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Laura Overton

Learning analyst

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Do not disturb – five reasons to stop and reflect


As the Towards Maturity 2012 Benchmark is launched, Laura Overton provides us with five reasons to take time out of our busy schedule to reflect on where we’ve come from, what we’ve learned on the way and where we need to go next.

Reflection is a powerful  learning tool. As John Dewey, one of the fathers of experiential learning has stated, "We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience."

But, as L&D professionals, how often do we take time out to reflect on our own experiences? The pace of change in our industry is accelerating -  we are constantly under pressure to deliver more with less, to be creative and to deliver learning solutions faster.  We are bombarded with ideas on how to transform, to innovate and think differently about the way we support learning and performance.

"Why is it that some organisations seem to be able to deliver great results whilst others stumble along or fail altogether?"

But few of us have the chance to just stop and reflect on what needs to be done in our own organisations and how to do it more effectively.  As a result we are in danger of repeating the same experiences (or is that mistakes?)  year on year which can lead to frustration and cynicism.

For example, we have very high expectations about what we should be able to achieve through the use of technology in the learning process and yet year on year we still face giant barriers. Why is it that some organisations seem to be able to deliver great results whilst others stumble along or fail altogether?

Through our ground-breaking benchmark, we’ve  been able to reflect on the collective experiences of more than 1,800 organisations across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors to understand the behaviors that influence real improvements in both learning and business. We use this knowledge, together with the expert input of some of the industry’s leading thinkers,  to continually refresh our benchmark study. This is designed to help L&D professionals stop and reflect on their own experiences and to draw out important lessons to encourage change in the future.

When time is short, taking part in the benchmark is a great way to stop and reflect on where we’ve come from, what we’ve learned on the way and where we need to go.

Like all  reflective exercises, benchmarking can take a bit of time (about 45 minutes if you do this on your own, a bit longer in teams), so is it worth it? We think so (and so do past benchmark participants).

So if you are still not convinced,  here are five reasons to put up the 'do not disturb' sign this week and use the benchmark to stop and reflect.

1. Enjoy your accomplishments

Just taking time to review what you have done in the last year provides a real motivational boost. The little steps all count on the journey and it is important to recognise them. Tim Drewitt, elearning specialist at Eversheds LLP, said: "As with previous Towards Maturity Benchmark Studies, the 2012 study has given me time to pause and reflect on how Eversheds is progressing in learning. I find the study really motivating, as it allows me to take a step back and realise what we have accomplished as a company, while providing a check-list for the areas we still need to focus on." 

2. Save time

It is a sad fact of life that we just don’t have the  time to read every book and visit every conference to pick up new ideas to drive our strategy forward. Formal benchmarking is about systematically comparing your current approaches with the top performers in the field. By using the benchmark to help you reflect, you are guided through some of the most effective practices in the industry in a very short space of time. Some 70% of participants completing the review find new ideas to help improve their current strategy. 

3. Boost your confidence

When it comes to technology and learning, we can all provide examples of where it has gone horribly wrong and the fear of failure can be paralysing. Benchmarking helps you compare your approach with those that have been successful which helps you build your confidence and avoid costly mistakes. Those that benchmark don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

4. Improve performance

Regardless of where you are on your journey, the benchmark process allows you to set a baseline (measured by your Towards Maturity Index) and then revisit it year on year to assess your progress and performance.  Companies within the top quartile of the Towards Maturity Index engage twice the audience, save 33% of cost and 50% in reduced study time. Their staff also reach proven competency six times faster as a result of their approach. 

5. Take positive action

Benchmarking participants receive a personalised report that helps them see how far they have come in the last 12 months and provides feedback on strengths and weaknesses that help them prioritise their activities for the year ahead.Everyone who participates in June and July will receive this feedback in their free confidential personalised report (value at £300) thanks to Towards Maturity’s ambassadors.

Over the past year we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the trend towards benchmarking within the L&D profession – if you haven’t tried it before, why not put up the 'do not disturb' sign and take some time out to use the benchmark to stop and reflect today.


Training Zone readers can take part in the confidential benchmark for free during June and July here. All participants will receive their personalised report and a free white paper 101 hints and tips from previous benchmark participants.


Author Profile Picture
Laura Overton

Learning analyst

Read more from Laura Overton

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