Digital: Does evidence-based L&D matter?

Over 98% of organisations are on a mission to transform the impact of their learning strategy and the majority of L&D leaders are focusing on accelerating digital because they believe it holds the key to help more people increase their performance.

Published 28 April 2019
Digital: Does evidence-based L&D matter?

Over the last 5 years, investments in the digital agenda have been significant and organisations now use, on average, 19 different learning technologies and spend 18% of their L&D budgets on digital. These investments have not only increased complexity, but they have also disrupted our operating models and the ability to support our organisations to perform at scale. There is still a perception that just by investing in more digital and increasing the reach and access to learning, the results will magically appear.

We have been tracking the impact of digital on learning for over 15 years and what the evidence tells us is that learning technologies alone do not correlate to business or learning impact, however, the way they are used can dramatically accelerate the learning transformation.

Our latest evidence has uncovered that over 90% of respondents in our Learning Health Check are not realising the benefits of their digital investments but they are still planning to invest more without full awareness of why they have not seen success. This is a concerning trend that is causing our reputation and relevance to be placed under the spotlight.

When we analyse high-performing learning cultures, those organisations that track at the top 10% of our internationally recognised longitudinal benchmark study (our Top deck), we see a very different story. They spend 33% of their overall budget on digital but it’s not the increased spend that is allowing them to propel and sustain more impact, it is their approach.

Their number one focus is to create a learner consumer-centric model that aligns with the critical business capability priorities. They are faced with the same leader, manager, workforce, HR, infrastructure, budget and people challenges as the rest of us, but they stop to think about what they can do by making the most of what they have got and not worrying too much about what they can’t change. They look through a different lens when it comes to digital. They involve learning consumers in design (97% v 25% average), they organise learning resources so they are easy to find (84% v 27% average) and they utilise analytics to improve the learning experience (61% v 16% average) to site just three significant areas of difference.

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 C-Suite and create actionable insights, making a compelling case for change and manage stakeholders effectively as well as measuring and quantifying the outcomes backed up by the appropriate evidence.

When we analyse the deeper reasons why organisations with learning cultures are achieving more, we see 6 common characteristics, giving them a distinct lead in terms of maturity. These characteristics (highlighted in bold below), allow them to focus on the critical business problems, gathering the right business intelligence and driving an evidence-based L&D culture when it comes to making people related decisions;

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

Evidence matters when it comes to L&D but in particular, with transforming digital. Without evidence, deciding on investments becomes just another way of making risky less informed decisions that maybe based on bias. As the great Deming said, ‘Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion’.

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