Transforming learning to meet business needs

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Written by Armin Hopp on 9 March 2016

Transforming learning is the number one priority for delivering business impact, according to a survey unveiled this month by global research and benchmarking organisation, Towards Maturity.

This reflects Speexx’s findings from its latest annual Exchange survey, carried out in December 2015.

Global HR directors, learning and development professionals, learning content developers, training managers and C-level executives responding to the survey said the greatest challenge in 2016 would be finding and retaining the best talent (28 per cent) – and, crucially, aligning training and development with business needs (26 per cent).

There is clear evidence that learning is not meeting business needs. The findings from the Towards Maturity ‘Industry Benchmark Report’ reflect the failure of learning and development professionals to deliver business results.

It found that 89 per cent seek benefits related to efficiency, but only 41 per cent are achieving them, 91 per cent target improved productivity and engagement, but only 29 per cent are achieving this, while 88 per cent want to see improved business responsiveness and only 24 per cent are achieving it.

Focus on just one thing to make a difference

In a recent the report, Laura Overton, managing director at Towards Maturity, said: “Time and again, L&D as an industry is failing to see the organisational impact of its activities and we have now reached a crunch point.”

She recommended: “Focusing on just one thing that will make a difference in the year ahead will help L&D professionals do something about it.”

Big Data could be that one thing. L&D strategies and business objectives need to be closely aligned and effective use of data is the key to this.

Big Data initiatives can play a vital part in collecting data, not only from learning management solutions but also from non-formal learning and development activities that can contribute to learning transformation.

At present, 44 per cent of organisations responding to the Speexx survey do not use data to support learning and development, but this is changing – more than a third (39 per cent) plan to start using data within the next three years.

Plans for Big Data mainly centre on tracking learner progress and results – an area of interest for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents, but Big Data can do so much more.

A successful big data-based learning initiative should consider:

  • Effective communications are key to the success of this and any other initiative – 98 per cent of organisations responding to the Speexx survey agreed that good communication skills are ‘very important’ or ‘important’ for business success.
  • Any training programme for business communications must be updated constantly to reflect shifting business objectives and meet changing needs. Data analysis can help support this.
  • HR, L&D and management should work together to encourage staff to look for on-the-job opportunities to boost communication skills and consider how to capture data from these activities.
  • Cloud and mobile-based solutions can deliver engaging learning to a global workforce and enable consistent capture of learning data. Yet a third of respondents (33 per cent) are still using traditional local learning management systems. Just over a third (35 per cent) provide/allow mobile devices that are used for learning.
  • It is important to measure outcomes of learning programmes continuously and use the data to improve them. And don’t forget to reward your learners, using the learner data to drive greater employee engagement as well as productivity.

Towards Maturity has previously reported that organisations that are mature in their use of learning technologies report ‘more staff impact, more business impact, more take-up and more efficiency’ and as a result they are more than three times as likely to be achieving their goals across any of these areas.

The success factors that differentiate organisations defined as ‘mature in their use of learning technologies’ from the rest? These include taking a proactive approach to increasing business buy-in, understanding learners, transforming learning and building their skills for the future.

Speexx has seen that agile organisations applying these principles to communications learning have been able to develop a flexible, multilingual workforce, ready to be deployed globally. Intelligent use of Big Data analytics can take this learning to the next level.

About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx.