L&D Benchmarks: Discover the Actions that Get Results

by | Jan 12, 2015 | Articles

At the start of 2015 our thoughts turn to preparing for the year ahead. L&D leaders around the globe are clearly concerned about they add value; how can they support rapid change in business and respond faster to it, ensuring that their teams are equipped for excellence?

It’s no wonder that more of us are now looking beyond what we are doing internally to get inspiration from the community around us. This is where benchmarking clearly comes in.

What is benchmarking?

Benchmarking is a business improvement tool that has been widely used in many aspects of business since the 90’s. Benchmarking is all about measuring and improving the quality of an organisation’s performance. Other parts of our organisations have been doing this for years but L&D leaders, until now, have been slow to catch on.

Towards Maturity have been active in providing a free benchmark tool for L&D professionals since 2003 but recently we’ve noticed an increased interest in the field.

The trouble is that this has manifested itself in an abundance of surveys! We’re surveyed about trends, about budgets, about technologies and about the latest ideas. These are useful to give you a sense of what others are doing, a pat on the back (or even a sense of complacency) but, let’s be clear, they are not a benchmark in the true business sense. Knowing the annual spend, days spent training or even compliance training completion rates will not help you improve the quality of the outputs of your L&D team.

If you are going to take benchmarking seriously – using it as a tool to direct your activities for 2015, up your game, increase engagement and deliver more value – we have to look beyond the survey.

Why are you doing this? It’s about results.

First we need to think about why are we doing this? L&D excellence is clearly not just about a pat on the back, a tick in the box or even a formal accreditation. It is all about performance, adding value to business, supporting individual performance, building engagement and commitment and delivering results.
With this in mind, if you are going to spend an hour benchmarking your L&D strategy to help you achieve those things make sure it is an hour well spent!

Before you complete any review for the purposes of benchmarking – ask yourself are there clear, proven links that the questions you are being asked and the behaviours that are being investigated, will help you deliver the results you are looking for?

Results were at the heart of our first study in 2003, ‘Linking Learning to Business’ which started to unpick the behaviours of successful L&D teams in terms of the things that really count for business leaders: revenue, productivity, customer satisfaction, time to competency and more.

Tracking the L&D behaviours that lead to better business impact has been our complete focus ever since.

Reviewing your strategy – it’s about trust.

Clear validated links back to business impact are critical in any thorough benchmark process, but so is the credibility of the questions you are being asked. How are they being defined and shaped? This is a fast moving industry and not one organisation has their pulse on everything. Towards Maturity, from the beginning, works with supporters and experts in the field committed to improving L&D practice. We also work with practitioners through our benchmark groups across a wide range of sectors that inform our thinking. Our study is also informed by learner input (15,000 of them to date!) to ensure that it is constantly updated.

Independence and transparency is critical in this process and from time to time we submit our work to be academically validated a tough peer review process that keeps the Towards Maturity Benchmark on its toes.

It’s therefore not a surprise that 84% of the L&D leaders who completed the Towards Maturity Benchmark in 2015 found that completing the review alone provided them with ideas for taking their strategy forward.

Confident comparisons

If you are planning to make decisions based on your benchmark experience, you need confidence in the feedback that you receive. You should expect personal feedback (not just a copy of the study at the end of the day), your feedback should clearly link to how you can improve performance and results, ideally you should expect it to be immediate and you need to know who you are being compared with.
Confidence comparisons come from the longevity of the programme of work and the volume of participants who have been through the process. This means that if you get feedback that you are in the top 10% of a sample, it actually means something. Volume, longevity and fresh insights within the benchmark process also means that you can obtain meaningful comparisons within your sector.

Every year, the Towards Maturity Study:

  • Has a minimum of 500-600 participating organisations
  • Gathers 1.5 million data points
  • Has at least 29 sectors completing from over 44 countries

Focus on action

Benchmarking ultimately is about continual performance improvement. It’s great to get feedback that you are doing well but in the continually changing world of Learning and Development, the focus of any benchmark activity must be on taking the right kind of action that improves bottom line business results. With this in mind your personalised feedback needs to show you:

  • What are the top performers doing differently to you?
  • Where are your current strengths and weaknesses compared to the top performers in your field?
  • What are your recommended actions?
  • Where to go for additional resources, case studies and ideas.

Taking Action Today

IBM have shown that top performing organisations are those that turn data into insights and insights into action– it’s time for L&D leaders to do the same.

Towards Maturity are a not for profit organisation that provides a Benchmark service for free (thanks to our amazing Ambassadors who share our passion for independent industry insights being available to all). The Towards Maturity Benchmark Study has now been established as the authentic L&D Benchmark study with 3,500 participating L&D leaders around the globe.

Don’t just take our word for it – find out what others are saying.

You can benchmark your L&D strategy for FREE today and get immediate feedback by visiting our Benchmark Centre:


Further information:

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