L&D teams failing to improve business productivity, according to 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark study

Despite high aspirations to make an impact on the business, the latest Towards Maturity research shows that whilst most L&D teams are failing to find success, Top Performing teams provide direction for the way ahead.

Only three out of 10 organisations are achieving improved productivity and engagement from their L&D initiatives, only 2 out of 10 have seen improvements in the learning culture of the organisation and only 4 out of 10 are achieving increased efficiency as a result of their training strategies, according to the 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study.

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Published today, the report includes data provided by more than 600 L&D professionals in 55 countries and inputs from 1,600 learners. The Report explores the lessons that L&D leaders can learn from the top performing learning organisations.

Commenting in the Foreword of this report, Dave Buglass, Head of Organisational Capability and Development at Tesco Bank, said: “When it comes to supporting staff, out of all the functions in HR, L&D has the potential to be the most consumer-centric, but when 7 out of 10 do not even know how their staff learn what they need to do their jobs today, we are clearly missing an opportunity.”

Despite L&D teams desire to provide services that will have a significant impact on business agility, organisational and individual performance, this is not happening for most. Where it is happening, L&D is having a big impact on both business and individual performance. Top Deck organisations, those in the top 10 per cent of the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study, report improvements in productivity (12 per cent), employee engagement (21 per cent) and a reduction in costs (16 per cent).

Their approach to learning is also fundamentally different, moving away from the delivery of courses to finding new ways of supporting learning and performance in the heart of the workplace. The majority of Top Deck organisations (94%) consider the course to be just one option for building skills (53 per cent average) and 86 per cent adopt approaches that support learning in the flow of work compared to 47 per cent on average.

Laura Overton, Managing Director of Towards Maturity, commented: “This year’s Benchmark Report has discovered that L&D teams of Top Deck learning organisations have clear working partnerships with the line of business. Compared to the average, they are twice as likely to identify key performance measures that are 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 and 90% expect managers to take responsibility for the learning of their staff. This close working partnership means that L&D are in a position to apply innovative solutions that deliver an appreciable contribution to the bottom line.’’

Top Deck Learning teams are not only working in meaningful ways with business leaders, they are also have a consumer driven approach to supporting staff with 86 per cent of Top Deck learning teams reporting they are proactive in understanding how their learners learn (30 per cent on average), 76 per cent involving staff up front in learning design (35 per cent average).

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 Deck organisations are twice as likely to have these skills in place today. However, whilst 77 per cent of Top Deck organisations are investing in Continued Professional Development for L&D staff, one in four of the participants overall do not know how their L&D staff are building the new skills that they need.

“There’s evidence, from the Report, that top performing organisations are embracing change throughout the business and are realising their vision of the future, providing a direction for others to follow. They are recognising that a consumer-focused, technology-enabled learning strategy builds business performance and employee engagement,” said Overton.

Towards Maturity, a research company providing independent expert advice and support to help organisations use learning technologies to accelerate business performance, gathered the contents of this report from L&D professionals and learners around the world.

Although most of the respondents are based in the UK, ten per cent are based in central Europe, ten per cent are from the Asia Pacific region and five per cent are from each of the USA, Canada, the Middle East and India. Moreover, some 42 per cent of respondents work in multinational organisations.

Key challenges for L&D leaders 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).

“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 per cent of L&D practitioners are using learning analytics to improve the service they offer – and only ten per cent actively use benchmarking as a performance improvement tool.

“Yet 84 per cent of those who’ve benchmarked this year have found new ideas to take their strategy forward,” she added. “So L&D professionals who share some of the high expectations and frustrations of their peers could benefit by using the Towards Maturity Benchmark to help stimulate fresh ideas – and improve their corporate standing and effectiveness.”

Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors annual benchmarking findings, case studies and resources are available to download for free at www.towardsmaturity.org/2015Benchmark.

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