Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology > Professionals > Learning


Learning and Development


Do You Want to Know More About:

  • Identifying the key skills and abilities that will allow your employees to deliver better results for your business?
  • Programs and services to help leaders develop their skills and increase their effectiveness?
  • Linking training and development activities to your business strategy?
  • The best approach for teaching new skills (e.g., classroom-based training, on-the-job training)?
  • Accurately and specifically measuring the return on your development investments?


Learning and Development Is the Key

The science of psychology is heavily involved with human learning and development. Learning and development helps organizations build and maintain internal capabilities so they can successfully execute their strategies.  It includes:

  • The identification of key employee skills and abilities and the methods for teaching and acquiring them.
  • Training program design and delivery.
  • Leadership assessment and development programs.
  • Internal and external executive coaching.
  • The metrics used to assess each of these programs. 


Learning and development programs benefit organizations by:

  • Improving the bottom-line performance of the organization by giving employees the skills needed to excel.
  • Reducing external recruiting costs by developing internal employees and preparing them to take on greater leadership roles.
  • Increasing employee retention by visibly demonstrating to employees an investment in their career development and growth.


How Can I/O Psychologists Help?

  1. Facilitation.  I/O psychologists can help senior leaders to articulate business objectives and identify the key employee skills and abilities required to execute the organization’s business strategies.
  2. Defining the Need.  I/O psychologists can conduct analyses to determine the most prevalent employee skill gaps in an organization or department in order to prioritize the content and focus of training programs.
  3. Building the Learning Strategy and Frameworks.I/O psychologists can help organizations create systems and approaches that align training and development programs with business goals (e.g., driving revenue).
  4. Program Design/Delivery.  I/O psychologists can design and deliver training content to meet the particular needs of an organization, identifying and focusing on areas where skill gaps exist and adapting messaging and content to the organization’s culture and goals.
  5. Leadership Development.  I/O psychologists are uniquely qualified to develop programs and processes that enable participants to build and improve leadership skills. This includes but is not limited to the use and interpretation of personality and skill-based assessments, assessment centers, instruction, role plays, and action learning assignments.
  6. Executive Coaching.  I/O psychologists serve as seasoned and credentialed professionals who work with individuals and teams to help them learn, grow and change.  Coaching engagements may focus on imparting specific skills, addressing performance issues on the job, preparing for and facilitating transitions to higher levels of leadership, or supporting broader changes in individual and group behavior.
  7. Performance and Program Metrics.Using a results-oriented approach, I/O psychologists can assess the effectiveness of learning and development programs and track individual learners’ achievements as a result of program participation.


Learning and Development Needs: An Example

The following is an example of an organization facing learning and development challenges:

  • The organization had not formally identified the skills and abilities its employees needed to execute its business strategy.
  • The organization had a variety of training programs that had been developed over the years. None of these were aligned with a framework, a strategy, or each other.
  • The organization’s training and development budget was being spent on “favorite” programs or fads, often identified by individuals without expertise in the science of learning or development methodology.
  • Senior leaders in the organization contracted executive coaches individually, often without contract or fee regulation, measurable outcomes, or confirmed business needs.
  • The organization did not actively measure the impact, effectiveness, or value of its learning and development programs.


Learning and Development Needs: The Solution

I/O psychologists helped this organization by:

  • Facilitating a review of its business objectives and determining specific employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics were essential to achieving them.
  • Developing a framework that aligned the organization’s values and competency models and served as a guideline to ensure consistency across all learning and development programs.
  • Identifying and prioritizing the critical skill areas the training budget should target in the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Establishing criteria for executive coaches, regulating fees, and standardizing contracts with time limits and behavioral outcomes for the coaching engagements.
  • Partnering with business units, internal and external client groups, and other stakeholders to perform a needs assessment that identified skill gaps and development needs; designing and delivering training and development programs tailored to address those needs.
  • Establishing relevant metrics for all programs and development processes.


Learning and Development Needs: The Results

This organization benefited by realizing the following results*:

  • Targeted development resources were available to employees at the right time (i.e., “just-in-time” learning).
  • Development programs were aligned with appropriate career paths.
  • Training budgets were streamlined to support essential programs.
  • Executive coaching engagements were established under a clear set of criteria, timelines, and measurable outcomes; financial investment, participant development, and coaching effectiveness were tracked across the organization.
  • The perceived and realized value of learning and development programs were demonstrated by using reliable and valid metrics that had meaning to stakeholders.

*The results here are an example of potential outcomes using the solution delineated above.