BetaData: live trends from the 2017 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study

by | Jul 11, 2017 | Articles, Featured, Research

The 2017 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study has beaten several of our previous records, with over 660 learning professionals taking part and over 94% saying the process gave them new ideas for improving their strategy. Below, we highlight the changing priorities we’ve discovered through our early analysis.

Since 2003, over 6,100 learning professionals have now benchmarked with Towards Maturity. This year the international participation is increasing, with only 52% coming from the UK (61% last year).

We’ve been conducting an early analysis of the data to bring you insights about changing priorities and new demands, with a focus on learning technologies.

L&D leaders are placing more importance on creating a culture of learning

In 2016, we saw that 9 in 10 L&D leaders were looking to improve efficiency, fine-tune processes, boost performance, cultivate agility and improve culture. This year, we are starting to see a shift in how these are prioritised:

  • Whilst the focus on delivering more for less remains a priority, we are less likely to report that improving efficiency is a priority – 85% want to do this, down from 95% last year.
  • At the same time, we are seeing that an influence on culture is becoming increasingly important, with 90% now wanting to play a role in changing mindsets.

Benchmark participants have commented that a focus on improving culture may lead to improved efficiency – an opportunity we will look to explore in our full analysis:

“A culture of learning can lead to greater efficiency if we are looking more at the development that people need, rather than just putting people onto various training courses for the sake of it.”

“I think motivation is the starting point for learning, because without it, there is no engagement or action.”

L&D technology budgets aren’t budging

In 2015, 19% of L&D budget was spent on technology for learning. 70% expected this figure to increase by 2017, but what we’ve seen so far is little or no difference in the proportion of budget spend – 19% of overall L&D budget is still being used on technology.

“I think the point about Budgets might be due to the large amount of free tools that are available now – technology [usage] has probably increased but doesn’t always require investment.”

Despite this, 39% are planning to increase the size of their L&D team in the next two years, so the budget situation may need to change.

Technology is more likely to be used in developing business-critical ‘soft’ skills

Research with business leaders has highlighted a need for the skills that lead to an agile, responsive mindset. For the first time this year, we are seeing an increasing use of technology in supporting skills development for:

  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Innovation
  • Creative thinking

“Communication is one of the most popular topics being accessed on our LMS.”

The trusted tools remain, but emerging technology is on the rise

Despite 70% expecting learning budget allocated to technology to increase, L&D leaders in 2017 are spending a little less than a fifth of their budget on the same learning technologies. In fact, the top tools being used to engage the workforce remain the same:

  • E-learning
  • Live online learning
  • LMS
  • Enterprise platforms
  • Mobile
  • Video

Though these tools remain at the top of the most used, we’re seeing a significant increase (double than the usual increase) in this first sample’s usage of:

  • User-generated content
  • Badges
  • AI
  • Wearable
  • Virtual reality
  • Simulations

How these tools are being applied, and if their growth has the potential to be long standing, is a question that the 2017 Benchmark Study is yet to answer.

One factor reported that we might be starting to see a change in is the skills of the L&D team – over 50% are still saying that L&D staff lack the skills needed to implement online learning, with 52% citing a lack of skills in analytics and facilitation of social learning, but this has reduced slightly since 2017.

Are people using the tactics that we’ve identified as delivering results?

We’ve been working hard and also calling on the expertise of Towards Maturity’s supporters to identify performance metrics that help us understand the relationships between different tactics used across the Towards Maturity Model.

  • 65% say learning is supporting the skills that business needs (no change on 2016)
  • 35% pull stakeholders into a steering group to support design/implementation – down from 42% in 2016
  • 23% agree staff know how to productively connect and share – up from 18%
  • 19% apply techniques to support retention and application (e.g. spaced learning) – up from 13%
  • 30% are proactive in understanding how staff learn for their job – which has remained almost entirely static since 2015

“It would be great to see the results of organisations who have the support of line managers and senior leadership and see what the differences are.”

“We will be working closer with HR. It might be interesting to get some insight into the difference between L&D functions that sit within HR and those who are separate”

“We encourage people to make success videos, to celebrate success and share best practice.”

An industry that talks of the consumer experience has limited confidence in its users

Across the industry, the talk of improving user experience and providing our staff with an active voice in the process of learning is rife. Yet we are seeing that more L&D leaders say that their users lack confidence and engagement than ever before. Top barriers to lasting change include:

  • Employees lack the skills to manage their own learning (up by 10%)
  • Line manager reluctance/engagement (up by 10%)

“[Managers] don’t see it is their role to help people learning, encouraging, coaching, etc. and we sometimes forget to think of solutions for line managers to help them with this.”

The trouble is L&D leaders have little time or desire to tune into the voice of their users – only 3 in 10 are proactive in understanding how staff learn what they need to do their jobs (static over the last 3 years) and fewer organisations pull stakeholders into steering groups to help set direction ( just 35% this year compared to 42% last year.

What does the L&D industry need to tackle in 2017?

“It would be great to see the results of organisations who have the support of line managers and senior leadership and see what the differences are.”

“We will be working closer with HR. It might be interesting to get some insight into the difference between L&D functions that sit within HR and those who are separate”

As an independent research company, we need your voice on what’s important to you. The purpose of the Towards Maturity Benchmark is about identifying practical ways of improving business impact through learning innovation and as we prepare to dig deep into the data for help, we want to hear about the issues that matter to you.

Follow the latest benchmark news on Twitter at #TMBenchmark.

What happens next?

  • If you completed most of the questions, you’ll receive a free Personalised Benchmark Report in September, once all the data has been analysed.
  • Our annual Benchmark Report release date will be announced in September, where we’ll be presenting the insights live at a launch event.
  • If you didn’t get chance to take part, follow the link below and get started for free.

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