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Revelations for L&D

Bob Little 

December 18, 2015

The recently published 2015 Benchmark Report – from Towards Maturity, a research company that helps organizations use learning technologies to accelerate business performance – provides an insightful snapshot of issues and practices in corporate learning today.

The Report, based on data gathered from more than 600 L&D professionals in 55 countries, along with 1,600 learners, who took part in detailed reviews during 2015, reveals that:

  • Learning and development (L&D) professionals have high aspirations for their role.
  • Top performing organizations actively support the self-directed learner, as well as equip their L&D teams to cope with and lead change.
  • Evidence from top performing organizations highlights that business leaders now expect more – and different – things from their L&D professionals.

Despite L&D teams’ desire to provide services that will have a significant impact on business agility and organizational and individual performance, most of them confess that this is not happening. Yet, where it is happening, L&D is having a big impact on performance. Top performing organizations report improvements in productivity (12 percent) and employee engagement (21 percent), and reduced costs (16 percent).

The Report also explores the new skills required by today’s L&D teams if they are to exploit the opportunities available. These include marketing and stakeholder management, learning analytics, digital content creation, and facilitating collaboration. The top performing organizations are twice as likely to have these skills in place today.

Top performing L&D teams’ approach to learning is moving away from the delivery of courses to finding new ways of supporting learning and performance in the heart of the workplace. Ninety four percent of top performing organizations consider the course to be just one option for building skills (compared with the “average” response, from all respondents, of 53 percent) and 86 percent adopt approaches that support learning in the flow of work, compared with 47 percent on average.

Laura Overton, managing director of Towards Maturity, comments, “This year’s Benchmark Report has discovered the L&D teams of Top Deck learning organizations have clear working partnerships with the line of business. Compared to the average, they’re twice as likely to identify key performance measures that’re important to the business – and to have a plan in place to meet those goals.

“Their management teams are twice as likely to assign board level accountability for learning. This close working partnership means that L&D is in a position to apply innovative solutions that deliver an appreciable contribution to the bottom line.

“Other lessons for the corporate learning community from top performing organizations include aligning learning strategies with business priorities, providing technology-enabled learning opportunities for workers, and equipping their L&D teams with the new skills they need in order to cope with their changing role. This role appears to be less concerned with devising and delivering ‘courses’ and more concerned with curating L&D opportunities for those in their care.”

The Report reveals that all L&D professionals are responding to the changing corporate learning climate by looking to improve their efficiency, processes, organizational productivity and engagement, business responsiveness, and learning culture.

“There’s evidence, from the Report, that top performing organizations are embracing change throughout the business,” says Overton. “They’re recognizing that a consumer-focused, technology-enabled learning strategy builds business performance and employee engagement.”

Although most of the study’s respondents are based in the UK, some 10 percent are based in central Europe, 10 percent are from the Asia Pacific region, and five percent are from each of the USA, Canada, the Middle East, and India. Moreover, some 42 percent of respondents work in multinational organisations.

Within the 92-page 2015 Benchmark Report – crammed with statistics and analysis – is evidence that:

  • Only 55 percent of training programs are now offered entirely face-to-face.
  • Nineteen percent of all training budgets is spent on learning technologies.
  • Although 90 percent of organizations now use e-learning content and 86 percent of organizations use live online learning, only 79 percent of organizations use learning management systems (LMSs).
  • Sixty seven percent of organizations are using mobile learning.
  • The top barriers to change reported by L&D leaders are:
    • 63 percent say it’s the cost of set-up, development and maintenance.
    • 63 percent report workers lack the skills to manage their own learning.
    • 60 percent report unreliable bandwidth/ IT infrastructure.
    • 56 percent identify a lack of L&D skills among their teams.

Only three out of 10 organizations are achieving improved productivity and engagement from their L&D initiatives, only two out of 10 have seen improvements in the learning culture of their organization, and only four out of 10 are achieving increased efficiency as a result of their training strategies, says the Report. Overton says, “While the top performing organizations are demonstrating how L&D activities can benefit their bottom lines, L&D leaders in other organizations – despite displaying high expectations – report that they’re unable to achieve their key goals.”

L&D leaders say that their key challenges are, in Europe, a lack of L&D teams’ skills, a lack of management buy-in to L&D (in Australia), and a reluctance by L&D professionals to engage with technology (in the Middle East and India).

Dave Buglass, Tesco Bank’s head of organizational capability and development – commenting in the Report’s foreword – says, “Out of all the functions in HR, L&D has the potential to be the most consumer-centric but, when seven out of 10 [organizations] do not even know how their staff learn what they need to do their jobs today, we are clearly missing an opportunity.”

Laura says, “In the face of these – and other – challenges, many L&D professionals appear to be shy of using data and evidence to inform their decisions. Currently, only 16 percent of L&D practitioners are using learning analytics to improve the service they offer – and only 10 percent actively use benchmarking as a performance improvement tool. Yet 84 percent of those who’ve benchmarked this year say they’ve found new ideas to take their strategy forward.”

Thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors, annual benchmarking findings, case studies and resources are available to download, free, from the Towards Maturity website.

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