Learning and Training – for Success

Apart from keeping your job as an L&D professional, what does ‘success’ in L&D mean? How do you achieve it – and how do know when you’ve achieved it?

Along with L&D professionals being put under increasing pressure to ‘perform’ by senior managers, the growth in the use of technology – both as learning delivery media and in business operational terms – is changing both the workplace and the human perspectives within it.

As artificial intelligence (AI) increases its presence in the workplace – perhaps prompting finance professionals to replace humans with increasingly intelligent machines in the interest of saving costs and increasing efficiency and productivity – how can L&D professionals show that the human assets in their organization are what gives it its competitive edge?

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It’s consistently puzzling that, while using technology to deliver learning materials enables more people to learn as and when necessary, applying online learning technologies in a corporate context isn’t the panacea its champions have always claimed.

The Learning Transformation Journey

However, research by Towards Maturity, the UK-based learning innovation benchmarking organization – published as that organization’s 2017/18 Learning Benchmark Report – reveals the most effective combinations of actions, tools and strategies to make the next step-change on the learning transformation journey to ‘training success’.

Analyzing the Report’s data identifies four distinct stages in the journey to ‘training success’:

  1. Optimising Training
  2. Taking Control
  3. Letting Go
  4. Sharing Responsibility

Towards Maturity also defines hurdles – or ‘pivot points’ – that L&D professionals must negotiate to get to the next stage of the journey. All of this becomes what Towards Maturity terms ‘the Transformation Curve’.

Six dimensions affect the Transformation Curve:

  • Governance and decision-making – Aligning learning strategy to business goals and objectives, using evidence to support decision-making.
  • Formal learning – Building an efficient, effective portfolio of formal learning resources to address skills gaps and support learners’ career development.
  • Informal and social learning – The interchange of ideas and mutual support to support personal and business goals, collaborative problem solving and innovation.
  • The role of the learning professional – The business-focused and tech-savvy facilitation of L&D through blending performance support, training and professional advice and guidance.
  • The role of the individual – Self-directed learners are purposeful, curious, confident, social, connected, adaptable and taking ownership of their L&D.
  • The role of the manager – Driving the achievement of organizational goals and championing transformation, committed to individual and business advancement through learning.

Beginning the Journey

Beginning the journey to training success involves increasing the choice and volume of L&D activities, as well as improving the administration of learning.

At this stage, L&D tends to be response-driven rather than the result of strategic planning. Its limited delivery technology targets compliance. There’s no peer-to-peer learning, and a lack of knowledge holds back the use of digital learning. Learners are considered recipients of, not contributors to, learning – and managers aren’t involved in the process.

Typically – according to Towards Maturity research data – ‘success’ at this stage is shown by 60% of staff accessing compliance training online and 58% meeting compliance goals, while also being able to demonstrate a:

  • 55% reduction in learning delivery time and
  • 32% reduction in study time

Moving to the next stage in the Transformation Curve will, typically, see:

  • Productivity rise from between one to 12%,
  • Customer satisfaction increase by up to 12%,
  • Staff satisfaction increase by between four and 26% and
  • The volume/reach of L&D rises by between 29 and 48%

The Next Step Towards Training Success

According to Towards Maturity, typical issues preventing an organization moving to the next stage include:

  • 65% of L&D staff lack knowledge of technology potential (this falls to 45% in Stage 2 – dubbed ‘Taking Control’)
  • 49% of learners are reluctant to learn with new technology
  • 65% of learners think their organizational culture doesn’t support social learning
  • 49% of learners have had a poor experience with online learning

However, reaching the ‘Taking Control’ stage typically sees:

  • Productivity increases of from one to 12%
  • Customer satisfaction increases by up to 12%
  • Staff satisfaction rises from between 4% to 26%

Towards Maturity has, so far, identified two further stages of the Transformation Curve. Further details of the Transformation Curve – including the key factors that prompt organizations to progress through the stages – are on the Towards Maturity website.

Lessons and Issues

Among the key lessons of the Transformation Curve for L&D professionals is the need to collect – and then present – appropriate, objective data by which to define ‘success’. This data must be related to the organization’s goals and strategy – not those of the L&D department.

In developing and delivering the tactics to achieve this success, L&D professionals must address such issues as how can I:

  • Motivate learners to become more cost-effective and less productivity-disruptive by embracing modern learning delivery technologies?
  • Overcome any belief among learners that learning without interaction with a human isn’t ‘serious learning’.
  • Dispel any impression that learning delivered via mobile devices, such as smartphones, isn’t ‘serious learning’?
  • Keep an interpersonal connection with learners – now that they’re increasingly learning via online learning technologies?

Many L&D professionals are resolving this last issue by increasingly taking on the roles of curator of learning resources and coach/ mentor to the learners – rather than trying, unsuccessfully in today’s Google-dominated working environment, to be the fount of all wisdom for all learners all of the time.

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