We’ve written previously about capacity planning as it relates to L&D. From strategic planning to cost reduction to skills management, benefits abound.
However, capacity planning is certainly not without its challenges. Many L&D teams have become overwhelmed recently with sudden business disruptions and shifting business priorities.
Below are a few suggestions to help learning leaders optimize capacity planning, resulting in a higher number of completed projects and satisfied learners. And, if you’d like to hear more about how learning leaders can navigate change and uncertainty, don’t forget to check out this webinar to hear it straight from the experts.
1. Start early, at training intake.
Collaboration is often a challenge in capacity planning. While the L&D team can create its own process for measuring its hours and internal resources, oftentimes a learning project depends on the participation of other stakeholder groups who march to the beat of a different drum.
To get the best picture of training demand and the impact its fulfillment will have on the organization as a whole, start with your training intake system. A well-executed training intake system will deliver the most complete measure of demand.
As analytics are an inherent part of such a robust system, some internal metrics can be added to each training request, and as that request moves through the approval process—perhaps even through development phases—those metrics will carry forth.
In a way, the training intake system becomes an integral part of capacity planning. This will help manage available resources and set expectations before a course moves into production.
2. Measure everything you can.
One of the biggest challenges with capacity planning is data collection. While it’s important to collect the most granular data points possible—in order to pinpoint exact resource requirements and availability—it’s an issue if data isn’t being collected at all.
However, it’s not simply about collecting timesheets. Capacity planning also measures how each team member’s time maps to the skills utilized for the completion of particular tasks, the project level and complexity, and other factors.
Of course, the more data that’s requested, the more time will be required to collect it and maintain it. This might be met with resistance at first, but over time, with the right systems in place—and the more routine the process becomes—an L&D team can optimize capacity planning and the process will become second nature.
3. Lean on themes and templates.
Needless to say, courses developed with previously-built themes and templates should take less time to deliver to learners than would courses that require these elements to be built from scratch.
When conducting your capacity planning, measure how many hours courses in the past required when there were no themes or templates available, vs how many fewer hours would be needed for courses in the future if such themes or templates are available. This could mean a reduction in hours needed from a designer, and even less cost if that designer is an outsourced resource.
Early on, in the Analysis phase of course development, consider whether existing themes and templates can be used, and how many reduced hours this could bring to a project.
However, rather than use this as a panacea or a quick-method way to find more hours, consider the suitability for a new course. Perhaps a compliance course needs its own template, or a tried-and-true template that worked for several others in the company may not work for a new group with more specific demands.
Themes and templates may seem like a great way to discover efficiencies. Certainly, where possible, they can enable courses to be developed and delivered much faster—but they must be considered on a case by case basis.
4. Link capacity planning to strong outcomes.
Team members may balk at having to collect and maintain all of the granular data necessary for successful capacity planning.
However, what might energize the team is to have them see the connection between capacity planning and a successful course.
In other words, when they see that a course was selected and green-lighted because the proper capacity was in place, and the content is high-quality, deadlines were not missed, and learners benefit from a well-executed project, team members will understand the benefits of capacity planning.
Indeed, once team members recognize the link between proper capacity planning and positive outcomes, they will be more committed to the process.
5. Experience counts.
For many L&D teams, capacity planning is a new concept, beset with growing pains.
As capacity planning makes its presence known within L&D—in addition to other teams working alongside of L&D to get courses out the door—it will become a natural part of the everyday process of evaluating and building courses.
You can also lean on other teams around the organization who have successfully implemented capacity planning. The IT and engineering teams have most likely done so, as they cannot possibly accept all requests. Ask them how they collect data related to capacity and resource requirements. Their experience can help you optimize capacity planning for L&D.
On a final note, it is important to recognize that capacity planning is rarely done to perfection. Once there is a workable model, the L&D team should start using it immediately. As with other process-oriented initiatives, there will be growing pains, but also a chance to make improvements.
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