In the fourth in our series, Laura Overton provides practical, evidence-based insights for cultivating business agility.
There’s no two ways about it: agile businesses need agile L&D functions. In today’s fast-moving and rapidly changing world organisations need to move with those changes and we need to be there, helping them do it. We need to be agile and responsive so that organisations can be agile and responsive and we need to facilitate organisational change.
What that organisational change is can vary. It might be that new processes are being implemented, or that new products and services are entering the marketplace, or new customers or suppliers have emerged, for example. We have a role to play in each of these situations. We also need to ensure employees are receptive to new ideas and ready to embrace change.
So, what agility outcomes do we as L&D professionals want to achieve and are we achieving them? L&D leaders taking place in our benchmarking research said this:
- 97% want to speed up and improve the application of learning in the workplace
- 96% want to improve employee engagement with learning
- 95% want to provide a faster response to changing business conditions
- 93% want to push updated information to employees at the point of need
- 93% want to improve staff motivation
- 92% want to improve communication and team-work
- 75% want to improve staff retention
Those are the goals but are we achieving them? On average, just 20% of those of us looking for agility-related outcomes are actually achieving them, a figure that rises to 54% for the Top Deck (the top 10% performing organisations in our benchmarking Index). It looks like aspirations are high, but the results are not coming through, yet.
We also need to ensure employees are receptive to new ideas and ready to embrace change.
Some of our respondents are making more progress than others. These are the agility achievers. Lots of the Top Deck are agility achievers. The Towards Maturity analysis of the ‘agility achievers’ demonstrates some interesting findings around which tactics are most closely linked to agility. Let’s take a look at the tactics being deployed to cultivate agility. They are:
- Developing a strong profile of their ‘customer’
- Using content to connect and engage staff
- Stronger feedback related to business outcomes
- Recognising the importance of trial and error
Also critical to agility is learners themselves. Research shows that we need employees to be proactive and to understand how to identify the information they need to do their job. Almost half (44%) of agility achievers recognise this, compared to 25% of non-achievers.
But we can’t expect learners to do it on their own or to be in charge of their own learning. It’s important that we understand how our staff are learning so that we can help them. Those L&D leaders enjoying agility outcomes do understand how their staff are learning and are using this knowledge to tailor programmes and plan what action needs to be taken.
This is something we all need to do as well as giving employees experiences that will stretch them.
Something that learners definitely want and need is to connect with their peers. Learners are keen to tap into networks, both to share what they already know and to learn more from others. Almost two thirds (61%) of learners are motivated to learn online because technology enables them to network with others and learn from them.
The Towards Maturity 2016 Learning Landscape demonstrates how important it is for learners to be able to experiment and share online. Also interesting is that learners place a high level of importance in sharing their own knowledge, not just learning from others; it’s very much a two-way process. Here is what the research says:
- 86% of learners find working in collaboration with other team members essential or very useful
- 82% find general conversations and meeting people essential or very useful
- 80% are willing to use technology to share their knowledge to help others learn
- 61% are downloading and using apps for social networking to their mobile