I typically don’t like to try to predict the future, but Bersin & Associates just completed a year-long effort looking at high-impact learning organizations, and I want to highlight what we discovered. Many keys to success are timeless and have not changed over the years, but many are new and startling.
First, as in prior years, some of the keys to success in high-performing learning and development teams include:
Strong business alignment — delivered through a formal governance process, steering committees and business liaison roles.
Excellence in learning technology — today you must have an integrated technology platform to succeed and scale.
A focus on measurement to improve operations and to demonstrate business value.
A strong leader — or CLO. As we describe today’s learning and development leader, the individual must not only understand talent, but leadership, capabilities and organizational culture as well. Just being good at creating and delivering training is not nearly enough anymore.
These are what I would call evergreen issues for corporate training. Without these capabilities, a learning and development organization cannot scale or drive deep business value.
Now let me highlight some of the newer findings. Among the 500-plus organizations that participated in this research, we found that high-performing organizations had some other things going for them:
They are capability-focused. They do not think about training as skills building but have a complete understanding of the capabilities needed to succeed in all major roles. This means they really understand their audiences. Fewer than 15 percent of all organizations have a deep understanding of the daily work environment of their key workers.
They are content focused. Today’s learning organization deals with amazing amounts of content: self-authored, professionally developed and that which is developed in-house. High-performing organizations understand how to curate content, create standards, tag and categorize content. Again, being able to build good content is not enough.
They understand how to build simulations, game-like training and videos, or they know enough to direct a vendor to do it well. Video today is what HTML and Flash were five years ago — a must-have capability in learning and development.
They are performance consultants. Today more than ever, business leaders want the learning team to solve problems, not just develop and deliver training. These organizations design their whole go-to market around solving strategic business problems each year. They train their teams to consult, not just train.
They are keenly aware of the need for a learning culture. One of the biggest findings in our research is the importance of a top-to-bottom learning culture to drive success. We are seeing dozens of organizations start to assess and focus on learning culture, starting at the top and using management development as a key to success.
They are well aligned with top business leaders. Fewer than 14 percent of the organizations Bersin & Associates studied felt they were strategically aligned and supported by their business leaders. This alignment problem is more urgent than ever, since the top issue on the minds of most CEOs is filling talent gaps.
They understand, embrace and experiment with social learning and expertise sharing. They know expertise exists within the organization, and they have taken the time to build or experiment with expert directories, social learning platforms, storytelling and other tools that help the organization share expertise internally.
They are patient but agile. Agile learning is becoming the new mantra in these high-impact organizations. They build architecture and process to scale, but they also have teams that can act and deliver fast. Through tools and relationships with key suppliers, high-impact learning organizations can build learning solutions in weeks and deliver in a few months, enabling the organization to count on them to be responsive and current.
The learning and development industry grew by 11 percent last year, and we expect it to continue to grow as the global economy improves. Now, more than ever, you should be investing in your own skills and team to design your organization for the future.
Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.