The positive effects of including learning and development in performance management

The old-school idea that HR’s role is exclusively to hire and manage talent is no longer relevant. Today, we understand that HR professionals can play a huge part in developing their company’s talent, taking a people-first approach that benefits individual team members and the organization as a whole. 

One core HR task that can benefit from this approach is performance management.

Once seen as a single annual event, performance management transforms when viewed through a more modern lens. Continuous performance management combined with ongoing L&D is an incredibly effective way to engage and retain talent while meeting the organization’s needs.

How to connect L&D to performance management

According to a McDonald’s business model study, incorporating learning and development into performance management not only encourages people to pursue L&D opportunities but also positions them as a reward. 

To create a culture that celebrates learning and development, you’ll want to position L&D opportunities as rewards from the very beginning of a person’s tenure.

Prioritize L&D in recruitment conversations

When you’re competing for top talent, you need to make sure you’re offering a top-flight suite of perks. Especially with so many people working remotely now, we’re seeing a move away from the beer-and-pool table perks that used to epitomize startup culture towards more “wholesome” perks like learning and development budgets.

To recruit candidates who are development-minded, make sure to bring up learning and development opportunities early in recruitment discussions. Share the connection between performance and L&D: Success is much broader than finished tasks and is also measured by growth and advancement. When it comes time to meet the hiring manager, make sure people can speak to their expectations for L&D and performance throughout their tenure.

Be candid with recruits about budgets and opportunities available to them. Does your organization allow people to take personal days for conferences, or do they have an annual budget for self-determined development opportunities? Position your L&D allowances as perks, and the recruits will jump on board.

Performance, onboarding, and learning and development

The earlier you engage new hires in your company’s performance management processes, the better. According to a study of Gen Z’s expectations for onboarding published by the Journal of Organizational Change Management, 61 percent of people feel like companies misrepresented their jobs during recruitment and onboarding—something organizations could easily fix by incorporating performance management early and openly.

That same study of Gen Z employees cites learning and development as a specific factor in increasing employee motivation and engagement. Introducing performance management and learning and development opportunities as interconnected experiences during a person’s first weeks will help acclimate them to their role and your organization’s culture. 

Kicking off performance management on day one helps managers and their people align organizational and personal goals and expectations. Incorporate learning and development opportunities into these early-day conversations: Present available industry courses and conferences and discuss career trajectories and growth options. Most importantly, ask your people where they see this role taking them so you can develop a personalized performance management plan together.

Monitor L&D progress as part of performance management

To prioritize learning and development, you need to ensure it’s constantly top of mind. Regularly including it in your performance check-ins will help your people prioritize it alongside their usual work obligations.

According to an article by the Training Institute about the successful incorporation of L&D into performance management, celebrating learning and development is a great motivator. “When an employee completes training or shares an example of a recent learning experience,” they write, “the manager should provide positive feedback to the employee regarding his or her participation…Performance management should be about guiding employees through learning and experiences to help them be their most effective.”

People shouldn’t be on their own for learning and development. Rather, they should be able to trust HR and their managers to guide them toward relevant opportunities. By continuously revisiting their personal goals and plans, HR and managers can find opportunities to help people grow that also benefit the organization.

For example, a person is interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion. In this case, they can take courses on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility while simultaneously taking on more responsibility for the product’s accessibility needs.

Track performance following training to understand rates of improvement (or not)

Of course, simply offering L&D opportunities and encouraging people to take advantage of them isn’t enough. To run a genuinely effective L&D-focused performance management program, you must dig into the numbers. Early on, set clear, measurable goals for your training programs. That way, you’ll be able to continually track people’s performance and use the metrics to gauge the success of your programs. 

Are people using your L&D programs as much as you’d like? Are they learning from them? Is it leading to improved performance outcomes? All of this information can be found by digging into the data.

Steps for an effective employee training and development program

If you’re setting up or revising your training and development program, the following steps will ensure the best results.

  1. Determine learning needs. The first step in developing a program is deciding what it needs to include. During this step, it’s important to include your people in your discussions. After all, you’re creating these programs to help them meet their needs. Use data gathered in performance management conversations to identify competencies and skills that need a boost.
  2. Define your goals. As we mentioned above, there’s no way to know if your program is working if you don’t begin by setting measurable goals you can track to evaluate the effectiveness of your L&D program.
  3. Design your program. Don’t be shy when it comes to designing your development program. Get creative. You can include many different types of training, from online training to in-house seminars to mentoring and coaching. Allow your organization’s values, needs, and culture to guide you when you’re choosing what to include.
  4. Implement the training program. Begin the process of implementing your new training program with a test run of a small group of people. 
  5. Evaluate. Once your program is up and running, measure results to see if it’s meeting your goals. Ask people for feedback and check to see if the new development program meets their needs. With this critical information, you’ll be able to iterate to continually improve your L&D.
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Examples of employee training and development programs

L&D programs can range widely, looking totally different in different organizations. Some inspirational examples of training and development programs include:

  • Etsy: Online marketplace Etsy’s learning and development team facilitates a variety of trainings, programs, retreats, and coaching. The program includes Etsy School, where people teach and attend classes on various topics. They also prioritize feedback, implementing a year-round, 360-degree feedback collection process to empower people in their own development.
  • Pixar: Animation studio, Pixar, has long been known as a great place to work. This has a lot to do with its commitment to a culture of learning and development. Their Pixar University is a collection of in-house courses resembling a fine arts education more than a standard employee training module.
  • Optoro: Logistics company Optoro takes a more external approach to L&D, encouraging people to participate in conferences and organizations by offering a professional development budget and assistance finding appropriate development programs.

How HR tech helps facilitate great L&D programs

Building, implementing, and encouraging the utilization of great training and development programs is a tall task, and you can use all the help you can get. Thankfully, modern HR tech serves as the exact helping hand you need. There are many ways in which technology can help HR teams with L&D, including:

  • Helping you gather important feedback you can use in the process of designing your training and development programs
  • Making manual processes like registration and approvals more efficient
  • Allowing you to track the success of L&D initiatives
  • Offering valuable insights that allow you to continually improve your programs

With HR tech, you’ll be able to really invest in your people’s personal growth by creating genuinely valuable learning opportunities, giving them a reason to join, improve, and stick around your organization for the long term.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.