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Laura Overton

Learning analyst

Read more from Laura Overton

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Building skills and talent for competitive advantage


Towards Maturity, the organisational development and learning experts, continue the serialisation of their latest research exclusively for TZ In this excerpt, MD Laura Overton talks about how top learning organisations build their skills and talent base.

The first paper in our serialisation of the New Learning Agenda showed how organisations are measuring the impact of their technology-enabled learning strategies. This chimes with CIPD research published last week that showed the number of organisations measuring return on investment from L&D practices has increased from 26% to 48%.

In the second paper of our serialisation we turn our attention to how a technology-enabled learning strategy can build skills for competitive advantage. Technology helps cut time to competency and speeds up the time it takes to acquire new skills. This in turn is helping organisations to give talent management initiatives a competitive edge.

So, how do you have the right people in place at the right time and equipped and able to make the right decisions in an ever-changing business environment? Our research shows that technology-enabled learning not only helps create high potential teams, it releases potential, driving performance across the whole of the business. This happens through formal and informal learning processes. It may be a surprise to hear, for example, that the course is not dead. Three out of five learners still find the course one of the most effective opportunities for learning what they need for the job, yet nine out of ten learners want to be able to learn at their own pace. This means thinking differently about how formal learning is designed.

This also requires employers to look at the learning flow – how employees access what they need at the point of need. Our research shows that learning is a continuum and across-the-board employers are looking to provide content to employees at the point of need with 86% looking to technology to push updated information and 94% of organisations wanting to speed up the application of learning back in the work. These continuous learning processes are helping organisations to break down the silos between HR and talent with 91% of organisations in our research looking to improve talent and performance.

The top learning companies in our research work proactively to break down the silos. For example, 71% integrate performance management into the learning function (compared with 41% on average). And 49% of top learning companies use learning technologies to reinforce the way they recruit, on-board and develop their people (19% on average). So, how are these companies managing to improve talent and performance?

A high proportion (87%) offer some form of induction training and 86% provide leadership training. For both, just under half of the programmes are being delivered using technology (48% of induction programmes and 49% of leadership programs). However, there are challenges. Learning programmes are often delivered in isolation from wider talent initiatives. Only 19% of respondents say that learning technologies reinforce the way they recruit, on board and develop their people. Just 26% say that succession planning is integrated into the way they develop their people.

For learning programmes to release potential across the entire organisation they need to be integrated into the workflow and across teams and work domains and be linked to business outcomes. Also critical to building talent is being better able to respond to how learners would like to learn. Alongside our New Learning Agenda research we have produced a research report, The Learner Voice Part One, which sheds light on how learners want to learn, based on feedback from 2,000 learners.

Most importantly, 88% of learners like to learn at their own pace. And the most useful tools for learning are working in collaboration with other team members and general conversations and meetings. Employees want to take control of their own learning and be supported in doing that. So, how do these findings sit with your current L&D activities? For many organisations, our research suggests that what learners want and what L&D provides are a mile apart.

Despite the fact 88% of learners like to learn at their own pace, only 23% of L&D believe learners are capable of managing their own learning. And while 84% of staff are willing to use technology to share knowledge and help others learn, 18% of L&D professionals feel staff know how to productively connect an share knowledge. When we talk about building skills and talent we are not talking about L&D being the builders. We are talking about L&D understanding how learners want to learn and using technology to enable that, to help break down organizational silos, to reduce speed to competency and to develop a more agile and responsive organisation.

This second installment of the New learning Agenda will show you how top learning companies are enabling learning in order to give their employees the competitive edge.

Download part 2 – Building skills and talent for competitive advantage for more practical ideas from top learning companies 

If you missed part 1 – Delivering Business Impact – download it here

Author Profile Picture
Laura Overton

Learning analyst

Read more from Laura Overton

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