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Last updated: 30.11.17

Weighing short-term against long-term needs in learning and development

Devising an effective business strategy is all about striking the right balance between short-term and long-term thinking, and creating the right approach to learning and development is no exception to this.

It's always going to be tempting to focus your training priorities on the immediate needs of your staff and your company in the here and now, but it should never be forgotten that circumstances change - particularly in uncertain economic climates - and that any strategy you employ should therefore be flexible and forward-thinking enough to account for potential imminent developments.

Getting the focus just right can be a challenge, but by thinking carefully about their current and future circumstances, it is very possible for businesses to adopt an approach to training and learning technology that accounts for both, while keeping the needs of the learner firmly at the centre.

A sensible approach to short-term planning

Short-termism is a concept with bad connotations in the business world, but clearly it's essential to consider your organisation's immediate needs first when developing a training strategy - it just has to be done in the right way.

First and foremost, this means carefully constructing as complete a picture as you can of your short-term learning and development priorities. What are your current business goals, and what will they require of your workers? What capabilities and skills do your various team members need to excel in their respective roles? Are there any new legal imperatives and regulatory requirements of which your staff need to be made aware?

Once you've given these issues proper consideration, it should be possible to determine which of these needs are likely to be the most critical or time-sensitive, and to invest in learning solutions that allow workers to get up to speed on the most important issues in the quickest time.

Considering longer-term goals and objectives

However, it's not enough to simply focus on these short-term objectives; proper consideration needs to be given to how your learning approach can also service longer-term goals, and account for new developments later down the line.

That means ensuring that any quick-impact training initiatives are part of an umbrella strategy that takes into account a broader view of your business strategy, which will be changed much less often. It's also important to consider the long-term needs of individual staff members; project-by-project training can be useful in many cases, but modern employees are unlikely to remain engaged by this approach unless they also feel they have a long-term personal development plan to help them achieve their career goals.

Additionally, bosses should remember to incorporate contingency planning into this broader strategy; after all, many corporate roadmaps have been completely torn up in the last few years due to the seismic market shifts accompanying the recession, and with the shadow of Brexit looming, it's not unreasonable to assume that the business landscape may be fundamentally changed again in the near future.

The key: a flexible, learner-centric and data-driven approach

It can be difficult to get all of these factors right, but it can be done if your organisation invests in learning technology that's flexible, adaptable and keeps the learner at the centre.

Modern e-learning tools are perfect for this, as they allow companies to adopt a modular approach to designing their training courses, with a range of materials covering common topics available at any time and from any device. This makes it easier for bosses to observe the changing market conditions and the evolving needs of their workforce, and tweak their training approach accordingly.

Embracing the array of data analytics tools offered by learning management systems can also be a significant boon in this regard, as this will help your company to analyse performance trends over time, identify areas of need and amend their strategy based on an educated assessment what what's working and what isn't.

By taking these steps, organisations can craft a learning and development approach that's calibrated sensibly for both the long and short term, helping them and their staff to continue operating at peak capacity at times when their less agile rivals might be floundering.

Summary: When implementing a learning and development strategy, it's vital for managers to consider both the short-term and long-term needs of their organisation, and adopt an approach that accommodates both.

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