Set Your Organization Up for Learning Success in the New Year

Few times are as pressure-filled and hectic as the last few months of the calendar year. For many organizations, the last quarter of the year is the time that department managers put the final touches on internal budgets. Others sales leaders are striving to achieve their aggressive sales goals for the year. On the manufacturing floor, supervisors are navigating coverage of shifts with increasing requests for vacations and unexpected sick days. And, organizations such as retailers can see up to 80 percent of their total revenue completed in the last few months of the year—with a similar increase in customer service requests and needs.

Those who serve in HR, Talent Management and Training roles in these organizations face challenges comparable to their peers; time is limited and demands are many as the end of the year comes closer. As one training manager pointed out, “Every year we start with the illusion that the pace of things will slow, but why we continue to think that is a mystery. Those last few months are always busier than any other time of the year!”

What is worth fitting into an already-full agenda? Any activity that sets up the start of the year for your organization’s learning success. Some thoughts:

  1. Use available year-end information as an ad hoc mini-needs assessment. Data such as documented progress on KPIs and completed performance appraisals that have been collected over the course of the year can be useful information about existing, performance-influencing needs for development. Even a brief scan of these documents can show patterns that training efforts can affect. Yes, there are more complex ways to determine needs—and simpler ways (for example). But if you are going to be reviewing this data anyway, why not cull development needs in the process?
  2. Re-publish and remind employees about your organization’s development planning tools and guidelines. Often these include development planning forms and references to specific development options that build your organization’s defined leadership competencies, core values or role-specific skills. Many people are refreshed and motivated to make changes in the new year. Take advantage of this motivation by putting development plans front and center. (Don’t have any tools? Here is one you can use.)
  3. Request ten minutes on the agendas of key managers and use it to invite them and their staff to attend training in the new year. Frequently, calendars of formal development are set well before the new year starts, but enrollment can be slow to take off. A personal invitation, with callouts of programs of most relevance to managers and their teams can be just the nudge that is needed to ensure attendance rises.

Have more time?

  1. Prepare for and hold recommendation meetings with department managers. Share information about the closing year’s development activities (for example, who attended which programs, what results were achieved, what improvement was seen) and give recommendations for development focus in the new year.
  2. Conduct some much-needed development with your own HR or Training team. Sometimes surprisingly, HR and Training groups are often overlooked when it comes to team development. Run a team feedback survey (an example) and debrief the meaning with the team. Conduct a book review over a lengthened lunchtime. Host a half-day internal conference where everyone brings an item for best-practice sharing around a specific topic that will help you address an issue the department will face in the year. Whatever the method—your own team will benefit from the same attention they provide to other teams.

The year-end, like other times in the lives of HR and Training professionals, is brimming with activity. If you choose to add to your efforts, these options can prepare your organization for development in the new year.