Skills are moving up the business agenda – business leaders across Europe flag that building skills and retaining knowledge is a critical component to business success over the next 10 years. But the squeeze is on. Employers of all sizes and in all sectors are demanding more for less from their learning and development: more results, more quality, more speed, more volume and more responsiveness, but with less time, fewer resources and less inconvenience. As a result, an increasing number are turning to technology to help them. Here, Laura Overton, managing director of the London-based learning technology analysts, Towards Maturity, elaborates on recent research into the impact of learning technologies at the workplace.
By Laura Overton
The promise and allure of technology enabled learning in the workplace is strong but is there clear and concrete evidence to illustrate it actually delivers the type of bottom-line business benefits that business leaders are looking for? Does it help to impact sales figures or customer loyalty? Does it improve an organisation’s ability to be more agile in responding to market demands – spotting trends or releasing services to market faster?
At Towards Maturity our research over the past six years has shown that many organisations are looking beyond the traditional application of technology to address compliance training or basic IT skills. Many are considering how learning technologies can be used to redefine how learning can support business priorities described above. In our latest benchmark with four hundred organisations (due for release in November) four out of five organisations said that they were investing in technology to improve induction and implementation of new processes and products, over 65 percent are looking to improve customer satisfaction, staff retention and organisational change.
We are demanding more now than ever before. However, many still remain sceptical about the benefits. Until now, good evidence of real business results has been scattered and difficult to come by.
The absence of independent facts and figures means that many who want to consider new approaches to meeting business needs are at risk of making decisions without a firm foundation on which to build their business case. As a result, many implementations are driven by technology rather than business need, resulting in poor engagement, a bad experience and a lost opportunity.
Earlier this year, Becta commissioned a report to consolidate the evidence of business success as part of its legacy to encourage the innovative use of technology throughout learning and training. This work reviewed over one hundred and eighty articles and reports and 48 case studies in a search for tangible evidence of workplace success. While cost was a significant factor, the team also looked for evidence of impact on other business priorities of importance to both private and public sector organisations.
The resulting report is designed to help organisations looking to build a strong business case to engage their management teams with new ways of learning.
Eight main themes emerged from this analysis supported by powerful examples across a wide range of sectors, a number of whom have taken part at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN. These include:
- Time saving – faster learning is reducing time to proven competency and contributing to business agility
- Productivity gains – improved customer satisfaction and better performance are some of the examples cited here
- Staff benefits – improvement in morale, reduction in staff turnover and the ability to demonstrate regulatory compliance, showing staff are ‘fit for duty’
- Sales Impact – specific examples of direct bottom line impact through sales increases
- Tangible improvements to the quality of learning – including an increased responsiveness to changing business need
- Impact of social learning – what difference does it make to business when organisations start to harness the knowledge and talent of their staff?
- Going green – the significant reduction on carbon footprint
The eighth theme was cost saving which was often a direct result of the previous themes and is really only relevant when the introduction of technology is delivering to the bottom line. If technology enabled learning isn’t delivering the skills and business agility needed by organisations today, then it should really be considered under cost cutting rather than cost saving!
This report starts to help consolidate real evidence surrounding the results of learning innovation in business rather than the innovation itself. This is critical if we are to be taken seriously by business leaders.
But it is just the beginning. More and more evidence is coming to light and much will be presented at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN in December. We look forward to continuing building the case when we meet in Berlin!
You can find out more about this research at the session on Coping with the Crunch: How Can We REALLY Deliver More for Less? on Friday 3rd December which is part of the Business Educa stream designed to help us innovatively build skills and harness knowledge to deliver results to business.