L&D – Evidence matters but there is an art to gaining buy-in!

by | May 28, 2019 | Articles, Featured, General

The L&D profession is under pressure to transform and become future-fit in order to stay ahead of the demands of work and workers. The profession is finding it hard to influence and allow their expertise to gain traction, with 59% of L&D professionals saying that their leaders have traditional expectations of L&D that are difficult to challenge.

Today, L&D is not famous for aligning learning strategies with the critical capability needs of the organisation, up-skilling or re-skilling entire workforces, for experimenting or for taking risks. In fact, it’s known for quite the opposite.

With 48% of L&D practitioners saying they are “extremely concerned” about the lack of time they can spend on their own learning and only 36% of L&D practitioners say they are able to measure specific business metrics when evaluating the effectiveness of learning. It’s no wonder confidence levels are low.

As experts whose core purpose is to increase corporate capability and bring a competitive edge to organisations, we are more aware than others that lack of investment in learning leads to low levels of motivation, engagement, resilience, creativity, capability and ultimately performance and yet we feel guilty to invest in ourselves.

L&D practitioners are trapped in a vicious circle where the lack of capability investment in their own development hinders innovation and influence which in turn reaffirms the limited expectations of leaders and workers of the value that L&D expertise can add. This lack of investment is showing, we have forgotten our core purpose and the art of what is possible when it comes to learning.

At Towards Maturity, when we analyse the behaviours of high performing learning cultures (those organisations that see the biggest business impact as a result of learning), we see that over 90% of them significantly invest in their L&D capability. They ensure their learning professionals are given relevant continual professional development (CPD) opportunities to develop their capability and influence, they invest in their experts and this approach creates high performing L&D teams. In summary, high performing learning cultures are led by L&D leaders and teams who fit their own mask before helping others!

There is a huge divide in the differences between high performing L&D teams and the rest. The majority of L&D leaders and teams are struggling to get their key stakeholders aligned with their vision and keep up with the pace of change. More often, they are finding the organisation is ahead of them; getting on with up-skilling their functions using open source tools or their own budgets because they do not believe L&D can respond to their needs in time, within budget or deliver the level of impact required.

However, leaders are now seeing that these ‘quick fixes’ are not bringing the long-term change and performance impact required. Organisations are realising that they need L&D experts to bring the knowledge and capability to show how effective learning should be undertaken. Yet, our evidence is showing that L&D are far from ready for this.

96% of learning practitioners in the Towards Maturity Health Check identified data analytics as a priority area for development and upskilling. With just under a quarter (24%) believing to have these skills in-house, there clearly needs to be a focus on developing knowledge and capability around using people analytics.

L&D leaders from high performing learning cultures are four times more likely, than average, to use organisational performance data to measure the impact of their learning programmes and they are 38% more likely than average to analyse the business problem before recommending a learning solution.

Learning leaders from high performing learning organisations start with the business problem rather than with the data. This means that before commencing a project, determining whether it will support the company to grow, make it more competitive through transformation, increase profitability or improve productivity, they check they are in tune and use evidence to influence and align their key stakeholders.

When we analyse the deeper reasons why organisations with learning cultures are achieving more, we see six common characteristics, giving them a distinct lead in terms of maturity. These characteristics (highlighted in bold below), allow them to focus on the critical business problems, gathering the right business intelligence and driving an evidence-based L&D culture when it comes to making people related decisions;

  • How do we know the business is clear on the purpose of L&D and the value dividend it’s getting from the investment?
  • How do we know our people understand their responsibilities around learning and that our learning experiences are solving the critical business capability problems?
  • How do we know our learning ecosystem is thriving and allowing people to connect, collaborate and share knowledge when and how they need to?
  • How do we know we are utilising the most appropriate digital infrastructure that’s enabling us to be nimble and agile?
  • How do we know people are actively engaged and aligned, and are optimising as well as influencing our culture of learning?
  • How do we know we are accessing reliable and credible business intelligence and making more informed decisions in partnership with key stakeholders?

The most effective way to create a high performing learning culture is to start with real evidence. Evidence leaders can see matters. We can help you influence your key stakeholders and get them aligned with your vision for learning. Without evidence, deciding on investments becomes just another way of making risky, less informed decisions that might be based on bias.

Read more about professionalising learning and development with CIPD’s new Profession Map and report supported by Towards Maturity. 

Start with evidence

The Towards Maturity Benchmark enables L&D professionals to review their current learning strategy, compare their approach directly with top performing organisations and set priority actions – helping to deliver peak performance.

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