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Laura Overton: Are today’s L&D leaders sticking to the…


Early findings from this year’s Towards Maturity Benchmark study shows that many L&D professionals have a hunger to modernise learning but a tendency to stick with the familiar.

Since 2003, we've been tracking the extent to which our aspirations for an agile, flexible, technology enabled approach to learning have been met. What results are we achieving? Who is getting the best results and what are they doing differently? Each year we provide an opportunity for L&D leaders to confidentially compare their approach to delivering learning and supporting performance with their peers. Each year we send out over 400 free Personalised Benchmark Reports to participants providing detailed feedback and recommendations on how to turn data into insights and insights into the actions that will drive their strategy forward.

Technology expectations are increasing year on year

What we've discovered year on year is that L&D leaders are increasingly turning to technology to help them deliver. Last year, 4 in 5 were predicting that by 2016 they will be using some kind of mobile learning. The same number believed they will have incorporated video in their offering and will have turned to communities of practice to support social collaboration. 45% suggest that they will be using more games and complex simulations; 35% think they will be actively using badges to recognise and reward; as the range of content increases, 3 in 10 L&D are expecting to be offering more curation by 2016.

Whilst technology expectations are increasing year on year, most L&D leaders are sticking to the familiar!

In an early analysis of this year’s responses, we've found that 20% of L&D budget is currently being spent on technology but, despite a lot of industry talk around games, mobile and social learning, elearning courses and live online learning platforms remain the tools of choice for many:

  • 9 in 10  are using e-learning courses (with 7 in 10 using course authoring tools to develop content in house)
  • 8 in 10 are using live online learning platforms
  • 3-in-4 are leveraging enterprise wide information systems such as SharePoint

We've seen a slight increase in the use of video – 7 in 10 are now using it but when it comes to using games and complex simulations in learning, curation and communities of practice there has been little or no progress in use:

  • 27% are using games and simulations in learning ( a slight increase from last year)
  • 2 in 5 are using badges (a slight increase )
  • Just under half are using communities of practice ( a slight drop)
  • 12% are actively using curation to support learners ( a significant drop from last year)

There are expectations that technology-enabled learning will help achieve the goals, but so far only 29% agree that technology-enabled learning has resulted in improvements in productivity that they seek. 

Last year the top performing learning teams showed that they were significantly more active in applying these tools to support learning ( and generating significantly more business improvement as a result).

So why is there so much talk about new tools and approaches and yet so little progress being made by the wider L&D community?

One of the reasons might be our confidence in using learning technologies. So far less than 30% of  L&D leaders in the 2015 study agree that their teams have the confidence to apply new learning technologies to learning. A staggering 3 in 5 believe that even if they did, their staff would not know how to use them.

What is clear is that the top performing learning teams are continuing to do things differently.They are more likely to embrace new learning technologies BUT for the right reasons:

  • They are analysing the business problem before applying a technology solution ( or any solution for that matter)
  • They thinking differently about how to support learning and performance, embracing new models of learning such as 70:20:10 that go beyond the standard course ( elearning or otherwise)
  • They are identifying how and why their staff are currently learning what they need to do their job – using video, communities and other media to give their learners an active voice in supporting others.
  • They turn talk into action

Establishing a clear pathway

One of the biggest challenges for today’s L&D professional is that there are now so many options and tools to choose from, so many demands and expectations to move faster, deliver more and to modernise. It would not be surprising if we start to doubt our own ability to make the right decisions for our organisation.

This is one of the reasons that we do what we do with the Towards Maturity Benchmark. The process of benchmarking helps you to move away from the shiny tools and toys and reflect on what you can do to support learning more efficiently. By reviewing your current strategy against a framework of effective practices, you will be surprised at how much you are already doing and start to see how and where to build the confidence and skills of your L&D team to deliver a vision for the future.

Everyone taking part gets confidential personal feedback in early September. Your Personalised Benchmark report provides detail on how you compare against 12 key performance indicators and 24 performance benchmark indices (including 3 new indices that exploring the extent to which you are implementing effective practices of the 70:20:10 framework). We've extended the opportunity to benchmark with your peers so that you can have access to an evidence based approach to improving your learning strategy- a clear pathway to help you achieve what you need to achieve in the year ahead and we encourage you to get involved.

Author: Laura Overton, Managing Director, Towards Maturity

Sponge is proud to be an Ambassador of the Towards Maturity Benchmark. The programme has been extended to 14th August and you can take part confidentially and for free.