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Transformation Journeys in L&D

Bob Little 

March 23, 2018

L&D specialists frequently scratch their heads in puzzlement over the apparent inability of organizations to reap the benefits of new learning technologies. But help may be at hand!

Research by Towards Maturity, the U.K.-based learning innovation benchmarking organization, has identified what companies need to do to take their people on an effective learning journey. And it calls it the Transformation Curve.

This model emerged from Towards Maturity’s 2017/18 Learning Benchmark Report, which I highlighted in a recent blog.

Laura Overton, the organization’s CEO, says, “Applying new data analytics has revealed the most effective combinations of actions, tools and strategies for making the next step-change on the learning transformation journey.

Pivot Points for Transformation

“At each stage of the transformation, L&D must negotiate hurdles – we call them pivot points – to take a leap into the next stage of the journey. Identifying where you fit on the Transformation Curve reveals data-driven pivot points to help you transition to the next stage.”

Dr Genny Dixon, Towards Maturity’s Head of Research, adds, “Our data highlights four stages. Each has pitfalls, but also offers opportunities. Moreover, it’s a journey for the whole business, not just L&D.”

The four stages are: Optimizing Training, Taking Control, Letting Go, and Sharing Responsibility.

Within those four stages, the researchers identified what they describe as “six dimensions” that affect the Transformation Curve. They are:

  • Governance and decision making: aligning of learning strategy to business goals and objectives, with the smart use of evidence to support decision making.
  • Formal learning: building an efficient, effective portfolio of formal learning resources to address skills gaps and support learners’ career development.
  • Informal and social learning: encouraging the interchange of ideas and mutual support to support personal and business goals, collaborative problem solving, and innovation.
  • The role of the learning professional: adopting business-focused and tech-savvy facilitation of L&D through blending performance support, training, and professional advice and guidance.
  • The role of the individual: ensuring that self-directed learners are purposeful, curious, confident, social, connected, adaptable, and take ownership of their L&D.
  • The role of the manager: driving the achievement of organizational goals and championing transformation, and committed to individual and business advancement through learning.

Let’s look at the four stages in detail, and at how the six dimensions fit in.

1. Optimizing Training

Having begun their L&D transformation journey, organizations should aim to bring efficiency to the training process – increasing choice and volume, and improving the administration of learning.

In terms of the six dimensions, this stage is characterized by (taking each dimension in turn) being response-driven (rather than the result of strategic planning); its limited delivery technology targets compliance (being an “easy” target); there’s no peer-to-peer learning; lack of knowledge holds back the use of digital learning; learners are considered recipients of, not contributors to, learning; and managers aren’t involved.

Typically, success at this stage is judged by:

  • 55 percent reduction in learning delivery time.
  • 32 percent reduction in study time.
  • 60 percent of staff accessing compliance training online.

Transforming to the next stage in the Transformation Curve will, typically, see:

  • Productivity rise between one and 12 percent.
  • Customer satisfaction increase by up to 12 percent.
  • Staff satisfaction increase between four and 26 percent.
  • Volume/reach rise between 29 and 48 percent.

2. Taking Control

Stage two sees organizations shift from taking orders to taking control, aligning learning with the business, and improving employee engagement.

As for the six dimensions: L&D decisions are still made in isolation; more technology is used in delivering learning; marketing campaigns aim to engage workers with learning; there’s limited skill in using learning technology; learners are thought not to be competent to manage their own learning; but managers are becoming more involved in the design of the learning process.

Typically, success at this stage is judged by:

  • 68 percent of organizations reporting better proof of compliance.
  • 45 percent of organizations reporting an improvement in compliant behavior.
  • 42 percent of organizations showing reduced training costs.

Transforming to the next stage in the Transformation Curve will, typically, see:

  • Rolling out new IT systems from 14 percent to 38 percent at stage three.
  • Reductions in time to competency of between 20 and 35 percent.
  • Increases in compliance completion rates from 72 to 81 percent.

3. Letting Go

Here, organizations are shifting their focus to the context of learning in business and the wider environment. Moreover, L&D is changing its role from delivery to facilitation.

Applying the six dimensions: L&D is using data to evidence and inform change; there’s a focus on learning application at work; courses aren’t considered the only option; L&D professionals are more confident as business-savvy enablers; learners have a voice; and managers are committed to on-the-job learning.

Typically, success at this stage is shown by:

  • 62 percent increase in learning access and flexibility.
  • 58 percent reduction in learners’ time away from the job.
  • 58 percent improvement in the quality of learning.

Transforming to the next stage in the Transformation Curve will, typically, see:

  • Increased organizational productivity, from 12 to 24 percent at stage four.
  • Staff turnover reduced between five and 18 percent.
  • Increase in customer satisfaction of 19 to 24 percent.

4. Sharing Responsibility

Dixon stresses, “This stage is not the ultimate destination. Rather, it’s the means of equipping a business for continual change and growth. Further research may show one or more additional stages – as learning technologies and their applications develop.”

Here, there’s a shared focus on outcomes; a holistic user experience; a digitally enabled learning culture; L&D underpins – rather than interferes in – the business; learners become connected contributors, and managers help to create a culture of “permission to learn.”

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