Learning culture: why evidence-based L&D is more successful

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Communicating the impact of L&D is about gathering the right evidence, using it to connect with the C-suite and creating actionable insights. Sadly, very few organisations are getting this right.

Only one in five organisations manage to create a high-performing learning culture, according to Towards Maturity’s latest market insight, and of those that do, only two in three are successful in maintaining it.

Although it seems that only a few are able to sustain this level of success, it is definitely worth the effort, as learning cultures can result in a higher impact on engagement and performance.

When it comes to engaging and aligning with leaders and the workforce, the majority of L&D professionals struggle to focus on solving the most pressing business challenges that their organisations face.

Only one in two currently analyse the problem before recommending a solution and only 25% regularly communicate performance impact to senior management.

Learning leaders from high-performing learning organisations start with the business problem rather than with the data.

This means that before commencing a project, determining whether it will support the company to grow, make it more competitive through transformation, increase profitability or improve productivity, they check they are in tune.

Focusing on critical business problems allows them to successfully connect with the C-suite and create actionable insights, making a compelling case for change and managing stakeholders effectively, as well as measuring and quantifying the outcomes backed up by the appropriate evidence.

Six characteristics of a successful learning culture

When we look deeper at why organisations with learning cultures are achieving more, there are six common characteristics that leap out, giving them a distinct lead in terms of maturity. These characteristics are the consistent differentiators and the organisations drive them continuously and consistently.

These qualities allow them to focus on the critical business problems, gathering the right business intelligence and driving a data-driven culture when it comes to making people related decisions.

They also support them to create key questions that frame their working habits and allow them to respond effectively to business challenges rather than just react.

These questions/characteristics are:

  1. How do we know the business is clear on the purpose of L&D and the value dividend it’s getting from the investment?
  2. How do we know our learning experiences are solving the critical business capability problems?
  3. How do we know our learning ecosystem is thriving and allowing people to connect, collaborate and share knowledge when and how they need to?
  4. How do we know we are utilising the most appropriate digital infrastructure that’s enabling us to be nimble and agile?
  5. How do we know people are actively engaged and aligned and are optimising and influencing our vision for learning?
  6. How do we know we are accessing reliable and credible business intelligence and making more informed decisions in partnership with key stakeholders?

The six common characteristics are approached consciously and intelligently.

They are not showcased on walls, embedded in under-utilised frameworks or paraded in front of people as they learn.

In fact, they are just the north star of high-performing leaders, L&D professionals and their teams who lead high-performing learning cultures.

Using challenges to your advantage

We are often asked, who are these organisations, what magic do they have access to and where can we buy it?

These organisations are made up of people just like you and me, they have capability risks like all of us, they have disconnected stakeholders, they have multiple change programmes at play, they are all shapes and sizes, in all locations and have varied budgets and so on.

Evidence is L&D’s silent witness. It’s the barometer of how trusted our brand is, the true measure of alignment and engagement. It’s the ultimate stress test of how valuable L&D is.

The difference is that instead of focusing on what stops them, they accept these areas of friction and they utilise these challenges by optimising whatever evidence they can reliably use to build trust in their brand of L&D.

Gathering evidence

Evidence is L&D’s silent witness. It’s the barometer of how trusted our brand is, the true measure of alignment and engagement. It’s the ultimate stress test of how valuable L&D is.

Jeff Bezos once famously said, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. This is something people who lead high performing learning cultures take seriously.

The most effective L&D professionals use multiple sources of evidence. They align, listen, influence, enable, engage and improve.

They don’t always get it right, but they learn by taking an agile and iterative approach, unafraid to hold the mirror up to themselves as they search for more impact.

Interested in this topic? Read Learning at work: how to persuade stakeholders and employees of the importance of continuous learning.

About Jane Daly

Jane Daly

Jane Daly, formerly Global Head of L&D at M&S and with more than 20 years working on all sides of the learning industry, is bringing fresh leadership as the Chief Insight Officer. She leads our research programme and strategic analyst services. She is leading influencer in the People Development industry and champions the voice of People professionals.

Jane leads a number of high-profile client portfolios, educating senior leaders to see the value of utilising evidence-based practice to transform the impact of people on business performance. Jane is also a Learning & OD strategist, thought leader, researcher, public speaker & author and leads our industry sector communities of practice. Her work and business models are regularly referenced & published. 

Jane is passionate about evidence-based L&D, combining her extensive knowledge and coaching experience, from both the public and private sector. She is committed to coach clients to shape and sustainably transform their organisational and personal impact.

Before joining Towards Maturity, Jane was the Global Head of Learning & Development for Marks & Spencer and created a multi award-winning business-led Academy model. She has also worked in partnership with over 600 global organisations, providers and thought leaders supporting them to create high performing learning cultures.

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05th Jun 2019 08:43

There’s a lot of nervousness around data, what to do with it, how to collect it and people don’t know where to start which is why I have written a book called “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training”. It’s a “How to...” guide ironically, on beginning to gather evidence, get closer to the organisation to deliver what it needs. Also it’s about how you can extract the story from the data and different methods.

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