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Laura Overton

Learning analyst

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Modernising learning: How to overcome barriers to change


In part four of the serialisation of the Towards Maturity New Learning Agenda, Laura Overton considers the big barriers to modernising learning and lessons from top learning companies on how to overcome them.

Change is all around us. Technology has changed, the way people work has changed and people’s expectations of work have changed. This change represents a huge opportunity for L&D professionals. It enables us to bring new ways of learning into the business. But there are challenges to modernising our learning strategies. Clearly, if we are thinking about doing things differently, it's going to cost. And what about the skills of the learning and development function? Are we equipped to be able to deal with this? What about the kind of the attitudes then of people who aren't used to us responding in a new way?

In this final part of our serialisation of the New Learning Agenda we look at overcoming the barriers to change. Our latest data shows that the top three barriers to modernising learning are:

  • The cost of set-up development and maintenance (72%)
  • Lack of skills amongst employees to manage learning online (53%)
  • Elearning content too generic and not tailored to our needs (51%)

The good news is that your learners are on your side. They want to learn differently with 77% saying they want to engage with online learning, four out of five willing to share what they know with others online and seven out of ten motivated by using tools that will help them network and learn from others.

But are you hearing them? Our data would suggest not. Just over half (53%) of L&D staff believe that their employees lack skills to manage their own learning. This is no time to base decisions on assumptions: today’s learners are more aware of their requirements and also expect more choice. If you are pushing at an open door with your learners, you may not be with other stakeholders. This is where top learning companies report considerable traction with the business.

Not only are they twice as likely as average performing companies to be proactively finding out how their learners like to learn, they also involve stakeholders earlier in the change process and identify local champions to act as agents for change. Data from our Learner Voice study shows 40% of learners say their line manager’s opinion is the most influential in engaging them. Top learning companies understand the need to engage line managers in this process better than most. They not only provide line managers with resources to support their team development, but they also ensure that line managers and supervisors are kept up to speed with progress.

So, challenge any assumptions you might have about how learners like to learn and work closely with all stakeholders to ensure clear communications around your new approaches to learning. And ensure you deliver engaging learning experiences. The data tells us that generic elearning simply won’t cut it any more. However, using more engaging approaches to learning content is still a minority sport. Only 30% of organisations apply storytelling techniques in their instructional design and only 16% use highly interactive methods, such as games and simulations, in their learning solutions. Text remains the default content for most elearning, something that simply has to change to boost engagement and business impact.

The final barrier to overcome in transforming the way you deliver technology enabled learning is staring at you in the mirror. Do you and your team have the skills and capabilities to deliver? New Learning Agenda data shows that only 29% of organisations say their L&D teams have the right skills to design solutions that exploit learning technologies to business advantage. And just 45% of organisations are investing in continuing professional development for their L&D staff despite so much rapid change. Today’s L&D professionals need the skill to be able to design for performance, engage stakeholders and manage change whilst delivering the right mix of technology and content.

Overcoming barriers to change becomes a whole lot easier if you see yourself as a change agent. This is a shift L&D needs to make. By making that shift we can bring new ways of learning into the business, and have them accepted more than ever before. This will give organisations the edge in 2014. The fastest way to overcome barriers is to proactively identify them and take steps to avoid them. To help you make positive change faster in your organisation why not take an hour out to reflect on your current strategy? By benchmarking your own activities you can see how well you are doing and to learn from top performing companies both inside and outside of your industry sector. You can benchmark for free during June and July and receive personalized feedback to help you plan your year ahead.

Laura Overton is managing director, Towards Maturity. This year’s benchmark is now open so please do take part today

  • Download part 4 – How to overcome barriers to change here

If you missed parts 1,2and 3, download them here

Author Profile Picture
Laura Overton

Learning analyst

Read more from Laura Overton

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