Chief Insight Officer Towards Maturity
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The future of learning cultures: driving performance through organisational change

The way in which people consume learning content is rapidly changing. In order to ensure our organisations are fit for the future, L&D needs to change with it. 

15th Nov 2019
Chief Insight Officer Towards Maturity
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Over the last year, 99% of leaders who participated in the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check said they want to create a learning culture, but less than one in five organisations manage to achieve one. Of those that do, only two out of three are able to sustain this success.  

High performance learning cultures are led by high performing leaders, who have a future-fit attitude and know how to connect and network in smart ways. 

Lots of organisations claim to have a learning culture, but with only 18% actually achieving this status, it is clear that organisational health is barely surviving and certainly not thriving. If people say they don’t have time, this really means they don’t value learning and the quality side of their work.

High performing learning cultures do exist 

As it is not easy to drive or balance the dynamics of a learning culture, some leaders have started to question its existence. As an organisation that has been tracking high performing learning cultures (HPLCs) for over 15 years, we can confirm that they do exist.

HPLCs not only exist, but they also achieve at least ten times more sustainable impact on growth, transformation, productivity and profitability, and higher levels of soft skills that fuel these cultures such as resilience, innovation, motivation, critical thinking and agility.

HPLCs are led by high performing leaders, who have a future-fit attitude and know how to connect and network in smart ways. These leaders use evidence as well as experience to continuously drive impact.

Our research has gone much further into the distinctive characteristics of HPLCs. This is a place where people are firmly considered before profit, but where profit is sustainable. People can flourish in these spaces because it feels like a place where they are trusted and can connect, align their energy with the business plan and grow together.

The visual below outlines the model of the six habits we discovered by our investigation into HPLCs. All six are present in all of the top performing organisations. Their edge comes from gathering the right evidence at the right time, for their desired outcomes. Great people create great learning cultures that yield high impact.

Towards Maturity diagram


Looking to the future

As we look to the future, we know that a number of new complex and even more challenging forces are bringing new risks for L&D. Organisations that win in more competitive markets will need to be more adaptable as it is predicted that 70-80% of future workforces will need upskilling or re-skilling on a continual basis.

The six HPLC characteristics are still critical but with advanced technologies and analytics, deeper trends are appearing, including the emergence of culturomics.

This is an area of intelligence that looks at how frequently a word is used over a period of time and relates this to changes in culture. Smart speakers and bots are popping up everywhere and becoming part of everyday life. As words are originated and exchanged via humans, it is no surprise that organisational behaviour is in the spotlight.

Culturomics is predicted to move into strategic workforce analytics in interesting ways during the next decade. Used effectively, culturomics could take behavioural economics to new heights, analysing how our culture is changing by measuring the health of our workforce dialogue. It is designed to study human culture and cultural trends over time by means of quantitative analysis of words and phrases.

AI and machine learning are set to disrupt and transform our thinking and approach in so many ways, but we will need to support and trust people themselves, as insights will be harder to gather and govern if we do not use this evidence in appropriate and ethical ways.

We also need to look at culture with a critical lens. We must become adaptive and reinvent corporate learning to become iterative in nature aligned to self-accountability and self-responsibility. What we have today is in no shape or form fit or relevant for the future. How people consume learning is rapidly transforming, therefore it will require expertise and precision navigation that only the combination of the right people and the right business intelligence can achieve.

We must re-emerge as the trusted experts of the future. It is not about new job titles, it is about developing a portfolio of dynamic capabilities and facilitating learning eco-systems.  

For example, the ability to adapt from a learning analyst into a learning architect who can connect with a learning engineer and draw on learning science to nudge and provide learning guidance will be crucial. Only 1% of the workforce is influenced by L&D today so it is time to let go and guide people to be self-determined in connected and boundary-less ways.

Five ways to build a connected future

  1. Assess how mature your impact is today.
  2. Gather the right data/insights.
  3. Significantly invest and transform L&D/behavioural change.
  4. Create a ‘distributed trust’ model.
  5. Set people up to be self-determined.

We must re-emerge as the trusted experts of the future. It is not about new job titles, it is about developing a portfolio of dynamic capabilities and facilitating learning eco-systems. For example, the ability to adapt from a learning analyst to a learning architect who can connect with a learning engineer and draw on learning science to nudge and provide learning guidance.

Only 1% of the workforce is influenced by L&OD today so it is time to let go and guide people to be self-determined in connected and boundary-less ways.

*Statistics in this article have been taken from as yet unpublished research carried out by Towards Maturity between 2018 and 2019.

*Towards Maturity Learning Health Check 2018 – 2019, n=701 L&D leaders.

*Towards Maturity Learner Voice 2017, n=10,276 employees.

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