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The 3 Biggest Challenges for L&D Managers

On many fronts, it seems there’s a war underway to recruit, engage and retain top talent. Nearly all — 95% — of those surveyed by Fosway on talent priorities indicated that the most pressing challenge learning and development leaders face is the availability of best-fit talent.

Tapped-out talent markets and seismic generational shifts happening across the entire workforce requires more thorough and compelling recruitment and retention strategies. So, what can you do to ensure your organization attracts and retains top tier talent, and you position yourself as a strategic resource for the company? Focus on learning.

Here are the three biggest challenges facing learning and development managers and some actionable steps for navigating them.

1. Equipping employees with mindsets that encourage success

This can be a tough sell – up the chain, on the cost and significance, and down the chain, on the personal value and worthiness. Suggesting that mindset should be considered with the same weight as skills may lead to internal resistance, but the effort is worth it.

L&D managers who successfully communicate the importance of prioritizing mindset as a foundation for skills training can have a significant impact on their organizations. What does that mean?

A mindset that encourages success — at the individual, team and organizational level — is one that recognizes that continuous learning is essential. Teaching employees how to think in new ways lays the foundation for a more resilient, agile and engaged workforce. It also prepares individuals and the organization for the rapid change and learning that are increasingly required to compete successfully.

You can’t simply tell people to adopt a mindset that prioritizes learning, but you can nurture it by providing opportunities for talented people to strengthen existing skills, learn from peers and mentors, and add new skills. Organizations can incentivize their employees to engage in these efforts by providing clear career paths that allow them to advance their careers — and often even change jobs — through skill development.

Opportunities for employees to upskill, reskill and advance to new roles should align the individual’s existing talents and interests with the company’s strategic talent needs. This alignment is easier to create when employers have accurate information about the skills of their current workforce and a workforce plan to meet future strategic needs.

2. Engaging and motivating employees to take ownership of their work

Research by Gallup shows that just two of every 10 employees strongly agreed that their performance was managed in a way that motivated them to produce outstanding work. This suggests that adapting your organization’s approach to performance review and management could be a game-changer. Generational shifts in the workforce and technology-driven changes in the nature of work means new strategies are needed to support an engaged workforce.

What motivates employees in the evolving workforce? Some ideas from Gallup include:

  • Clearly communicated goals that change with market conditions
  • Dialogue with leaders, including discussions about progress toward goals
  • Managers who resources, remove obstacles and are supportive
  • Recognition for excellent performance
  • Accountability that’s shared among all involved
  • Conversations that are future-looking and focused on learning and development

What all of these have in common is that they center communications between leaders and the workforce. That communication can take the form of traditional one-way updates, two-way conversations such as small group meetings and town halls, recognition programs, and training.

Crucially, learning initiatives are not only an opportunity to strengthen your workforce by deepening and adding key skills, but they are also an opportunity to communicate and reinforce your organization’s goals and values.

3. Offering an organizational culture people believe in and trust

Talented workers stick with leaders and organizations they trust. Top-down approaches to company culture are no longer effective – and possibly never were. Ideally, cultivating culture is a responsibility shared by everyone in the organization.

In the last few years, some companies have experienced highly publicized culture crises, including ethical failures. Those crises have resulted in sanctions from regulators, expensive litigation, damaged brands and lower stock values.

The push for more focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, plus a tight labor market, have put the spotlight on company culture as way to attract talent, achieve ESG objectives and burnish the brand.

Clearly, culture has become a strategic priority. A culture that everyone in an organization has a role in creating and sustaining has is also a culture that people believe in and trust. But creating a shared culture is easier said than done. Here’s how to get started:

  • Include more contributors. Culture should be more than just a strategic exercise between C-suite executives, HR leaders and perhaps a consultant. Include input from middle managers, front-line employees and customers. An organization’s board of directors also has an important role to play, as it can reinforce buy-in from senior leadership.
  • Carefully define what the culture means in terms of behaviors. Which behaviors are acceptable, and which aren’t? Which behaviors should a trustworthy culture include?
  • Model the new culture. Executives, HR leaders and middle managers must model the behaviors defined by the culture. “Walking the talk” helps create a sense across the workforce that an organization’s culture is more than just a poster on the wall listing values.

Culture is not a one-and-done exercise. Rather it’s an ongoing, day-to-day expression of an organization’s core values and mission. Like a house, building it is just the start. It must be maintained over time and will periodically require changes and improvements.

A foundation of skills

Whether addressing mindset, employee engagement or culture, L&D managers must remember that skills are the foundation of the modern workplace. Work gets done — products made, and services delivered — because a company workforce has the appropriate skills.

The right mindset, engagement and culture can amplify those skills. Recognizing employees for their skills, encouraging them to reskill and upskill, and giving them clear career paths to follow helps addressing these fundamental challenges.

For L&D leaders, and their HR colleagues, understanding both the current workforce and its future needs are key.

That calls for workforce planning, skills mapping and a skills-based approaches to talent management. Credly Workforce automates the process of collecting, tracking and analyzing this data, offering you real-time insights into the strengths and needs of your talent pool. It can also give you the ability to create and issue digital credentials for your internal learning programs.

Schedule a demo today