Jannie Heyneke

Learning Strategy

Learning Strategy

Get strategic about learning development: it drives the bottom line

Why do organisations engage a learning capability or intervention? It’s not just to close a skills gap, drive transformation targets, increase employee engagement, create an organisational learning culture … the real answer is more strategic. A focus on people delivers performance and profits.

Almost 25 years ago, an article appeared in the Harvard Business Review on the service-profit chain. The seemingly surprising relationship established at the time between profitability, customer loyalty, and employee satisfaction, retention and productivity remains true today – albeit applied in a very different digitally driven environment.

Today, it’s easier than ever for customers to access and switch to a competitor’s products and services. Some would even argue that products and services are commoditising. The differentiator – the single biggest driver of loyalty and customer satisfaction – is quality of service. This, in turn, is a result of employee satisfaction and learning is an important part of achieving employee satisfaction.

The HBR article lists the service-profit chain precepts:

  • Profit and growth are both primarily stimulated by customer loyalty.
  • Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction.
  • Satisfaction is influenced by the value of services provided to customers.
  • Value is created by satisfied, loyal and productive employees.
  • Employee satisfaction results primarily from high-quality internal services, technology and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers.

Learning in action

A recent experience with a South African customer, a pharmaceutical company, illustrates this principle. Wits DigitalCampus (an LRMG partnership) was hired for very specific reasons to implement a learning solution. However, the broader or overarching reason for engaging our services was completely different.

The company wanted us to:

Assist it in upskilling every one of the identified target learners, regardless of their location, to the same level of understating of logistics and supply chain principles, ensuring that they can be applied in the workplace.

Enable every targeted learner to attend the same course, and feel valued and invested in.
Help it further embed its learning culture and establish an online learning culture.

Each of these elements can be linked back to a main reason for acquiring the learning capability – improved performance, employee engagement and developing a learning culture – as well as a key impact within the service-profit chain.

Three steps to link a learning intervention to the bottom line from the start

  1. Start with the strategic drivers. For every learning intervention, there will be immediate and strategic drivers (profit, productivity, performance). Determining both will allow the organisation to apply the correct priority to the initiative, and use the right measures to determine achievement of outcomes.

  2. Unpack the elements of success. Immediate objectives of the intervention may be staff retention, enhancing service, increasing productivity, or improvement in a specific line of business or ops area. These elements, when aligned to achieve broader service-profit chain outcomes, can deliver significantly higher measurable value.

  3. Select the right learning platform and provider to help the organisation achieve the desired outcomes.
    • Learning. Identify the kind of learning that is needed (experiential, theoretical, or both) for the target audience and to achieve the desired outcomes.
    • Platform. Ease of access and convenience are paramount to learning success. Ensure the target audience can access anywhere, anytime learning in the medium and on the devices that are most appropriate or suitable to them.
    • Providers. Select learning providers that understand the business and what it needs to achieve on a micro and macro level, and can deliver a learning experience that gets results on the ground (learning success rates) and in the boardroom (business outcomes).

Digital is raising the bar on customer satisfaction. It enables organisations to get closer to the customer and personalise interactions. At the same time, new technologies are driving automation, changing how employees work and interact with customers. To keep up, organisations must instil a culture of continuous learning. However, strategic targeted interventions can deliver considerably more value to the organisation, faster. What is the strategic outcome your most recent learning intervention request delivers on?

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