"You better shape up"- our take on the 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark Report

The 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark Findings have been published this week. So, any statistics junkies out there: prepare yourself for a jam-packed numbers report compiled by Overton and team to help us work out what is really going on in our industry. It’s always good to know whether you’ve missed some seismic shift in the landscape and for many of our colleagues this benchmark report is our annual Geiger counter.

Every year Towards Maturity provides this mammoth, comprehensive information service to the industry. They have been tracking what education companies have been doing for 11 years and have now researched over 4000 companies to date. Their reports always seem to give a pretty accurate picture of the world that we see through the lens of City & Guilds Kineo.

So, what is the key message? Well, it could either be regarded as evidence of a much needed maturity in the world of learning or a worrying case of inertia, depending on your take on the need for innovation. This year the researchers have identified no seismic changes at all.

Of course, the devil is in the detail and in amongst the vast swathes of data are some very interesting findings…

The big one is that the organisations who were good last year not only continue to get better but are leaving the rest of the pack behind. The key to their success is not being bogged down by dogma and excessive love of technology, but instead to keep a focus on alignment to their client’s business strategy. It’s nothing new but a telling reminder to those who are sometimes a little too obsessed with innovation: it all boils down to helping people perform better. These organisations focus on performance, not efficiency, in learning delivery.

That prevalent message of ‘steady as she goes’ is encapsulated by the fact that training budgets across the board are broadly remaining as they were the year before.

Inevitably, new organisations (and new individuals) get included in the survey from an increasingly wider international pool so it’s a real challenge for the research team to make meaningful comparisons when it comes to year-on-year data. But statistically there seems to be a consistent use of different delivery methods (so 90% say they use elearning content – although that can cover a wide range of technology adoption, of course). It's interesting to see that there is a slight increase in use of virtual meetings up from 77% to 79%.

Some changes jump out though and the fact that the buzzword of the moment is Immersive Learning is reflected clearly in an increase of users of these approaches from 23% to 31% in only one year. Cloud based solutions also seem to be on the increase from 32% to 49%.

Is anything declining?

Diagnostic tools are down from 45% to 35%, and user generated content is down from 43% to 32%, but the report points out sensibly that these reductions may actually reflect changes in the audience profile.

When you look at the report, it is sensible to focus on the results from the highest performing organisations in the survey (the ‘Top Deck’). Some of the differences between them and the trailing pack are significant. Across the board they seem to achieve greater penetration of learning and their businesses benefit from doing so. It all stems from being very strategic.

Top deck organisations state a much wider range of drivers for learning – they are on level terms with the others re compliance (87% compared to 73%) but in other areas such as responding to change and increasing job productivity they are way ahead (four times more likely to state these as drivers in the survey). 84% of the top deck train their trainers to use technology to extend learning beyond the classroom, compared to the overall average of 25%. I could list countless instances of this but best you look at the report yourself and learn from it.

Although the general view is that there are many factors still restricting the effective use of learning technologies, it is encouraging to see that not just the pack leaders are saying that staff can access learning directly relevant to their job (81% of respondents in the upper quartile say this, actually 1% more than the leaders).

So, what is holding us back?

No big surprises here: cost, lack of skills to manage own learning, poor IT infrastructure, lack of L&D skills to implement and line manager reluctance.

The most intriguing data of all though is from the learner perspective. Echoing the findings of the 2014 report the researchers found that learners are out of synch with L&D professionals in terms of what they want and what they seem to get.

Learners want more control of their learning and seem very ready to collaborate, try new methods and manage things themselves (90% said they would like to do this on learning programmes). Only 20% of L&D providers though believe their staff know how to share and 30% have no plans to implement social media. Does this mean that formal solutions are being wrongly pushed out to audiences?

Conclusions

It could be that the conclusions are a little tough on organisations trying to deal with very significant changes in technology use. The differences between what learners do naturally and what organisations currently offer (i.e. seven out of ten earners use mobile devices to learn, yet only 40% of organisations offer mobile content to leaders) is due, in some measure, to a natural time lag. However, it’s clear that we all need to be aware that our ultimate customers may lose patience waiting for learning to be delivered in the way that they’d prefer.

The conclusions also give us hope in that a key factor in the success of the major players has been improving the capabilities of their L&D teams.

So, no big surprises this year but the findings show clearly that the move into blended solutions and much greater flexibility is both unstoppable and eagerly awaited and those who aren’t thinking smart will get left behind. But don't take our word for it, have a read of the report for yourself and let us know what you think. 

 
 
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