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Effective L&D Is the Benchmark for Success!

Bob Little 

December 22, 2017

Recently, Towards Maturity, the U.K.-based learning innovation benchmarking organization, published its 2017/18 Learning Benchmark Report.

This Report is due to be augmented soon with the results of further research exploring the five key barriers to L&D achieving a higher status in the corporate world that keep being reported each year. These barriers are:

  • The cost of setting-up and equipping the L&D function.
  • A lack of skills among learners, which prevents them managing their own learning activities.
  • Learners’ line managers’ reluctance to become involved in the L&D process.
  • L&D practitioners’ lack of skills.
  • An unreliable IT infrastructure within the organization.

Towards Maturity has been collecting data on the L&D sector, increasingly internationally, since 2003. In that time, it’s collected facts and opinions from over 6,000 L&D professionals and some 40,000 learners.

According to Dr Genny Dixon, Towards Maturity’s Head of Research, this year’s report is the result of consulting over 700 L&D leaders worldwide between August 2016 and July 2017. (A comprehensive breakdown of the data sample is included in the report.)

Four Constant Corporate Pressures

Laura Overton, CEO of Towards Maturity, said, “In a world of constant change, the only constants in a corporate world are the pressure for growth, transformation, productivity, and profit.

“What remains clear is that learning innovation, done well, delivers business impact. Harnessing technology to rethink the way learning is delivered and performance is supported doesn’t just reduce cost. Year on year, our reports have shown that it has the potential to influence what really matters to organizations’ boards: productivity, transformation, growth, and profit (or sustainability for those outside of the corporate sector).

“This year, new analysis on our data has shown that how we embed change in our practices has a stronger impact on the results we achieve and the barriers we can overcome.

“One key point emerges from the evidence: that we need to recognize that people professionals have a pivotal role to play in organizations, particularly in fostering change and enabling business transformation.

“Of course, change isn’t easy and there are significant challenges to overcome. Yet those who embrace change are already unlocking their own potential and the potential of the organizations and individuals they support.”

Per Worker Spending

While the Benchmark report reveals a median learning spend per worker of some $950, Overton is quick to state that such a figure, though fun to know, is irrelevant. She said, “It’s more important to see what we’re spending that money on.”

Viewed in those terms, the report shows improvements in outcomes across the board in 2017. Efficiency improvements are increasing the volume of training, cutting course delivery time and reducing training cost.

However, few report the achievement, via learning, of organizational benefits such as boosting performance, cultivating agility, influencing culture, fine-tuning processes and improving efficiency. Only 24 percent of organizations claim that they successfully help to cultivate greater agility in the organization, and only 19 percent achieve their goals in relation to desired shifts in the organizational culture.

Learning Delivery Methods

Formal learning is still the preferred learning delivery method for 55 percent of respondents. Blended learning topped the list for 23 percent of respondents, while the remaining 22 percent opted primarily for online learning.

Nonetheless, the Benchmark report found that the use of technology tools for collaboration and communication is steadily increasing. Platforms for live meetings and webinars are used by 79 percent of organizations, with 68 percent using instant VOIP conferencing services such as Skype or Google Hangouts.

Surveys and questionnaires remain a widely used way (in 78 percent of organizations) for gathering feedback from learners, for example, on the extent to which they’ve applied formal learning and been able to transfer it into the workplace.

Mobile learning, for most, means providing smartphones or tablets (59 percent) to view platform-independent content (33 percent). Only 12 percent of respondents are developing mobile apps in-house and only 25 percent are using bespoke mobile apps for learning.

Over 70 percent of organizations use video in some form, notably in-house developed best-practice videos (61 percent), user-generated content (38 percent), or content bought in from external video libraries (26 percent).

Overton added, “However, simply posting videos online as learning resources creates a static learning experience, relying on discussion forums to generate active engagement with the content and fellow learners. Interactive video offers the chance to increase engagement in real time and is now used in 28 percent of organizations.

“Introducing new tools and technology-based methods is an important part of the journey to modernizing learning and, although some are now using the newer technologies in the L&D kitbag, much of this usage is experimental as L&D professionals explore how to enhance existing programmes or make the most of the new features they offer.”

Top 10 Technology Tools

According to the Report, the top 10 learning technologies used in 2017 were:

  • E-learning (used in 89 percent of organizations)
  • Learning management systems (89 percent)
  • Live online learning (89 percent)
  • Communication tools such as chat, IM, SMS, newsletters, and forums (79 percent)
  • Surveys and questionnaires to help understand learning transfer (78 percent)
  • Mobile devices (74 percent)
  • Internal, enterprise-wide information services (73 percent)
  • Job aids such as PDF checklists and infographics (70 percent)
  • Video (70 percent)
  • Online assessment to support certification/qualification (68 percent)

Dixon said, “However, our research also indicates that the up-coming learning technologies are artificial intelligence (AI) tools and augmented reality (AR). The use of these tools has risen, in 2016/17, by 69 percent and 75 percent respectively – although the number of current users of these technologies is, at present, still small.”

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