Four ways you can improve business processes through learning

by | Jun 9, 2017 | Articles, Featured

Technology helps L&D professionals deliver efficient learning experiences, faster, at scale. But when it comes to supporting the day to day running of an organisation, is learning having a worthwhile effect on processes?

This year’s Learning Benchmark Report, Unlocking Potential, presents our research around five key outcomes that both learning leaders and business leaders are looking to deliver. These outcomes are: improving efficiency, fine-tuning processes, boosting performance, cultivating agility and influencing culture.

We have taken this approach in order to provide practical and pragmatic advice on how to positively influence each outcome. In our previous article, we looked at the aspiration gap around wanting to improve efficiency and being able to deliver efficiency gains.

This week, we look at how learning leaders can improve learning and business processes, using technology.

Why fine-tuning processes is a key outcome for L&D

Technology helps L&D professionals deliver more efficient learning, faster and at scale. It also enables L&D to support areas of the business, such as talent management and customer experience, that were once the preserve of other business functions.

Our data, drawn from research of more than 600 learning leaders and 5,500 learners, shows that L&D leaders are hungry to transform learning by fine-tuning processes:

  • 96% want to improve management and administration of learning
  • 95% want to deliver greater value for money
  • 91% want to develop a better qualified workforce
  • 88% want to reduce time away from the job
  • 88% want to speed up the implementation of new internal processes or IT systems

Why? Because L&D expects significant results from streamlining processes. For Top Deck organisations (the top 10% on the Towards Maturity Index) these include:

  • Cutting the speed of rolling out new IT applications (25%)
  • Reducing study time (21%)
  • Increasing staff  qualifications (16%)

What we find, however, is that when it comes to fine-tuning formal learning processes, only 18% of the total sample reported that they were achieving five or more of their goals. We call these organisations ‘process improvement’ achievers.

How top performers are fine-tuning processes

There are four areas where they excel and they provide us with some practical tips on how we can all make process improvements:

1. Closely align to the needs of the business – and to those of the individual

To fine-tune processes, you need to start by asking the right questions to understand the requirements of a programme. That means challenging stakeholders and customers who come to you with a request for training. Understand the business challenge before recommending a solution. That’s what 76% of achievers do versus 50% of non-achievers.

2. See formal learning as part of a seamless, bigger picture

By looking at how learning fits into the wider talent agenda, you can help drive process improvements. This means learning stays responsive and relevant to colleagues’ development. We have found, for example, that 38% of process improvement achievers support colleagues’ career aspirations (or personal job goals) with technology- enabled learning (versus 20% of non-achievers) and 37% use learning technologies to reinforce the way they recruit, onboard and develop people (versus 15% of non-achievers).

3. Communicate continually with stakeholders

Process improvement requires stakeholder engagement and constant communication. Without it you face working alone and designing learning experiences that are disconnected from business and learner need.

Our data shows that successful organisations draw on insights from a wide range of stakeholders as part of  fine-tuning learning processes. These actively communicate the benefits of change with 66% of process improvement achievers pulling key stakeholders together into a steering group to support programme design and implementation (vs 37% of non-achievers) and 63% ensure there is a communication plan in place for all key stakeholders (versus 35% of non-achievers).

4. Actively engage line managers

Finally, you have to engage and support line managers in order to make process improvements. This cohort of employees is critical to the success or otherwise of any learning initiative. We know that 80% of process improvement achievers expect managers to take responsibility for developing the skills of their staff  (versus 60% of non-achievers) and 47% equip line managers with resources so their teams get the most out of learning (versus 22% of of non-achievers).

No L&D team can achieve process improvements by working alone. This business outcome requires a collective approach that identifies business challenges that need to be overcome, engages stakeholders and learners and supports managers in enabling new ways to learn.

This is the reason performance consulting and stakeholder management are key skills for L&D professionals.

Discover more ways to improve your learning strategy

If you want to see how your learning strategy compares to top performers and what actions you should be prioritising at the moment, benchmarking is a great place to start.

The Towards Maturity Benchmark reveals where you can make quick wins and gives you the data you need to make a solid business case for change, with personalised feedback and scores on 19 areas of effective practice. Identify the tactics that will deliver greater impact for your organisation at: www.towardsmaturity.org/benchmark.

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

Compare your L&D strategy

Review your L&D strategy to discover your strengths and opportunities for improvement with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check.

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