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competency, education, Engagement, L&D, Leadership, Learning for now, Learning Strategies, strategy

Why should a learning strategy focus on competencies?

Typically learning strategies link learning options ranging from training and professional development to the enterprise-wide business goals and objectives.  A common mistake is to focus these learning options on employees first.  It sounds counter-intuitive but the beginning steps should be on defining the organizational competencies before defining a learning strategy.  A core competency is something that a business sees as being central to its success and is what defines its value and specific skills, services, and/or products to its customers.  An organization must first examine its core strengths and define what makes its successful, only then can it describe the skills and talents it needs to continue being successful and begin planning to fill the skills and talents it will need in the next 18 to 48 months.  When the organization can define its core competencies then the leadership can focus on the strategies to drive business growth, align management and business operations, and begin the implementation of tactical decisions and policies to drive the business forward.

Learning leaders are accustomed to developing competencies for roles and talent grids.  Using these same skills at the organizational level to help define how the organization must perform is where learning can become a component of the overall business strategy.  A key part of an organization’s core competencies is that in identifying those unique attributes the leadership can begin to coordinate and focus on key business practices, technologies, and teams that contribute to the bottom line and start to strengthen these areas in terms of skilled resources needed now and in the future.  It is this alignment that a learning strategy can positively impact the organization.

With business competencies defined a learning strategy can be developed to connect the learning strategy visualneeds of the business with the skills, and competencies of the employees.  Competency-based training focuses on identified workplace behaviors essential to achieve organizational strategic goals.

Knowing what success looks like to the organization, knowing how this success is being measured and the rubrics used, allows learning leaders to begin with the end in mind and work backwards.   Competency-based design focuses on what the individual can do, how they can demonstrate their proficiency and mastery of a topic and/or skill.  By developing and impacting employees with learning solutions that relate to their current role and can lead to a future role (since the organization is looking ahead and has identified where its skill needs will be 18 to 48 months from now) a learning strategy can effectively retain people, increase engagement, and improve the performance metrics as their learning is being utilized in the support of the business defined competencies.

We know organizations that build strong learning cultures outperform their competition on a wide range of critical business metrics from employee productivity to profitability. These learning cultures do not develop in a vacuum. They emerge when organizations do the hard work of ensuring that the learning strategies they implement support the broad, strategic goals of the organization.

A learning strategy that has focused its design around organizational competencies can create a flexible set of solutions that maximize internal resources and choice selections from various educational institutions and third-party content providers.  From formal credentials to badging this process is a constantly evolving model as the learning strategy changes to meet the changing needs of the organization.  A learning strategy becomes a key component in an organization’s growth aligning future human capital needs with career paths, upskilling, and developing the talent pipeline that will be needed in the short and long term.

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About wjryan

Principal Consultant at Ryan Consulting, LLC. Please visit www.williamjryan.com

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