Unlocking the Potential of Learning at Work

by | Apr 5, 2017 | Articles, Featured

The way in which we acquire and assimilate information has changed in recent years, through technology as well as the rapidly changing world of work. The demand for skills, knowledge and capabilities is high, and removing learners from the workplace to attend formal learning courses isn’t always practical or feasible.

Working and learning can and should happen at the same time. Unlocking Potential, our 2016-17 Annual Benchmark Report, shows that 93% of 600 L&D leaders from around the world want to integrate learning and work – a 13% rise since 2015, but how do we do it?

Think of the 70:20:10 framework: the central premise of this structure is based on research suggesting that most of our learning happens in the workplace, either through experience or exposure to others. That’s one, very important reason why there has been this shift towards integrating learning and work. Formal learning experiences facilitate approximately 10% of what we learn – an essential 10%, when you’re trying to reach full potential.

Technology and in particular, mobile, has revolutionised the whole learning experience. Learners can now engage with learning when and where they need it, rather than just when it is scheduled. Technology is helping people access resources and support at the point of need – transforming the ‘transactions’ that take place between people professionals and those they are responsible for.

Beyond learning transformation

Just like digital transformation in the wider business space, transforming learning is not an end to itself. There is a much bigger picture in play than simply digitising our corporate education system and making our content ‘fit’ any device.

It also doesn’t mean we can just apply what we’ve always done to new mediums, assuming that providing the same service in different ways will reap the results we’re looking. L&D teams have to think beyond improving what they have always done. It is not just about transforming the transactional, ‘We give you something, you take it and learn it, we measure, improve and repeat…’ experience. The old way of learning, in other words, won’t do. We need to think and act differently.

The learning and development profession has to move away from old, provisional, cost-centred thinking and work towards cultivating a new kind of learning organisation that is continuously, dynamically and freely learning, every day. This is what the Top Deck – those scoring highest on the Towards Maturity Index – are doing.

We asked L&D leaders what performance-related outcomes they want and expect to achieve:

  • 96% want to improve organisational performance
  • 96% want to increase self-directed learning
  • 95% want to increase on the job productivity
  • 95% want to reduce time to competence
  • 91% want to improve external customer satisfaction
  • 78% want to facilitate new ways of working

By following the suggestions unfolded in Unlocking Potential, L&D teams should expect to reduce the time to competence by up to 15%, to increase productivity by 14% and improve organisational revenue by 10%.

Are they achieving any of this yet? A significant number (62%) of Top Deck organisations are achieving their goals when it comes to productivity and performance, but only 26% of the overall sample.

What are top performers doing?

18% of the overall sample stood out as achieving five or more of the performance-related outcomes above. What we found, is that there are certain organisations that are most likely to be these performance ‘achievers’. Top of the list are education (33%), professional services (28%) and retail (27%).

The size of an organisation was not a differentiator – e-maturity was. Organisations embedding technology throughout their programmes are realising the most benefits (46%). Additionally, organisations with over 10 years’ experience of using learning technologies are also enjoying the best results (29%).

In the full report, we hone in further on what the performance achievers are doing and what tools they are using to boost performance. The achievers are using a diverse range of technologies and are making good use of blended learning. They are twice as likely to blend their use of different learning technologies than non-achievers. They are also making much wider use of mobile.

  • 40% use bespoke mobile apps, compared to 20% of non-achievers
  • 82% use mobile devices (64% non-achievers)
  • 87% use job aids, such as PDFs or checklists (65% non-achievers)

Another interesting point that emerged was that 28% of achievers use mobile apps specifically to support performance at the point of need. This indicates that the provision of video content, e-learning objects, job aids and other learning solutions are increasingly being accessed via mobile.

We compared these figures to Top Deck figures – almost 50% of the Top Deck use bespoke mobile apps for learning, compared to 21% across the rest of the sample. Also, Top Deck organisations are more than twice as likely to integrate mobile apps within their LMS, than the rest of the sample.

It is interesting to note that employees are using these tools in order to help themselves work better and faster. It’s how people want and need to learn.

Cultivating an agile business

It is so important that people can access learning at the point of need. Agility is key in today’s competitive, rapidly changing world. Everyone needs to be agile…learners, L&D, managers, leaders, the business…and L&D needs to provide the tools that enable agility to happen, in partnership with IT and HR. It is also about having an agile mindset – staying in constant communication with the business and being ready to react to change as it happens.

We asked our 600 L&D leaders what agility outcomes they want to achieve. These were the results:

  • 97% want to speed up and improve the application of learning in the workplace
  • 96% want to improve employee engagement with learning
  • 95% want to provide a faster response to changing business conditions
  • 93% want to push update information to employees at the point of need
  • 93% want to improve staff motivation
  • 92% want to improve communication and teamwork
  • 75% want to improve staff retention

L&D teams expect to change new products and procedures 24% faster, with measures of staff satisfaction and engagement improving by 18%. These are pretty hefty goals and on average, only 20% of those looking for agility-related outcomes are achieving them. The Top Deck is performing better, at 54%.

Interestingly, some sectors and locations are achieving higher levels of agility than others. This includes central government (24%), finance (15%) and those in the Middle East, Africa and India (17%).

Of course, what we want to know is what tools can be used and are being used to cultivate agility. Social technologies, technologies that connect staff with each other, stand out as a real priority. It’s about encouraging conversations and collaboration. Our research shows that 57% of agility achievers make use of learning communities such as action learning, compared to 42% of non-achievers. Equally, 57% of agility achievers promote communities of practices, compared to 47% of non-achievers. Plus, 87% use communication tools such as chat, IM, SMS and newsletters, compared to 71% of non-achievers.

Our research shows that 61% of learners want to be able to learn on the go, with 38% using their own mobile phone or tablet to access resources.

Leaders need to think through how and why they should integrate learning and work, as well as what impact it would have on performance. 93% of L&D leaders want to integrate learning in the workflow, so what’s stopping them? On average, only 50% of benchmarking participants agree that their approach to learning and development is shaped by models that support learning in workflow. That number changes when it comes to the Top Deck – 85% of them agree that their approach is shaped by models that support learning directly in the flow of work.

Over two-thirds (71%) of achievers agree that learning initiatives are delivered in time to meet the needs of the business, compared to 43% of non-achievers. And 47% ensure employees have access to job aids or mobile devices, compared to 20% of non-achievers. We’ve got a long way to go.

Technology is the key to connectivity

Technology is an enabler and enhancer – agility achievers are making good use of it. Our research shows that 77% of them maintain file and presentation sharing applications such as Google Docs, Dropbox and SlideShare, compared to 55% of non-achievers. They are also more likely to use tools that engage individuals learning together online, with 26% having audience response tools, compared to 19% of non-achievers.

Agility achievers are also achieving success because they are tailoring learning to individual need and to context. Software tools that support competency management are out there for the taking and agility achievers are making more use of them than non-achievers.

  • 46% are using a competency management system (vs 32% of non-achievers)
  • 52% are using skills diagnostic tools (26%)
  • 67% have personal development plans (49%)

Many of the Top Deck organisations are also agility achievers. They are deploying several tactics to boost agility. This includes developing a strong profile of their customer, the learner, and are making their learning strategy learner-centric. For example, 19% are using electronic diagnostic tools to help tailor learning to individual needs.

They are using content to connect and engage staff, such as storytelling techniques (62%) and short, snappy bursts of learning (42%).

They are receiving stronger feedback in relation to business outcomes. Data is everything these days and 38% are collecting data from line managers on the extent to which the learning points have been applied at work.

Another key differentiator is that agility achievers allow individuals to make mistakes. This tends to improve agility.

The Top Deck report the biggest benefits regarding agility, with 62% saying their learners are putting what they learn into practice quickly. Over half (55%) say that managers are reporting additional business benefits from technology-enabled learning.

These are the kinds of outcomes that L&D and the business want and need. There needs to be a combination of the right tools and right tactics in order to boost performance and agility. By integrating learning in the workflow, organisations should be able to boost performance and boost agility.

Unlock potential in your organisation

Today’s successful workplaces are fast moving, global and digital. Learning innovation, done well, delivers results that can support sustainable, agile workplaces. Business and learning leaders alike need to expect more. Our 2016-17 Learning Benchmark Report, Unlocking Potential: Releasing the Potential of the Business and its People Through Learning, guides L&D teams through the keys to improving efficiency, fine-tuning processes, boosting performance, cultivating agility and influencing culture – 5 essential outcomes for a learning organisation.

Download Unlocking Potential for free at: www.towardsmaturity.org/2016benchmark

Compare your L&D strategy with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check

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