The keys to boosting performance

In the third of the series, Laura Overton focuses on how to boost performance through learning.


In today’s world, it’s no longer enough to produce great learning interventions. The learning we provide needs to do a whole lot more than ever before. It needs to increase organisational productivity, improve performance and more often than not, improve external customer service as well.

Our efforts need to contribute to organisational performance and help boost productivity; so how do we do that? By providing learning interventions that help people at their point of need. 
In turn, employees will be able to do their job better and faster and help the business at its point of need. It’s all about integrated learning, learning that happens as part of the workflow and is then applied within the workplace.

We all know this needs to happen and research demonstrates what performance-related outcomes L&D leaders want to achieve in the coming months and years:

  • 96% want to improve organisational performance
  • 96% want to increase self-directed learning
  • 95% want to increase on the job productivity
  • 95% want to reduce time to competence
  • 91% want to improve external customer satisfaction
  • 78% want to facilitate new ways of working

These are ambitious goals, but some L&D teams are already achieving it, particularly those in the top 10% of our benchmarking Index, those we call the Top Deck. Currently, the average achievement of benefits related to performance and productivity is just 26%, although for the Top Deck the numbers are reversed – 62%.

Those organisations that have measured performance increase as a direct result of learning modernisation are definitely enjoying a boost in performance. They report reducing time to competency by 15%, an average 14% rise in organisational productivity and 10% increase in organisational revenue.

It’s all about integrated learning, learning that happens as part of the workflow and is then applied within the workplace.

Towards Maturity research found that 18% of respondents are achieving five or more of the performance-related outcomes listed above. These are the performance achievers. What was also found is that the performance achievers are much more likely to adopt certain tactics than the non-achievers. Those tactics are:

  • integrating learning and work
  • all stakeholders recognising L&D alignment with wider organisational goals
  • being responsive to building performance support at the point of need
  • ensuring digitally-enabled programme design supports learning transfer
  • evaluating progress and performance against business metrics

There has been a lot of talk about that first tactic – integrating learning and work – and for good reason. Integrating learning and work is critical to boosting performance. It’s good for learners and it’s good for organisations.

We know that in L&D, which is why so many of us are keen to do it! Last year’s research showed that 80% of us were looking to integrate learning into the workflow and this year’s figure is even higher – 93%. What does this tell us? It says that we are moving our focus beyond course delivery, a shift that has to happen and ideally, would have happened for more of us by now.

Of course, formal learning still has a very important role to play. What we need to do is strike the right balance between learning in the workflow, social interaction and formal learning, according to business need. Our research found that getting this balance right is so important, much more so than just focusing on the model used or the percentage of activity in each area.

And that’s reflected in comments such as this one, a CEO in professional and technical services: “We do not restrict to ‘fashion’ in terms of models – we work with staff and managers to create approaches they need in the way they best use – approaches vary and percentages of mix vary across different categories of learning”.

How does the situation stand at the moment? How many of us are already using models that support learning directly in the flow of work? On average, it’s half of us, according to our figures. It’s a substantially higher number when it comes to Top Deck organisations, however (85%), which is not surprising. That’s one of the reasons why they are in the Top Deck!

It is so, so critical that all of us make this shift from thinking about course delivery to thinking about how to build business performance. To do this and integrate learning and work, start with these basic steps:

  • listen and respond to business needs at a more strategic level
  • consider how to support performance beyond the course. Ask yourself, your colleagues and of course, your customers, these questions: ‘How can course design be improved to transfer behaviour into the workplace?’ And ‘How can we directly support individuals at their point of need?’
  • Get serious about setting and tracking business performance goals

Discover the keys to success by benchmarking

Having line-management buy-in is just one tactic that top performing organisations are using to improve efficiency. If you want to see how your strategy compares and find out what actions you should be prioritising at the moment, benchmarking is a great place to start. Identify the tactics that will deliver greater impact for your organisation at:


About the author

Laura Overton is founder and CEO of benchmarking and research organisation Towards Maturity. See latest news on Twitter at #TMbenchmark.


Read part two from Laura here




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