvements.

The first step is to define the skills that are valued by the company and the skills required to effectively work within the role. Pull from job descriptions, organisational values, past experiences and future goals.

Survey workers and managers to identify the competencies that would improve their productivity. Use a matrix to plot the importance and skill level required for these competencies. Coaching, mentoring and training will help to close these gaps.

This can also be fed into the recruitment process, as you hire for skills that are missing within the team. They can plug these gaps initially and then share their knowledge with colleagues to upskill the department as a whole.

Case Study – Farmers Insurance

This insurance company give their employees tools to lead their own learning. They offer a competency portal, in which colleagues can assess their understanding of more than 50 competencies online.

There are also online development opportunities and training schemes which can be accessed online to address these skills gaps. Through these and other assessments, managers can select talented employees to fast track through their further development programmes.

Key Outcomes

  • 4% increase in customer satisfaction, due to higher employee competence.
  • Common skills gaps in the workforce inform future training development.
  • Training is viewed as supported at all levels by employees.
  • Reduced cost from online training and resources.
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Culture and Self-Led Learning

Facilitating a learning culture that encourages self-led education will also greatly benefit your strategy. Changing the culture to value learning can take time, but once this is in place the rewards are endless.

Rewarding those that show this behaviour will encourage others to do the same. Those that clock up training hours or ask for further training can be given benefits and recognition.

Training doesn’t have to be in a prescribed form, as there are many opportunities for employees to learn in their day-to-day role. Shorter, informal training sessions can more easily fit around busy schedules. This emphasises that learning is valued in the organisation and deserves a space within the employee’s schedule.

Case Study – Heinz

Strong graduate employers Heinz found that their new intakes required more internal training to be successful. While external training provisions were already in place, their internal talent pool were struggling with regular processes.

Managers implemented ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions that lasted between one and four hours, featuring speakers from other departments. These short training sessions covered the likes of email communications, financial information and the manufacturing process.

As the programme grew, staff were able to access an online booking system to get the most from these sessions. HR manage this booking system and evaluation, with the speakers able to focus solely on their session.

Key Outcomes

  • 600 members of staff trained within the first year of the scheme.
  • Increased productivity due to better understanding and communication between departments.
  • Improved learning culture, with many employees sampling training in a session before undertaking more in-depth training.


Implementation and Training Champions

Cover the implementation of your strategy and any risks that may arise, as well as the process by which you will mitigate these. Roles and responsibilities should also be divided to inspire buy in from other members of staff.

Training champions are employees that have shown an interest in training and can pass this passion onto others. They should be selected and trained by HR to field questions from their fellow employees. They can also recommend employees for further training, as they may be more likely to see this within their colleagues than HR would.

It's essential that every employee has a role in the training scheme, on a personal or a collective level. This benefits employees, as well as the organisation, so they should have a stake in the implementation.

Set out a clear timeline for your training scheme, with goals that you can reach over the course of the strategy. This ensures that your scheme will continue to evolve and grow, rather than stagnating after the initial push.

Goals may include:

  • A set percentage of staff having attended training.
  • Multi-level certification for staff.
  • A reduction in the number of workplace accidents.
  • Compliance with new training guidelines by a set date.
  • Achievement of personal development goals.

Ensure that these are measurable and achievable within the scope of the strategy that you set out. Too many missed goals or vague objectives can stall the growth of this programme, so bear this in mind when you set them.

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Leadership Development

Developing employees from top performers to inspiring leaders helps to retain them within the business. This can also feed into that all-important learning culture, as colleagues will see that further development opens doors to future progression.

Leaders in different departments will require different skills, so customise this journey for each member of staff. Assessing employees that would be suitable for these roles is the first step, then a period of consultation is required to back up these assertions.

They should be kept on track with regular reviews and support to achieve their goals, whether this is a formal qualification or promotion. This greatly reduces the risk of the employee taking their new-found leadership skills elsewhere. Add this development strategy into your succession planning too.


A Data Driven Approach to Learning

To properly advocate for learning, HR practitioners should be ready to show the ROI for the organisation. These figures make a clear case for learning and development, so collate them to show the worth of these plans. You can use figures like:

  • Improved productivity.
  • Reduced wastage and costs from mistakes.
  • Reduced salary bill from developing internal candidates versus outside hires.
  • Improved employer branding and profile.

There are many measurable facets of a strong learning and talent development strategy, so conduct research into the metrics to make the business case for this.

If your employer is reticent to implement these policies to the wider workplace, then working and reporting on a pilot scheme allows these metrics to speak for themselves.


Examples of Learning and Talent Development Strategies

Check out these examples of learning and talent development strategies to find out more about how to present your own version.


Through a strong education strategy, you can offer your colleagues new opportunities to grow and progress. This is highly rewarding for an HR practitioner and for the organisation as a whole. Be prepared to defend and modify your strategy, as you work to create a net gain for the business.


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