June 16, 2016

What are the benefits of L&D collaborating with business leaders?

L&D needs to work in collaboration with business leaders in order to increase the impact of learning. So says new research by benchmarking organisation Towards Maturity.

Its new In-Focus report, ‘Making an Impact: How L&D Leaders Can Demonstrate Value’, found that when L&D leaders and business leaders work together to solve performance problems, it is much easier for L&D leaders to demonstrate the value of learning.

Are L&D leaders and business leaders collaborating in this way? Not nearly enough, according to Towards Maturity’s research. The report found that only 31% of L&D leaders work up front with business leaders to identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they want to improve. Those 31% are enjoying significant benefits, compared to their peers that do not identify KPIs with business leaders up front. Those benefits are:

– they are three times more likely to agree that line managers actively support learning back in the workplace and provide evidence on the extent to which learning has been applied
– four times more likely to measure KPIs when evaluating impact

The report says what everyone in L&D already knows – that meaningful data is hugely important and that L&D really has to get to grips with gathering, analysing and sharing that data. The report says something else that everyone in L&D knows – that the profession is failing to meet that challenge and make the most of data analytics. Of the 600 plus L&D leaders participating in the benchmarking research, 96% are looking to improve the way that they gather and analyse data on learning impact. How many are actually doing it already? Only 17% and that number is down from 26% in 2010.

The report looks in depth at why L&D needs to measure the impact of learning, what it needs to measure and what the benefits are to organisations that are already doing it. It shows that currently, L&D is still fixated on old data, such as completion numbers, rather than business impact:

– 71% track completion rates
– 19% track reduction in study time
– 12% track improvements in productivity
– 10% track ROI

“Delivering impact is central to L&D thinking,” says Laura Overton, founder and CEO of Towards Maturity. “The understanding of the need to link learning to business goals has increased year-on-year, since we started our benchmark in 2003. But this research shows that L&D leaders must look beyond traditional L&D measures of pure ROI, in order to demonstrate value. True learning impact comes from authentic collaborations between learning and business leaders, as they work together to achieve common goals.”

Top Deck organisations – the name that Towards Maturity gives to those organisations that score in the top 10% of the Towards Maturity Index – are much more likely to be measuring efficiency and impact. Over two thirds (71%) measure training efficiency, 44% measure staff impact indicators and 39% measure business impact indicators.

How does this translate into business success? Organisations that measure impact report:

– improved organizational performance 44%
– faster response to changing business conditions 53%
– improved quality of learning experience 78%

These are significant benefits. Overton says L&D must stop thinking and talking about measuring impact and start doing it.