Market Update November 2014: Industry Trend Report Review

Both ourselves and Towards Maturity have recently released flagship industry reports, full of insights into the use of learning technologies in businesses. As 2014 starts to draw to a close, we thought we’d review both reports to see what common ground we shared and if we had any key differences as businesses look towards their L&D plans for 2015.

As it turns out, we found a lot of similarites across the reports - here are our top 7 shared findings:

Technology is changing the way we work and learn

In our Learning Insights Report, we found many cases of how organisations are developing new products and services through technology and the challenge they are facing of developing the workforce skills to work with those services.

Likewise learning continues to be influenced by technology advances. We’ve seen a large shift towards multi-device content, with platforms following, and social learning, incorporating user-generated content, is increasingly popular. Many organisations have introduced bring your own device (BYOD) policies to help tackle the rapid shift of technology and enable learners to use the devices they are used to, helping improve access, engagement and efficiency.

In their 2014 Benchmark Report, Towards Maturity found similar trends:

  • A 200% increase in use of technology in work since 2010
  • 29% of learning is e-enabled, the majority of which is compliance-related (At CG Kineo have at least one client for whom this is more like 80-90%!)
  • 45% of organisations support bring your own device initiatives

Learning design needs to be relevant and engaging

In our interviews we found (unsuprsingly, some may say), that managers reported learning to be most effective when it is personalised, relevant and of course engaging. L&D are developing solutions which deliver learning using case studies and work-based scenarios, sometimes combining these with scores to create game-like approaches.  

We also found that L&D are consulting with learners and the business to involve them in the design of learning to ensure it is rooted in real business challenges and that ‘Simplicity is a lost art’. Use 70/20/10 but keep it simple.

This was emphasised by the Benchmark Report which states:

  • Learning needs to be kept simple: easy, relevant, clear and not distracted
  • Learning should be aligned to need

Blended design is becoming more sophisticated

In our research we saw an increased focus on blended learning, with the the use of blends to deliver learning has become the norm for most organisations.

Additionally, more sophisticated blends are emerging, using webinars, social learning, gamification and delivering to multiple platforms and that having the skill to design blends is a challenge but L&D professionals are trying out new ideas, experimenting and seeing what works.

The Towards Maturity report found similar trends, reporting:

  • 66% of organisations provide on-the-job support aids
  • 37% equip line managers with resources to help support their teams with online learning
  • 14% encourage leaders to share their experiences and solve problems online
  • 12% have content curation strategies in place

L&D need to develop new skills too

Through our interviews, we heard a lot about how the digitisation of products and services is impacting the skill requirements of workforces in many ways, from the knowledge they require about those products and services to the way they interact with customers.

The rapid changes in technology make it hard for individuals, L&D and businesses to keep up. We also found managers reporting a shortage of technology skilled people - not least in the L&D function. (We’ve listed 5 key skills for L&D professionals in 2015 here).

Towards Maturity found a similar trend from the perspective of L&D professionals specifically:

  • 36% are skilled in supporting learners online
  • 49% are skilled in online or blended delivery
  • 17% use social media for learning effectively
  • 38% are skilled in virtual classroom delivery

ROI is still the name of the game

Our Insights Report highlighted that businesses are finding it more challenging to access budgets for training. A general theme is that the money for training is available but that the business case needs to be there, i.e. the investment in learning needed to be reinforced with anticipated business impact, not just bums on seats or completion ratings.

Similarly, Towards Maturity found:

  • 1 in 3 businesses are increasing L&D budget and team size
  • Whilst business leaders recognise the need to use data to predict and measure performance, L&D leaders are less good at doing this – only 1 in 5 use analytics or benchmarking to improve service and performance

Learner expectations vs. business capability

Are L&D teams creating what businesses actually want? In our research we found that learners are used to using technology to support learning in their everyday lives, using Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many tools for learning. It was also reported that businesses can struggle to keep up with the expectations and demand to replicate this in the workplace

This was again echoed in the Benchmark report, which found:

  • 31% of learners find self-paced elearning useful, vs. 93% of L&D leaders are investing in self-paced elearning
  • 85% download and use apps on their mobile devices, vs. less than 1 in 5 L&D leaders are investing in apps to deliver learning
  • 80% are willing to share what they know using technology, vs. only 20% of L&D leaders believe their employees know how to connect and share

So any time you’re developing standalone elearning - we need to challenge the requirement and ask how we can make it more useful through blending it and including elements social and peer learning.

Support of peers and managers is key

The value of powering up your peers is a key aspect of our findings this year, and the impact on learning of the support of peers and managers is not to be underestimated:

  • Peers: help deliver learning, coach, share and mentor.
  • Managers: help deliver and support learning, track impact on performance and can provide expertise, skill gap analysis, case studies and further guidance to design relevant and engaging learning.

Similarly, Towards Maturity found that the 70 in 70/20/10 is true, and maybe even higher…

  • 88% of learners learn from collaboration with colleagues.
  • 79% learn from manager support.

In Conclusion... Good alignment, my friends

In summary we are pleased to see that many of the key findings from our Insights interviews are reinforced by the comprehensive Towards Maturity research report.

Perhaps the only key difference was that we found organisations were very much under pressure from more limited budgets, whereas Towards Maturity report that 1 in 3 business are increasing L&D budgets. Perhaps the lesson here is as observed by one of the L&D leaders we interviewed:

“There is money for training but it has to show that it improves sales or performance.”

As we enjoy a bit of controversy, we were also interested by the following statistic:

31% of learners find self-paced elearning useful, vs. 93% of L&D leaders are investing in self-paced elearning.

Is this an indication of poorly designed, low-engagement elearning, or that the majority of learners prefer other ways of learning? It’s probably a combination of the two but it feels like we need to clarify the preference for different forms of learning to give us a full picture.

The skills gap is a real challenge and one that we are acutely aware of as a technology company. There are no quick answers here but we hope City & Guilds new TechBac qualification will be part of the solution by helping to develop technical skills for the next generation of employees. And of course L&D needs to develop its own skillset as we’ve set out here.

Of additional note from the Benchmark Report was the pronounced improvement in the impact of L&D on individual and business performance where investment and support are provided – for example, the top performers see a 72% increase in productivity vs. the average of 28%. So if you want to get better results, invest in L&D, and get advice and support on how best to do so.

If you would like to further explore any of the themes we have drawn out here, or are interested in how L&D in your own organisation can tackle the challenges we’ve presented – we’re here to help!



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