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Report Reveals the Current State of Corporate L&D

Bob Little 

December 9, 2016

What would it mean to you, as an L&D professional, if you could discover what your business is going to need and then devise a successful strategy to meet those needs – rather than having to merely provide the training you’re asked to provide?

Quoting Holbrook Hankinson, CLO of Delta Global Services, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., the recent “State of Corporate Learning and Development Report” from CGS says, “CLOs get in trouble when they work in a vacuum and only focus on training… If you know what’s going on in the rest of the business, you can come up with the solutions to help it succeed.”

Yet unhelpfully for this point of view – only 40 percent of the report’s survey respondents meet to collaborate with their organization’s business leads more than four times a year.

Nonetheless, the 22-page report says that Mr Hankinson’s quote sums up its survey participants’ strategy. Although respondents are uncertain about how to address the needs of their companies in a changing economy, they claim to be developing tangible strategies for seeking measurable results, working on getting the ear of company leadership, prioritizing resources, and keeping the focus of learning on business need.

CGS argues that, to achieve this, successful learning departments need to be less reactive to requests for training and more proactive about where training and cultural development is needed most.

Headquartered in New York City, CGS is an applications, learning and outsourcing company whose customers are global enterprises, regional companies and government agencies. It publishes its state-of-the-industry report each year – this is the second edition – and explores:

  • Where businesses are spending their development resources.
  • How that spend aligns with their strategic goals.
  • Their key challenges.
  • The channels being used to achieve organizational performance goals.
  • How these elements will be affected by the uncertainties in today’s economy.

As other studies – including one from Bersin by Deloitte – indicate that today’s workers can devote only around one percent of their working week to L&D activities, the CGS report describes the face of modern L&D as increasingly fast, engaging and social.

It points out that, while the consumption of video for learning purposes is increasing, research suggests that short videos (of between 45 to 120 seconds) are most effective in terms of L&D. It also argues that learning will be increasingly social as employees share what they know with their networks and expect to be able to gain knowledge from their company’s ecosystem. Moreover, the acceptance of mobile technology as part of our common culture has changed learners’ expectations about the availability of information.

The report also highlights that micro-learning is attractive, because it aligns with people’s shorter attention span and their increasing tendency to multi-task. It argues that focusing on a single learning objective with shorter bite-sized videos, games, podcasts, micro-courses, or posts can deliver appropriate information anywhere, anytime.

The report states that the top four strategies and tactics now used to drive corporate L&D-related results are:

  • E-learning (say 88 percent of respondents). The report says that 42 percent of companies now attribute increases in revenue to the use of online learning.
  • Instructor-led training (ILT) (88 percent). In a recent two-year study of 1,700 companies, Bloomberg found a connection between live ILT and the most successful sales organizations. Other studies found similar results across customer service, compliance and more technical subject areas.
  • Video (73 percent). Gartner, Inc. projects that, by the end of 2016, large companies will stream more than 16 hours of video per worker, per month (an increase from 10.8 hours in 2012 and 7.2 hours in 2010). That equates to 45 minutes per day for each employee.
  • Mobile learning (64 percent). Already ten percent of business video viewing takes place on mobile devices and that figure is expected to rise soon to at least 25 percent.

Confirming that corporate L&D programs are adding value, 91 percent of the report’s respondents say theyll either increase or continue the same level of investment in tracking and measuring business impact using analytics as part of their budget. They believe analytics systems and processes will:

  • Measure how well specific learning programs are being implemented.
  • Identify how effective L&D departments are at changing  behaviors.
  • Evaluate how well learning programs enhance company performance.
  • Test the viability of specific goals.

The survey results emphasize that corporate culture is becoming a lens through which many business leaders look at their learning programs.

Acknowledging Peter Drucker’s famous comment that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” the report quotes Ian Read, the CEO of Pfizer, as saying, “Culture touches and influences every function in an organization, from research and development to manufacturing to sales. Get it right, and culture can transform your company’s performance and help sustain success for years to come. Get it wrong, and you’ll pay dearly for it – for years to come.”

Unsurprisingly, the CGS report finds that company culture is currently one of the top three areas for committing L&D resources. Cultural transformation efforts are driven by soft skills development – for leadership, coaching and on-boarding and change management.

L&D decision makers and influencers also indicated that their organizations aim to use metrics to measure the impact of their development programs. The report says that several studies have indicated that getting culture right can lead to a fourfold increase in revenue growth and workers with developed skills are 58 percent more likely to meet future demands.

Respondents said that the areas receiving the most resources, based on business priorities, are, in order of priority: instilling soft skills through coaching and leadership training, change management, and culture transformation.

This was also reflected in information about budgets. Respondents said they’ll be increasing spending on leadership and coaching, rolling out new technologies, and measuring the business impact of L&D. They’ll be maintaining spending on transforming culture, and ensuring new processes and products are adopted – but they’re reducing spending on building internal communities.

The current key challenges for L&D professionals are said to be:

  • Obtaining resources in terms of budget, time and people (mentioned in 77 percent of open-ended responses).
  • Establishing training best practices (56 percent).
  • Balancing differing business needs (33 percent).
  • Securing buy-in from employees, managers and executive leadership (33 percent).

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