How To Get Your L&D Team in ‘Tip Top’ Condition for 2015

by | Feb 3, 2015 | Articles

How many of us enter the New Year with great visions of increased health & fitness, as we eagerly commit to a year of workouts in the gym? Our expectations and motivation are high, as we determine to get ourselves in tip top condition.

However, experience in my own life has shown me that high aspirations and New Year resolutions don’t automatically deliver results. I understand the benefits of doing more exercise; I am pretty well read and could enter into an informed discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to fitness, but this knowledge, even when I combine it with a desire to change, doesn’t make a jot of difference to my waistline or stamina until I start to action what I already know.

When it comes to L&D leaders entering into 2015, our motivation to deliver swift, powerful learning interventions that boost business agility has never been greater. We’ve been conducting the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study since 2003, but this year, the vision that L&D leaders have – responding faster to change, increasing productivity and in general doing things differently for the greater good – is more powerful than ever before. However, we are achieving less than we did 5 years ago.

To achieve our aspirations and modernise our learning strategies, we need to take action if we are truly going to get ourselves and our teams in top condition for 2015.

Learning from those at the top of their game

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 our latest study Modernising Learning: Delivering Results*,<href=”#_ftn1″ name=”_ftnref1″> we took a fresh look at the learning leaders – the top 10% of the Towards Maturity Index™ (we refer to them 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.

Our research tells us that the best learning organisations are established users of learning technologies. They invest twice as much budget in learning technologies than the average. Whilst they use certain tools like everyone else (online courses, LMS etc.), they are over 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 find they get great results, because technology helps them to:

  • Speed up application of learning in the workplace (65% vs. 21% avg.)
  • Provides faster response to changing business conditions (62% vs. 24% avg.)
  • Supports organisational change (69% vs. 32% avg.)
  • Increases job productivity (72% vs. 28% avg.)
So, what can we learn from them, to get ourselves into top condition for 2015?

Common Characteristics of the 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. Focussing on these first will help any L&D team get into tip top condition for 2015.

2-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 fully 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.). Jane Daly, Head of Head Office Learning and Development at Marks & Spencer heads up a Top Deck Learning team (and spoke at LT15). One of her tips is to set up ‘in-touch strategically aligned L&D steering groups to help with the process.

Give Learners an Active Voice

Since our very first benchmark study, the top performing learning organisations had a learner centric foundation to their 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.

Design 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. This is where the technology and tools come into their own. Kandy Woodfield, Director of Learning and Enterprise at the charity NatCen Social Research is another LT speaker who leads a Top Deck Learning team. She recommends that L&D teams start adding value to their learner communities by curating useful content in meaningful ways. She also advocates the power of modelling community, especially to leaders to encourage the sharing of good practice.

Be 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

All the Top Deck L&D teams say their learning initiatives support the skills the business needs compared to two thirds of L&D leaders on average. 73% report positive changes in staff behaviour (compared to 21% average). And most importantly of all in our fast changing business environment, 9 out of 10 say 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 is 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.

If you are looking for your team to excel in performance in 2015, mirroring their actions would be a good place to start!

Laura Overton
MD, Towards Maturity

Twitter: @lauraoverton

Next steps

For more hints, tips and motivation to get your team into tip top condition:

  • Develop your own tailored fitness plan – confidentially compare yourselves directly with the top performers before the end of January and download your own Free Personalised benchmark report at
  • Check out your conference pack for your free infographic to pin up on your wall to remind you of how to become a top deck learning team throughout the year.

<href=”#_ftnref1″ name=”_ftn1″>*Download at:

This article was originally published by Inside Learning Technologies Magazine, here.

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