L&D: What Is Learning and Development?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learning and development, or L&D, helps companies retain and attract skilled talent, improve company culture, and engage employees. Learn more about the benefits of L&D initiatives and how you can design your L&D program.

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L&D, or learning and development, is a process to help your employees improve their skills and provide them with opportunities for professional growth. A robust L&D strategy can help you reduce turnover while cultivating a more skilled workforce and strengthening a value-based company culture. 

Learning and development programs often start with onboarding and new hire programs and include all other ongoing skills training or professional development offered to staff. L&D can help your staff strengthen their interpersonal skills, learn new skills specific to their profession, and develop the capability to drive success at an organizational level. 

Read more: 8 Benefits of Employee Development for Your Business

Types of learning and development 

Learning and development can take many forms, including: 

  • On-the-job training: This kind of learning and development immediately offers your employees the skills they need for essential tasks they will complete. On-the-job training can also be a part of the onboarding and orientation process.

  • Mentorship: Learning and development can happen in one-on-one settings or coaching or mentoring relationships.

  • Formal training: This L&D category refers to structured classes where learners are often eligible for a credential or certificate after completion.

An L&D strategy can also incorporate different training categories, such as training on new products and services, safety training, skill-building, and team training.

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L&D core objectives and benefits

According to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm [1], employee development programs and training your employees through L&D initiatives offer four main benefits: attracting and retaining a skilled workforce, increasing employee engagement, providing that workforce with even more skills, and developing a value-based culture and brand. Let’s examine how a learning and development strategy encourages these core objectives that can benefit your organization.

Attract and retain a skilled workforce.

Globally, companies need help maintaining a workforce despite an increasing talent shortfall. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects labor force participation to fall by roughly 2 percent between 2022 and 2032 [2]. In an increasingly competitive environment, offering a learning and development program can help you stand out as a company people want to work for. Today’s workforce typically takes learning and development into their own hands—and leverages it into better positions elsewhere. By offering built-in L&D opportunities, you can help your employees grow where they are.

Boost team motivation and engagement.

Speaking of retaining talent, LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report found that of the top five reasons people leave their jobs, three of them want opportunities to learn new skills, grow within their company, and feel that their work is challenging and impactful [3]. 

LinkedIn also reported that C-suite leadership reports that their top priority is “keeping employees motivated and engaged” [3]. Offering a robust learning and development strategy can help you meet these needs for your employees, increasing their engagement and motivation for success.

Increase team skills.

Learning and development enables you to help your team increase their skills. Your employees are one of your company’s greatest assets, and investing time and resources into their capabilities will typically yield a return in time. Investing in your employees' abilities to do their work more effectively makes sense. However, L&D can also help you prepare employees to take leadership roles or earn promotions into more skilled positions. 

Above the work your employees complete, L&D can provide resources for developing workplace and interpersonal skills and increasing harmony and collaboration among staff. A robust learning and development strategy can also improve your employee’s mental well-being and happiness, which often directly impacts the results they deliver.

Align culture and brand with values.

L&D programs help create a sense of community within your workplace. Culture starts from leadership and works its way down to all levels of an organization. When your company makes learning and development a priority, you can demonstrate the values that are most important to your company and that you are willing to invest in your employees, thus attracting skilled talent.

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How to create an effective L&D strategy.

An effective learning and development strategy is tailored to your workforce's specific needs, with clear and measurable objectives that you can adapt over time as the needs of your employees change. According to the 25 Best Practices in Learning and Talent Development by Nick van Dam, you can outline this process in several steps [4]:

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Understand your organization’s needs, values, and strategies.

The first step to crafting an L&D strategy is to look at what your workplace currently needs. Consider what your company goals and objectives are. Evaluate the skills represented in your workforce and look for gaps. Look for ways to strengthen and reinforce the values most important to your company. Careful analysis in this first step can help you focus on what learning and development initiatives will have the most impact for the time and money you'll invest in them.

Set strong goals for learning.

Now that you have a broader understanding of how a learning and development program might help you improve, it’s time to determine learning objectives. What outcome do you want your L&D to have? What will success look like after implementing L&D? Make sure your goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Determine what and how your team will learn.

In the third step, what content will your organization learn, and how will they engage with it? This could include creating material or selecting pre-created material. Also, create learner profiles for different staff positions to help you better understand how your employees prefer to be presented with information. Examples of learning methods include lectures, seminars, workshops, case studies, games, and coaching.

Measure progress and gather feedback.

After a learning session, evaluate your results and compare them to your goals. Determine what worked well and what needs improvement for the next learning session. After this step, you will return to step one and reevaluate your staff to look for subsequent learning and development opportunities.

Learn more with Coursera.

If you’d like to learn more about developing a learning and development program, consider taking Learning and Development offered by HRCI as part of HRCI Human Resource Associate Professional Certificate. This course takes approximately 15 hours to complete and is designed to help you learn skills in effective training, learning needs, and training models. You could also complete the entire five-course series and earn a Professional Certificate. 

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Article sources


McKinsey and Company. “The essential components of a L&D strategy.” Accessed September 13, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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