State of Learning & Development 2016: Ready to Evolve

State of Learning & Development 2016: Ready to Evolve
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    Organizations continue to struggle with developing a solid learning and development strategy that has a genuine impact on the business. This challenge leaves many companies without the guidance necessary to design, develop and deliver effective learning programs that boost not only individual performance, but organizational performance as well. In fact, 14% of companies overall say they have no L&D strategy at all. These are typically smaller companies; the rate is only 7% among companies with 10,000 employees or more and 24% for those with fewer than 1,000.

    However, the simple presence of a learning strategy does not mean that all is well. Among those companies that have a strategy in place, the majority don’t believe the strategy is all that effective in helping achieve business goals.

    Less than 8% of companies with an L&D strategy would call it very effective and less than one-third even call it just effective. This does not mean that the programs themselves are not effective in delivering learning, or that employees are not acquiring new knowledge. What it does mean, however, is that even if the execution is perfect, the strategy itself has little to no impact on the business. For these companies, a lot of the time, money and energy spent designing and delivering learning is for nothing. As organizations continue to struggle with determining the ROI for learning, this is a troubling sign.

    The good news is, most of these companies recognize that there are strategically challenged when it comes to learning, and they are focused on doing something about it. The most important learning initiative is to align the learning strategy with the business. However, there are many competing priorities the learning function needs to manage in order to be successful.

    Aligning the learning strategy with the business was by far the most critical initiative cited by survey respondents. This indicates an understanding of the challenge at hand and a recognition that something needs to be done. A big part of solving this challenge can be found in the rest of the list in Figure 2. Part of executing on an effective learning strategy is providing a more blended learning environment that pulls experiences from all across the learning spectrum. The need to do this is clear from the fact that increasing experiential learning, increasing informal learning, and revising content for new modalities all rank in the top six.

    As we saw in Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Learning Technology Study, organizations are finally embracing the need for new technologies, new modalities, and new experiences when it comes to learning. In fact, 55% of companies said that redesigning the classroom experience was either important or critical, making it number seven on the list. This signifies a wholesale change to the way companies approach learning.

    Another indication that change is under way after years of discussion and exploration is the number of companies that are prepared to actually do something about these initiatives. More than half of companies say they are either ready to address or take action on aligning the learning strategy with the business. Many companies are similarly prepared to address the blended learning initiatives as well. What is perhaps most telling, however, is that high performing organizations (HiPOs) are even more prepared than other companies. HiPOs are companies that have seen year-over-year improvement in a group of key performance indicators that include revenue, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, turnover and organizational productivity.

    High-performers are clearly in a better position to make these changes and move forward because they are far more likely to have an effective learning strategy already in place. We saw in Figure 1 that about 37% of companies overall said their strategy was either effective or very effective in helping achieve business goals. For HiPOs, that number is 66%. HiPOs are 78% more likely to have an effective L&D strategy.

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