Our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world requires organisations to be agile and responsive to the fast changing, and uncertain, business world they operate in.
For L&D leaders, this means creating a learning team fit for the future, which can respond to change fast. Our research into the strategies of over 600 L&D professionals, Modernising Learning: Delivering Results showed us how organisations are adapting their learning strategy in this VUCA business environment; exploring what they are doing, what’s working and what needs to change.
We deducted that a successful learning strategy is one that focuses on outputs and business alignment, remaining in tune with its organisation’s overall strategy. This alignment boosts performance, productivity, time to competency, reduces attrition and much more. These are the results that both L&D teams and the business wants to see. This is what we call a ‘modernised learning strategy’; one that has the business outcomes and performance at its core.
Modernising Learning Strategy: An Active Improvement Process
To achieve our aspirations and modernise our learning strategies, we need to take action. One way of doing this, is to look at those L&D teams who are already at the top of their game. What can we learn from them? More importantly, what can we DO differently as a result?
The Towards Maturity Model has long provided a benchmark for effective learning practices, with the top quartile of the Towards Maturity Index™ consistently delivering more for less. It is clear: this year, more than ever before, we need to understand that it is what the top performers are doing that makes a difference.
In Modernising Learning: Delivering Results, we took a fresh look at the learning leaders – the top 10% of the Towards Maturity Index™ (we refer to these organisations as the Top Deck). Across the board, these organisations are twice as likely to achieve the benefits they seek from a modernised learning strategy and report 30% fewer barriers than average across the 2014 sample. These organisations are not all cash-loaded multinational corporations; they are varied across a range of sectors, sizes and L&D budgets.Staying ahead of the Game: Top Performing L&D Teams
Our research tells us that the best learning organisations are established users of learning technologies. They invest twice as much budget percentage into learning technologies than the average. Whilst they do use certain tools like everyone else (online courses, LMS etc.), they are more than twice as likely to use technology tools such as cloud-based content, blogs, social bookmarking and achievement badges to connect staff with great content and to motivate them to engage and share with others.
They also deliver great results, because technology helps them to:
- Speed up application of learning in the workplace (65% vs. 21% avg.)
- Provide faster response to changing business conditions (62% vs. 24% avg.)
- Support organisational change (69% vs. 32% avg.)
- Increase job productivity (72% vs. 28% avg.)
Common characteristics of Top Deck L&D Teams
The Towards Maturity Model tracks over 100 effective practice behaviours. Typically, different organisations show different strengths across the 6 strands of the model. However, with the Top Deck organisations, there are four ‘fitness’ behaviours that they all share consistently:
1. Two-Way Strategic Alignment with the Heart of the Business
Talking about business alignment has become all the rage in the last 18 months, but the top Deck organisations have turned talk into action. They all align L&D team activity with the strategic goals of the organisation (compared with 56% on average) and continue to regularly review their programmes and check that they support and enhance organisational goals (43% avg.).
2. Giving Learners an Active Voice
Since our very first benchmark study, the top performing learning organisations had a learner centric foundation to their learning strategy. Eleven years on the Top Deck teams continue to provide learners a proactive voice. Today, they continue to understand how their learners learn and what learners need (something that only 36% of the sample across the board actually does). They are also more likely to use technology to encourage user – generated content and are four times as likely to actively encourage staff to collaborate in building knowledge resources. Actively encouraging the learner voice doesn’t stop there as the Top Deck also understand that success breeds success with nine out of ten encouraging peer to peer feedback about the impact of learning interventions.
3. Designing Learning Strategies Beyond the Course
Armed with the knowledge gained from learners, Top Deck organisations are at least 50% more likely to use technology to transform learning across business skills such as Leadership and management, problem solving, communications and team working skills. It is clear in that all of these learning elite consider the ‘course’ as only one of the many options for building skills and performance.
4. Being Proactive in Making Connections
The fourth characteristic that all of the Top Deck organisations share is the way that they support change. Modernising learning involves change for many and this involves change management. Top Deck teams ensure that individuals can access clear information on all learning opportunities open to them. In an increasingly mobile enterprise, they are all focussed on providing learning to staff in places that are convenient to them.
It’s Time for Action
Every single one of the Top Deck L&D teams say their learning initiatives support the skills the business needs, compared to just two thirds of L&D leaders on average. 73% report positive changes in staff behaviour (compared to 21% average). Most importantly of all in our fast changing business environment, 9 out of 10 Top Deck leaders report that their business leaders recognise that learning interventions are aligned with the overall business plan AND that when something is important to the business, it is resourced correctly.
What’s clear, is that the Top Deck organisations are ‘doers’ rather than ‘talkers’ when it comes to modernising their learning strategy. Their fitness strategy involves being 100% committed and active in balancing individual and organisational need; they think outside the box when it comes to learning design and they prioritise activities that allow them to connect with staff at their point of need.