3 ways business leaders can create impactful learning

3 ways business leaders can create impactful learning
Oct 12, 2018
3 MIN.
Create a culture of learning that applies to revenue growth, project efficiency, and your bottom line.

In the new world of work, there is less time for learning, yet more than ever to learn. Combine that with the challenge of ensuring that learning is applied and ultimately has an impact on business performance.

How can you make sure that your organization’s learning impacts revenue growth, project efficiency, and your bottom line? Below are ideas and insights based on my experience and successful programs at ICF.

During my career, I have found these three strategies are key to ensuring your learning impacts business performance: learner engagement, relevance, and application to the job.


  • Space it out. Space learning out in manageable content chunks which build on each other. This makes it easier in our time starved world to engage in and stick with a program. It also improves retention.
  • Mix it up. Use a variety of formats: articles, videos, e-learning, and activities.
  • Make it social. Leverage online discussion to keep learners engaged and allow learners to learn from each other.
  • Clear the path. Be explicit about expectations and requirements. Make it easy for the learner to know where they are in a program at any given time, what they need to do, and within which time frame.


  • Involve the business. Learning should partner with the business in content development and delivery. Find role models who have demonstrated success in the area which you are training and have them provide the right areas of focus, context and relevance for your learners.
  • Curate, rather than create. This will allow you to deliver training real time and adjust content often.
  • Involve the learner’s manager. Design regular check-ins with the manager in the program for them to discuss the learning. The manager will help connect the learning to the real world.


  • Use a "learn, practice, apply" framework. Too often, we expect the learner to practice after the program is over and determine how to apply or connect what they have learned to their work. Design the practice element into the program. Build specific ways for learners to demonstrate that they have applied their learning on the job.
  • Application equals completion. Consider linking program completion to demonstration or application of the skill or behavior in some way.

Let’s take a closer look at one of ICF’s management program designed for new people managers which bring the elements of engagement, relevance and application to life.

In the last 18 months, over 300 managers have completed an intensive, 16-week development program which consists of small virtual classroom sessions supported by weekly activities including video, articles, online discussion, and assignments.

An impact study recently found that 96% of the graduates confirmed they are a more knowledgeable and confident people manager as a result of participating in the program.

Participants and their managers rave about the significant increase in their confidence and skill in managing others at ICF:

“I've used the ICF Way as a guideline when doing and performing annual assessments. It made me feel comfortable when speaking with my employee in an area otherwise would have been 'foreign' territory for me without the training.”

“My employee has improved in his ability to have conversations with his direct reports about areas where they could improve.”

“My learnings have led to immediate action. One, I trust more in myself and my leadership. Two, I am aware of my tendency to problem solve on my own and will instead engage others. Three, I use the three-box approach during team meetings to discuss what is working, what needs to change, and what would be innovative.”

“I have seen my employee become far more strategic in her thinking and providing support for her employees versus reverting to being an individual contributor.”

ICF supports management and leadership development programs for employees at all levels. Check out our program catalog!

What are you doing to design impactful learning programs in your organization? Share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn and Facebook.

By Liz Janssen

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