A Recipe for L&D ROI in 2019

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It’s the dawn of 2019 and we have [at the time of this writing] just over 350 days of possibilities stretching out before us. What personal victories will we have? What professional lessons will we learn? These are some weighty questions that require a crystal ball, maybe some Tarot cards, and a lot of guesswork that is beyond me. But, when it comes to answering what 2019 should have in story for Learning and Development (L&D) I definitely have an opinion!

Instead of regurgitating the numerous L&D trend reports available, I want to share the four Learning & Development concepts that I would like to see more of over the next 12 months. My opinions are my own and I believe this recipe can deliver lasting performance improvement, an engaging learner experience, and a real return-on-investment of training dollars. Please note, this is all based on informal research, what I regularly see my clients struggling with, as well as my personal opinion as a learning practitioner. I have witnessed all of these things deliver real value and drive business results.

What Do I Want?

Virtual Reality – We’ve been hearing about virtual reality for some time now, but I think 2019 will see more organizations leveraging these technologies across all employee levels. Companies like Mursion, SubVRsive, and others are making VR more accessible and relevant for enterprise learning.

Why Do I Want It?

It is my hope that companies will realize that practice of almost any work-related skill in a controlled and realistic eLearning environment, can provide a reduced time-to-competency. Memory formation is linked to an emotional response and, when designed properly, VR can create that emotional learning response in a learner which can help knowledge transfer of core and technical skills.

The experiential skills practice that VR provides, together with immediate and realistic feedback/reaction, is a perfect fit to develop core skills like coaching and performance management as well as technical skills like operating sophisticated heavy equipment or exhibiting mission-critical first responder skills. When we provide a realistic and engaging learner experiences that marry the immediate application with realistic, consequential feedback we increase learner engagement and reduce time to competency, which are both worth the investment!

What Do I Want?

Leadership Skills at All Levels – It never fails to astound and alarm me that the leadership skills gap continues to top industry reports like those from CLO Media, ATD, Forbes, and others.

Why Do I Want It?

We all know how critical leadership skills are for people managers but I also believe they are vital for all employees, regardless of level, even for our individual contributors. Furthermore, I believe that many leadership skills can be learned. The following are all important skills that span job functions, titles, and industries and that can be learned through a well-designed development program.

  • Communication Skills
  • Setting/Managing Expectations
  • Motivating Others
  • Creating Organizational Value

My hope is that more organizations realize the need for leadership skills development and begin to include it across their organizations. By establishing a foundation of leadership skill, even among entry level employees, we can create a high-performing and engaged workforce with longevity. As we face the continued challenges of talent management, the need for digital leadership, diversity, and responsiveness to changing cultural shifts, the skills of leadership will become even more critical. I believe that every organization can achieve significant “lift” through structured leadership development plans and I challenge more companies to build this capability among all employee levels.

What Do I Want?

Critical Thinking Skills – Defined as the ability to objectively analyze information and make a reasoned judgment on that analysis, critical thinking is an undervalued skill and one that can mean the difference between a business that is merely ‘keeping the lights on’ and a high-performing business.

Why Do I Want It?

Any role or function is served by critical thinking and, when those skills are utilized, performance can improve and challenges can be resolved more quickly. Critical thinking involves analysis, creativity, communication, receptivity, and problem-solving. Examples of critical thinking in action are:

  • A warehouse distribution manager determining how to meet customer demand of a particular product when supply of that product is running low.
  • An emergency response chief evaluating a disaster recovery plan and adjusting to overcome active “boots on the ground” challenges at a disaster site.
  • A call center leader successful managing inbound call volumes when a snowstorm has created massive absenteeism.
  • A learning professional using customer survey data, assessment scores, and stakeholder feedback to develop a skills development program for customer service agents.
  • My hope is that companies realize the benefit of devoting training time, and investment, to the cultivation of critical thinking skills. Having employees who are thoughtful, ask the right questions, and are empowered to find practical solutions can yield increased productivity and drive business results. What’s not to love about that?

What Do I Want?

Organizational Development – This is one of those terms that confuses some people, even those who have been in the corporate world for decades. According to the Center for Organizational Design, Organizational Design (OD) is a step-by-step methodology which identifies dysfunctional aspects of work flow, procedures, structures and systems, realigns them to fit current business realities/goals and then, develops plans to implement the new changes. The process focuses on improving both the technical and people sides of the business. But what does it mean?

Simply put, the goal of OD is to successfully integrate people (your talent) with the technology, systems, and core business processes that fit your current business realities to drive performance.

Why Do I Want It?

While it goes beyond L&D, I think Organizational Development is worth adding to this list because, when done right, it helps increase productivity, drive innovation, and create a stronger business structure. When there is a solid foundation of technology, systems, and process you can achieve a working environment that is responsive and agile despite the increasing speed of change. What I hope to see in 2019 are business leaders who leverage OD to create more resilient talent who can adapt to continuous change and drive business impact.

Rather than a lofty idea discussed by academics, it would be great to see more companies embrace OD as a tool that can benefit every aspect of a company including operational strategy, corporate structure, management processes, talent management, and performance metrics. I believe when OD is woven into the DNA of a company it makes that company stronger, efficient, and able to deliver more value to its customers.

There you have it – my wish list for 2019 in the world of L&D (and beyond). What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d especially like to hear from my colleagues who are, like me, working with clients on the ‘front lines’ of training, learning strategy, OD, and performance consultation. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

About CoreAxis

CoreAxis is a business performance consulting company that offers training solutions to businesses in a variety of industries, such as financial, life sciences, retail and technology. Each of these solutions can be fully customized to meet the needs of the individual client. We build collaborative relationships, becoming a trusted resource and ensuring our clients’ organizational success.

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