Learning and Development Changes Are Being Driven by Business Transformation

Nov 19, 2018
| Michael Altiero
learning and development driven by business transformation\

Learning and development has become a valuable tool for businesses large and small. Once thought of as something only Fortune-500 organizations could effectively create and execute, today small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are also reaping the benefits of L&D programs.

And while the state of the learning and development industry has drastically improved over the last few decades, there appears to still be a lot that can be done to make L&D as effective as possible.

Harvard Business Publishing’s (HBP) 2018 State of Leadership Development Report provides an in-depth look L&D programs, including how different generations of today’s workforce view their effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look.

Business Transformation is a Driver of Learning and Development Initiatives

The research from HBP was conducted via an online survey by 734 L&D and line of business professionals. Harvard Business Publishing says that the mix of respondents was about half L&D professionals and half line of business practitioners.

As technological advances continue and customer expectations shift, companies are forced to transform their business to keep up with current and emerging trends.

The HBP report showed that 86% of respondents said their organization has recent experience with transformation.

Additional data around this topic include:
  • 32% said their business completed a transformation on the last 3 years
  • 54% are in the midst of a business transformation
  • 10% said that they are not undergoing a transformation, but expect to in the next 5 years
  • Just 3% said their business has no need for transformation at this time

As transformation becomes more commonplace, businesses will be under even more pressure to develop future leaders that can help drive businesses through major company shifts.

Are L&D Programs Meeting Expectations?

According to the report, “organizations that more directly link learning to the strategic objectives of their businesses are typically the best-performing companies in their industries.

Along with this year’s study, Harvard Business Publishing also conducted one in 2016. In both years, the results showed that 3 things are significantly better in organizations where L&D is strongly aligned with the business:
  • Revenue growth
  • Market position
  • Future growth

The 2018 report also showed the following results around the importance of learning and development programs in these types of organizations:
  • 66% of organizations that see L&D as critical to their success had a stronger market position than their competitors
  • 48% of line of business managers said that completing these programs had paid dividends in their ability to do their job effectively
  • 57% said L&D programs made it easier to promote leaders from within the organization

However, not all the results were positive. 80% of respondents said that innovation within L&D is still needed.

How do Generations Differ on the State of Learning and Development?

There are multiple generations that now make up the workforce, each with their own characteristics and expectations. Of these groups, baby boomers and millennials make up the largest percentage.

The report looked to explore how these two generations differ with their views on learning and development.

Just 50% of millennials said that they see a strong alignment between their L&D program content and the issues facing their business, which include transformation. Meanwhile, 75% of baby boomers (respondents over the age of 56) said they saw this kind of alignment.

Additionally, there is a wide gap between the percentage of millennials and boomers who describe their leadership and develop program as “excellent.”

40% of millennials responded this way while 67% of boomers said that same. This shows just how different each generation views current L&D efforts.

But why is that the case? According to the survey, millennials expressed the strongest agreement that innovation is needed in leadership development.

They also identified the three biggest barriers to L&D effectiveness:
  • Poor content
  • Insufficient thinking and expertise from outside sources
  • Failure to make a compelling ROI case

All these findings show how generations have opposing views on current L&D initiatives and what organizations need to do in order to make these programs as valuable as possible for all employees.

Make Learning and Development a Strategic Business Objective

When properly planned and executed, learning and development programs can be a differentiator for businesses of all sizes. Not only do they help ready employees for future leadership roles, but L&D programs are valuable tools for recruiting top talent to an organization – and retaining current staff.

However, it’s imperative for businesses to take a strategic approach to potential L&D plans and ask employees for their input in order to create a personalized program that fits the culture of the organization.

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