New research: What managers really think of your learning technology pt2

Jo Cook got her hands on a pre-release version of Good Practice’s latest research, and here’s her thoughts.

Every L&D professional should jump on research when it’s released – every question, graph and statistic gives us insight into how to design, develop and deliver our workplace learning and performance solutions in an improved way.

And this Good Practice research released late last week in London is no different. 521 managers were interviewed from British companies of more than 500 employees across a variety of sectors. Their responses make up the content of the “Learning Technologies: What Managers Really Think” research report.

Surprise, surprise

Good Practice commissioned the research to satisfy their curiosity. What surprised managing director Owen Ferguson? “The elearning piece. I was expecting to see more preference for consumer products and services. People aren’t getting all they want from YouTube and other services. They are finding more relevance from the organisation”.

I agree with Ferguson, the positive response to elearning has surprised me, given what I’ve seen and had to sit through in the past, and the discussions I have with others. It’s heartening to know that there are changes in the industry that mean a lot of elearning is well designed, accessible and working for managers.

Another surprise for me was that online groups and networks (that the report explains as “enterprise social networks like Slack, Yammer and Jive”) are much lower on the list – with only 44% of managers stating they are useful.

It’s heartening to know that there are changes in the industry that mean a lot of elearning is well designed, accessible and working for managers.

Back to Ferguson’s point he made with me earlier about the apps on my phone – I find Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks invaluable for my job. But I’m not a manager in a large company – my experience is skewed.

Consumer versus enterprise?

Going back to the services and access to relevant content the research also found that “workplace learning technology surpassed consumer websites and apps” as more relevant to their professional lives and more effective for their development.

Ferguson comments, “design an experience for the context to assist – not the Netflix or YouTube of learning. They are designed to keep you watching. People want to find what they need, learn and put it into practice”.

“Don’t spend too much time replicating consumer experience” he warns. Netflix has hundreds of people and so much more resource that the average L&D department will ever have, so it seems foolish to try to replicate that.

The report expands on this: “Usability remains an issue for some workplace learning technologies, and time to find useful information remains a perpetual challenge.”

Focusing on what people need for their learning solutions and building to that context is key to make your offerings effective.

What next?

With this information to hand what can we do? We know that face to face training, coaching and mentoring is perceived as hugely useful – this is a positive to celebrate; we have the surprising find that elearning is much more popular with managers than many think.

What about the other options, such as performance support tools, virtual classrooms, online groups and mobile apps, which have much lower perceived usefulness? It’s not that we should stop recommending these, or that they aren’t the future of work performance and learning.

What we need to do is look in a bit more detail about who thinks these aren’t useful, such as age ranges and seniority of managers, and why. This is something you could ask within your own organisations to find out information relevant to your team and help make decisions.

My work focus is around virtual classrooms and online groups, so I need to think about what people are experiencing already and how it’s not useful to them. There are groups of people within the research that haven’t used a technology, so how can we encourage them to try? And there are some that actively find it not useful, so how can we deliver better for them?

Most of all, making sure that when we do offer any learning intervention, especially a technology based one, it’s based on the organisation need, sound modern learning principles, and being the best it can be.

Ferguson concludes our interview and summarised this research insight really nicely, by saying “some of the narratives we tell ourselves aren’t necessarily true”.

More insights

Read part one of this feature here

Download the full report now from, and follow the tweets from the launch on #GPWMRT 


About the author

Jo Cook is the deputy editor of Training Journal. Contact her on Twitter @LightbulbJo or email

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