The keys to fine tuning processes

In the second of a series, Laura Overton provides evidence-based insights for improving business processes.

These days, expectations are high of us learning professionals. Organisations want us to: engage with customers, provide learning solutions that meet the rapidly changing needs of a flexible, agile workforce and support the implementation of projects. And, if that’s not enough, they want us to do all of this using technology, within a timeframe and budget but to the highest quality possible. That’s no small order!

So, the question is: are we doing it? Are we using technology in the most cost- and time-effective way, without compromising on quality? The answer is that some of us are – hurrah! But there are others that aren’t.

With a wealth of data from more than 13 years in the industry, today let’s focus in on one area, a key business outcome – fine-tuning processes. Let’s take a look at what we are and aren’t achieving:

How is L&D looking to fine-tune processes?

  • 96% want to improve management and administration of learning
  • 95% want to deliver greater value for money
  • 91% want to develop a better qualified workforce
  • 88% want to reduce time away from the job
  • 88% want to speed up the implementation of new internal processes or IT systems

And how are they performing? Well a third of us are achieving these goals but, in the Top Deck (the 10% of highest performing companies in the Benchmark Index) that rises to 64%.

It’s easy to see why organisations want us to innovate in order to fine-tune our processes – the benefits are highly compelling. If we can do it, we could see the following results:

  • 25% reduction in speed of rollout of new IT applications
  • 21% reduction in study time
  • 16% increase in staff qualifications

If we can do it, costs will be significantly lower, staff will be better qualified, but without spending so much time away from work. We would have very happy customers indeed!

Some of us must already have some very happy customers – the 18% of respondents who are achieving five or more of their goals. We call this 18% the ‘process improvement achievers’. Not only are the process improvement achievers enjoying all the benefits of having fine-tuned processes, they have also demonstrated an ability to get line managers on board.

Now, research tells us that the ‘secret sauce’ for transforming formal learning processes is line managers. Get them on your side and chances are you will be one of those 18%.

There are four tactics that, if followed, should help you fine-tune your formal learning processes. In this article we’re largely focusing on tactic four, line managers, so let’s whizz quickly through the first three. They are:

  1. Closely aligning to the needs of the business – and to those of the individual
  2. Knowing that formal learning is part of a seamless bigger picture
  3. Communicating continually with stakeholders

And then tactic four, the one that I want to concentrate on – actively engaging line managers.

Why is it so important to involve and win over line managers? The simple answer is that many of them resist new ways of working. 58% of participants said that line managers are reluctant to come on board but they are vitally important to achieving a transformed learning process. By winning over line-managers you’re half-way there when it comes to winning the learners over too.

Consider these statistics:

  • 41% of learners say that their line manager is the person who is most likely to influence them to learn online, with 48% saying it is their manager or director
  • 64% cite direct pre- and post-learning support from their line manager as one of their top three factors for a smooth and successful online learning experience
  • 78% think support from their manager is essential or very useful in helping them learn what they need for their job

So what’s clear is that if you can get the buy-in of line managers when it comes to fine-tuning processes and transforming learning, then that will have a snowball effect and help you convince learners.

Many managers are already tuned into the benefits of technology-enabled learning. Our research demonstrates that managers are increasingly using self-paced elearning, live online learning and are networking online. And their feedback is that they are able to quickly put what they learn online into practice – the holy grail of any learning intervention.

If you can build a strong relationship with line managers, you can help them support their staff and take a greater responsibility for skills development. That’s what some of the process improvement achievers are doing. The research says that:

  • 80% of process improvement achievers agree that their organisation expects managers to take responsibility for developing the skills of their staff, compared with 60% of non-achievers
  • 47% equip line managers with resources so that their teams get the most out of learning (22%)
  • 30% agree that managers provide active support in the application of learning in the workflow (11%)

The statistics speak for themselves: get line management buy-in and it’s a lot easier to fine-tune processes and achieve the goals you’ve set.

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 one from Laura here


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