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Last year was pivotal for organisations using learning technologies: we started to add real value back to our organisations whilst simultaneously increasing efficiency. In the post event ‘glow’ of the most amazing Learning Technologies exhibition and conference, it’s critical that we build on our successes not rest on our laurels! In this article Laura Overton considers how we can spur one another on to achieve even more in 2013.

Adding value

In 2012, we saw that learning technologies are really starting to deliver. [1] The results in some areas are really encouraging; with organisations reporting that, compared to traditional methods, technology enabled learning was helping them:

Add value:

  • Roll out IT systems 33% faster than before
  • Staff are 22% more productive
  • Staff retention rates improved by 9%

Whilst improving efficiency:

  • Improve in time to competency by 16%
  • Reduce delivery time 24%
  • Reduce costs by 22%

These strong results are a real bonus for those planning to ask for further investment in 2013 – what chief executive would snub their nose at the opportunity to get their staff up and running 25 – 33% faster? What finance officer could ignore efficiency savings of 20% or more whilst improving the outputs of the organisation?

What chief executive would snub their nose at the opportunity to get their staff up and running 25 – 33% faster? What finance officer could ignore efficiency savings of 20% or more whilst improving the outputs of the organisation?

This is a great starting point but it’s important not to rest on our laurels or to believe that we’ve achieved all we can. There are still areas where we’re looking for additional benefits but we’re not quite there yet. For example, more than 90% of organisations want to improve induction and increase productivity but less than 20% are achieving their goals to date.

Becoming a top learning organisation

So what can we learn from each other? I’ve always been interested in finding out why some organisations seem to achieve so much more with technology and what we can learn from them. Since starting our research in 2003, more than 2,200 organisations have participated in the Towards Maturity Benchmark Study from a wide range of sectors. We’ve identified 6 workstreams of effective behaviours that set top learning companies apart and have created the Towards Maturity Index (TMI) to help organisations map themselves against the most successful. When we compare the results reported by organisations in the top quartile of the TMI with those in the bottom 25%, we find that top learning companies are a staggering seven times more likely to report:

  • Improved staff motivation and employee engagement
  • Increased ability to tailor programmes to need
  • Staff able to apply  learning faster
  • Improvements in productivity

They are also three times more likely to report improved induction processes and reduced time away from the job.

So how are top learning companies different from the rest? We’ve found that success is driven by the stuff that’s free – innovative thinking and better collaboration delivers results, not investing in the latest technology craze.

Better together

One of the approaches that set the top learning companies apart is their focus on collaboration both within the organisation and beyond. They understand that it’s better to work together with business leaders, line managers, learners, trainers and peers from outside of the industry than to go it alone.

For example, compared with those in the bottom quartile of the TMI, top learning companies are five times more likely to identify business metrics in partnership with senior management and three times more likely to analyse business problems before recommending a solution. They are also five times more likely to agree that their organisation welcomes innovation and contributions from their own staff. And they are five times more likely to collaborate with classroom trainers and 40 times more likely to involve line managers in learning design. These are quite simply staggering results.

At the risk of sounding evangelical about benchmarking, top learning companies are also 25 times more likely to actively use formal benchmarking as a performance improvement tool and are 21 times more likely to informally benchmark their learning strategy and practices against other organisations in their industry sector. These statistics speak for themselves!

Make it a priority to benchmark in 2013

If you have not had a chance to take part in a formal benchmark before, why not make it a priority at the beginning of 2013 to spend an hour completing your Towards Maturity benchmark review. This will help you reflect on your current strategy and identify the priority areas that will help you become a top learning company. There is no reason to struggle alone – after all it’s better together…

Laura Overton

Laura is the MD of Towards Maturity, a not-for-profit company that provides research and resources for anyone interested in improving the impact of learning technologies at work. She’s a regular columnist and conference speaker and her work has been acknowledged with special achievement awards from the Learning and Performance Institute and eLearning awards for outstanding contributions to the industry.

Any organisation can take part in the Towards Maturity benchmark at  http://mybenchmark.towardsmaturity.org free of charge thanks to the support of Towards Maturity’s Ambassadors. If you haven’t done so before, register on the website and complete the My Review section of the benchmark. Contact Laura@towardsmaturity.org for further information on how to access your report.

[1] Data in this article is taken from the 2012 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study with 500 participants from the private public and not for profit sectors, financial data is taken from 700 organisations over the period June 2010 to August 2012. The main report can be downloaded at www.towardsmaturity.org/2012benchmark.