Building an Effective Learning & Development Program

People Spotlight:  Natalie King, Senior HRBP, SeatGeek

We all learn from our experiences and grow. While learning occurs at all stages of life, Learning occurs at all stages of life.  We learn from our experiences and grow.  Our professional lives contribute to a significant portion of this growth.

So how does learning occur in the workplace and contribute to professional development? By building a career path and participating in a dedicated learning and development program when available from our employers.  How do you create the best learning program for your employees to help develop them and the business?

Meet Natalie King, PHR, HCS, the Senior HR Business Partner at SeatGeek. Prior to her role at SeatGeek, Natalie contributed to the development of the ASPCA and Blue Apron’s Learning and Develop Programs.  We chatted with Natalie to get insights on how other companies can do the same.

Natalie’s education was focused on marketing but her first role after college graduation was as an HR assistant at a small HR recruiting firm- it was there she got a taste of the human resources profession. She went on to work at the ASPCA in benefits and compensation- where she was exposed to Learning and Development. One of Natalie’s managers at the time had a strong passion for the importance of L&D in an organization, so she put on her marketing cap and began talking to departments, managers, and stakeholders to see what they needed for their professional development. She also examined performance reviews and identified classes and vendors to bring onsite to address those needs and gaps.

While at the ASPCA, Natalie helped increase training for employees by 400% which drove the improvement of the company’s overall performance. The company’s L&D program grew and eventually a VP was brought on to specifically focus on this branch of Human Resources at the organization. After this amazing growth, Natalie was ready for her next challenge at Blue Apron.

At Blue Apron, Natalie was brought on to focus on learning and development at HQ and build a program from its inception – something she was quite familiar with. At Blue Apron, Natalie helped develop a leadership training program that focused on soft skills, in addition to more expansive life skills that enabled employees to learn beyond the office. Another goal Natalie created was building centers of excellence at the company’s fulfillment centers by establishing management trainings.

While some leadership at organizations recognize the needs for learning and development, not everyone has this foundation.

It’s important to have a leadership development program, communication workshops, and understand the learning needs of the entire organization. Assess first, then act. 

Natalie suggests using data as leverage to get leadership buy-in. Once you show how an L&D program will help improve employees performance and business outcomes, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.

If you think about the employee life cycle – they can all be refined with L&D. 

Learning and Development affects every life cycle of an employee at an organization. First, you start by bringing on the right employees- here L&D can coach hiring managers on diversity, bias, behavioral interviewing, and coaching on how to bring in the best talent. Once you have talent in the door, L&D can help focus on the onboarding experience. Onboarding can be used to asses a person’s skills and how to get them up to speed as fast as possible to be an effective employee with the organization.

If you invest in hiring top talent, but don’t provide the skills and tools they need to be a top performer, they won’t become well integrated with the company or fully productive. And time is money. 

If an employee isn’t fully integrated within your organization, it is likely there will be a confidence gap.  This leads to more time being spent by employees trying to figure of what they need to do to be successful. However, L&D can create a process for what success looks like at your organization leading to an employees expedited top performance and productivity. For “top talent” new hires, ask yourself how do you grow this person, maintain engagement, and target and support their career aspirations?

SeatGeek uses the career path approach for their Learning and Development initiatives. For every job function, there is a career path and performance management function to help support growth and career aspirations. This not only helps HR and Managers track performance, but this allows employees to know what goals they need to meet in order to be successful.

Natalie provides us with some key steps to set up the foundation for L&D to thrive regardless of whether you have a designated employee focused on Learning & Development at your organization.

1.  Understand the business – You need this first and foremost. What is the business trying to achieve? What is the strategy? Identify what the company’s talent needs are in the present and future and where there may be gaps to develop a strategy to fill those gaps.

2.  Quantify Impacts – You need to have the numbers behind initiatives. If gaps occur in employee skills, what are the potential impacts on the business strategy?

3.  Identify Who and Where You can Make an Impact on the Talent Side – Consider how managers and people teams can use performance management to track skills and productivity.  Identify opportunities where you can take advantage of talent surplus/skillsets already existing to achieve the business strategy.

4.  Objectives – What are the different objectives L&D can put in place and help mitigate risk?

5.  Metrics of Success- How will these initiatives potentially make an impact on the company’s financials and business outcomes?  Find the “North Star” for what you are trying to achieve and quantify the impact for the business.

6.  Ownership – Figure out who in the business can most impact these objectives and gaps. The L&D and/or HR teams can’t own all of these initiatives – identify key stakeholders from the start.

Be very clear on what you want to impact and how this will improve business and operations. When creating your overall HR process for hiring, on-boarding, and career pathing, use an L&D approach to help create clear processes that will positively impact your business outcomes. Providing your organization with a clear map for employee success will help your business improve retention rates and employee happiness.

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