As a business owner or leader in an SME you know that you depend on your people for business growth and success. To keep motivation and skills high it is vitally important to have a learning and development plan for your staff.
Learning and development (L&D) forms a key part of developing your staff and carrying out performance management within your business. A L&D Plan is a strategic roadmap creating a picture of where the organisation wants to be in the future with Learning and Development to support the building of staff capability, capacity and commitment.
A Learning and Development plan should be designed to inspire, develop, and ultimately help your people grow in competence and confidence.
Here is a six-step process to help your SME develop the L&D plan you need:
1) Create clear career pathways
To create clear career pathways, you will first need to identify the role profiles that exist within your business. You will need to determine the purpose of the role, the hierarchy of authority, reporting lines and career progression routes.
For example, the purpose of a sales team is to generate sales, grow the business and retain existing customer relationships and within the sales teams there will be different job roles:
· Trainee Sales Representative
· Sales Representative
· Sales Manager
· Sales Director
Career pathways should also show how to achieve progression and promotion. For example, how do you move from Sales Representative to Sales Manager? The written pathway should include what skills are needed and how you obtain them through upskilling and undertaking additional roles and responsibilities under supervision and mentorship.
2) Define Roles and Responsibilities
Defining clear roles and responsibilities provides your business with the vital advantages necessary for continual growth. If people are clear about what they need to do, it makes it easier for them to do it, this enables increased internal control, improved process management and enhances operational performance.
To develop an effective Learning and Development plan, you should evaluate your existing roles and responsibilities defined in your job descriptions to ensure that they are reflective of what you need people to do. If not, the knowledge and behaviours criteria you set will not deliver the skills required to fulfil the role. The most efficient and effective way of achieving this is to set up a small working group with key operational people at different levels and across a variety of job roles.
3) Define the Knowledge & Behaviours required
It is important that the new job descriptions clearly define the knowledge requirement to successfully undertake the role. When defining the knowledge levels required for each role, remember that knowledge can be gained through experience or education. Not everyone is required to be experts in everything, but base line awareness is often desirable.
Whilst knowledge is vital, you must also identify the attitude and behaviours that will fit within your organisational culture and are aligned to your Vision, Mission and Values. Because how you do something is more likely to deliver good customer service that just what you do.
Asking your staff to be part of this process will ensure that all angles are covered. Together with a training gap analysis you will be able to highlight specific skill gaps within your business. From there, you can prioritise your employees’ training needs. When discussing this with your team, you should consider a variety of core skills including:
· Values & Behaviours - Values are just behaviours you want people to live by, giving them direction on how to achieve your mission. They should be specific and descriptive in the way you want people to act or treat people
· Health, Safety & Environment – Businesses have a moral and legal obligation to manage this well, and people need to be aware of how you are protecting them and their environment and what they should do to help
· Quality – The standard of the products or services you deliver has a direct link to your customer service and brand loyalty, people should know the effects of poor quality and be given the skills to deliver your standards
· Performance & Time Management – Efficiency and punctuality are critical to a successful business and people should know how to prioritise and make the most of their time
· Commercial Focus – Everyone in a business can affect your profitability, from general awareness of business costs and the use of company resources, to cost saving and revenue generation
· Leadership & Management - Line managers or supervisors have a massive influence on the team dynamics and performance. It is important to understanding how to motivate and manage you staff, this is often overlooked when people are promoted from time served
· Strategic Thinking - This is aimed at the senior management in your team, and focussed on performance reviews and planning for success. This type of thinking will help you achieve your Vision.
4) Identifying the right Training
Having identified the knowledge and behaviours required to fulfil each role, you can now look to select the appropriate training.
Training is the act of teaching people the required skills or behaviours, and can be delivered in a variety of ways including:
· Technical Courses or Qualifications
· Apprenticeships, Vocational Programmes or Mentoring
· Internal Training
· Continued Professional Development (CPD) Modules
· Compliance Training
A good Learning and Development plan gives people the opportunity to complete different types of training, not simply to assist in the competency of their role, but to inspire them to achieve their career goals, to broaden their knowledge and to widen their skills base.
To select the right training, you will need use the job descriptions to identify the learning outcomes needed to fulfil the role. Finding a course that meets these needs, in the delivery method that best suits your business, can often be difficult and can require thinking outside the box.
Remember a recognised training course or a theoretical qualification may not deliver the competence levels you are looking for and often blended learning delivers the best results. Where you have a training need for a member of staff and you cannot find the course – approach your training provider and ask them if they can work with your business to design, deliver and complete a bespoke training.
5) Build on Skills & Experience
Just because people attend a training course does not mean that they are competent in those skills. Skills are defined as the ability to do something well, and this is developed over time.
You should encourage your teams to put their knowledge into practice in order to develop their skills, whilst being observed, supported and mentored by their line manager.
Within the job profiles, you should determine the skills and experience levels required for each role.
6) Monitoring the Learning & Development Journey
Knowing that 95% of your people have completed a required course, is not the only measure you should be focussed on.
Everyone’s learning and development journey will be different, and it is important that you remain flexible and inclusive in your plans. You need to have a system for understanding their journey and monitoring their development. A Personal Development Review (PDR) can provide a framework for employees to have open and regular conversations with their line manager about their performance, including reviewing their competency, personal development and career goal:
A PDR for your SME should include:
The employee’s level of competency will be determined within set criteria in line with their roles and responsibilities and the company’s competency framework.
During your development review the employee and line manager will discuss the employee’s development needs for the year ahead and how the line manager is able to support the employee’s development. For example, what training courses will the employee require to better their knowledge and experience within their role.
The employee and line manager will discuss the employee’s career goals and future aspirations. The line manager will encourage the employee to outline their short-term and long-term goals and establish actions required to achieve them.
A well-designed L&D plan can play an important role in helping an SME to take the business in the right direction. By following and monitoring the plan and its outcomes your staff will get what they need, and your SME will have the best possible team to support future growth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joanna Strahan is founder of C2C Training Group, which offers high quality assessment/competency-based courses in Health and Safety, leadership, business skills and personal development. Joanna brings 18 years industry experience to her training courses to ensure that learners are engaged and change is generated. C2C Training’s aim is to break industry norms and influence positive change to the way training is delivered.