Press: Leadership Development Programmes Having Little Business Impact, Towards Maturity Research Shows

by | Sep 2, 2015 | Articles, Press Release

Latest research from Towards Maturity shows that L&D teams are failing to develop leadership development programmes that improve individual and business performance.

Towards Maturity’s In-Focus report, Excellence in Leadership Development, launched today, shows that despite the fact 98% of L&D professionals want their leadership programmes to deliver improved business performance, only 18% are managing to achieve it.

The report, supported by KPMG, shows that L&D professionals are failing to design programmes that suit the needs of leaders. Only 31% of L&D teams include users in programme design. As a result, L&D activities are not in line with how leaders are actively learning.

The research on 125 L&D leaders, who are responsible for delivering leadership development programmes, was backed up by insights from a sample of over 2,000 leaders and managers from the Towards Maturity Benchmark. Findings show that:

  • 92% of participants focus on face-to-face classroom training, despite that 60% of leaders actually find it useful
  • 40% of leaders already belong to social networks for learning, yet 30% of L&D leaders still have no plans to integrate social media
  • Only 39% of L&D leaders offer mobile content in leadership programmes, despite 70% of leaders saying that they learn what they need for their job on their commute.

Technology plays an increasingly important part in leadership development programmes. The main drivers for using technology are to enable participants to share good practice, adapt learning to context and reduce time away from the business (reported by 96%), yet fewer than half of L&D teams are achieving these desired benefits.

The top barrier to change is the lack of knowledge about technology’s potential applications in leadership development (reported by 68% of L&D professionals).

Commenting on the findings, Towards Maturity MD Laura Overton, said:

“This report is the product of extensive research into the way that leaders are developing in today’s working environment. With less than a third involving leaders in programme design, it is no wonder that the majority of offerings are failing to make an impact on the business. This report draws hope from examining the higher achievers, who are excelling in their design of learning programmes, creating effective learning communities and enabling experiential learning. It is clear that alignment with business objectives and the needs of our leaders is vital to the success of any programme and ultimately, the value of the L&D function. It is time for the statistics to speak for themselves and for us to listen to the evidence and respond appropriately. We urge anyone responsible for developing leaders in their organisation to pick up this report and reflect on how their strategy might compare.

“Today, we are publishing solid evidence that we hope will shape the future of leadership development programmes worldwide, enabling L&D leaders to have confidence in their programmes and demonstrate impact on the business.”

L&D teams remain very positive about what leadership development programmes can achieve despite the fact most are failing to reap the intended rewards:

  • 98% want their leadership programmes to deliver improved business performance, yet only 18% are achieving that to a large degree
  • 95% want to improve career planning for potential leaders, but only 13% are consistently achieving it
  • 95% want to improve succession planning, but only 16% are largely achieving it

Neil Wilson, KPMG Learning Academy Lead, commented on the findings:

“In general terms, spend on leadership development is increasing, but companies need to strategically plan how to spend on development and spend wisely. Technology in itself is not the answer to improving learning and development, it’s the way it is used that counts.

“Organisations need to address their skills gaps and look at the use of learning technology from a strategic perspective, rather than in isolation for specific learning programmes. Being realistic about what can be achieved and how this will be measured is important.”

The research shows that, despite the fact that leaders are self-directed learners, 40% find their classroom experiences essential or very useful in helping them do their job. Other learning preferences include:

  • 91% find collaboration with others essential/very useful
  • 80% are willing to share, but 23% need help getting started
  • 55% are motivated by networking technologies
  • 70% find Google or other search engines essential/very useful
  • 40% belong to networks and communities
  • Over 70% are using mobile devices for learning

The full report explores differences in learning approaches from directors, senior managers and line managers.

The full report can be downloaded for free thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s Ambassador, KPMG, at:

Notes to Editors

About Towards Maturity

Towards Maturity is a benchmarking research company that provides independent expert advice and support to help organisations use learning technologies to accelerate business performance. It leverages the data of its in-depth Benchmark Study, the largest learning technology benchmark in Europe. Since 2003, over 4,000 organisations and 18,000 learners have contributed to Towards Maturity’s leading benchmarks.

Thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors, annual benchmarking findings, case studies and resources are available to download for free at

The Towards Maturity Ambassador Programme is made up of leading learning organisations. They work together as Ambassadors for change, identifying and improving good practice, raising awareness and driving the whole learning industry forward.

The Towards Maturity’s Ambassador Programme includes strategic partner CIPD, the founding Ambassadors: Brightwave, Learning Technologies, LEO, Successfactors, The Corporate eLearning Consortium and The Charity Learning Consortium, plus Acteon, City and Guilds: Kineo, Docebo, DPG plc, eCom Scotland, GoodPractice, Kallidus, KPMG, Kydon, Lumesse, Raytheon Professional Services, Redware, Reed Learning, Saba Software, Skillsoft, Speexx and Sponge UK.

Learn more about Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors
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About KPMG

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 12,000 partners and staff.  The UK firm recorded a turnover of £1.9 billion in the year ended September 2014. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 162,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity.  Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

About the KPMG Learning Academy (KLA)

The KPMG Learning Academy brings together KPMG’s breadth and depth of subject matter expertise with our learning design and technology skills and capabilities to help unleash the full potential of your people to drive business performance.

We aim to provide a comprehensive range of off-the-shelf digital, blended and classroom training courses on a wide range of subjects, delivered through our secure and accessible online platform. We will work with you to design and build effective and sustainable learning solutions centred on the learner experience.

It is this combination of our broad skills, deep subject matter expertise and ability to solve your problems that allow us to provide solutions designed to be flexible and robust.

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