Companies with learning and development (L&D) teams that experiment and innovate with new learning technologies and approaches are more than twice as likely to innovate as a business versus companies that don't embark on similar initiatives, according to a report from The Josh Bersin Company.
The recently released report, The Definitive Guide to Corporate Learning: Growth in the Flow of Work, studied 94 L&D practices at more than 1,000 organizations around the globe.
The study comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace, virtual work has escalated and the Great Resignation has hindered efforts to retain workers.
In the midst of these changes, the report suggests, employers that are determined to grow their company by improving employees' skills will have to foster the right L&D capabilities using technology that can support their efforts.
Researchers focused on several broad areas of learning at the companies they studied, including the core capabilities of L&D, leadership development, coaching and mentoring, and tools and technologies used in L&D initiatives.
The report stated that the five L&D capabilities that matter the most are:
- Experimenting with new learning technology and approaches.
- Building a strategy for in-the-flow learning.
- Adopting agile ways of working.
- Aligning business leaders and stakeholders.
- Honing analytics and tech skills.
Josh Bersin, HR industry analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, an HR consulting agency in Oakland, Calif., said one of the important findings in the research is that employers that recognize learning as a tool to grow in the job—or as a tool to grow into a new job—differentiate themselves from companies that perform training for its own sake.
"If you are only doing training to improve the capabilities of people in the roles they are in and you are not thinking about what is it going to take to move to the next role, then you are really missing out on the value of L&D," Bersin said.
Another critical finding is the need to experiment and take advantage of a new range of tools that create short learning videos or tips that are incorporated into the flow of work and can be accessed anywhere in real time. Other research shows the on-demand e-learning market is growing.
Data from Global Market Insights Inc., a Selbyville, Del., market research and consulting firm, estimates that the e-learning market surpassed $315 billion in 2021 and is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent from 2022 to 2028.
While funding L&D teams and projects is important, prioritizing how you use your budget to focus on the areas that companies want to grow the most is also vital to a successful L&D strategy, said Paaras Parker, chief human resource officer at Cincinnati-based software company Paycor HCM Inc.
If a company once offered a course catalogue of 500 courses and is now offering 50, it may be on the right track.
"If you are actually focusing on 50 of the right things, the outcomes you are going to get out of your learning are much better," Parker said.
She added that the pandemic helped people learn what is important to a company's operations.
"Part of what is important is that growth does not always mean upward; it can also mean homing in on skills. I think a trend that we are going to continue to see in learning and development is how we prioritize what skills, capabilities and competencies we spend time on," Parker said.
In the meantime, The Josh Bersin Company's report encourages L&D leaders to rely on technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality tools, and points L&D leaders to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Spotify and Snapchat, as well as Udemy, 360Learning and Fuse Universal, where short videos and documents created by subject matter experts offer new avenues of learning.
"The learning technology market is very innovative and very creative, and the companies that are getting the most impact are trying a lot of new things," Bersin said.
To keep pace with advancements in technologies that impact L&D tools, companies are encouraged to experiment with technology and constantly refresh their L&D infrastructure with tools that increase productivity and improve the employee experience.
The report suggests companies build a strong data architecture that can provide information on L&D systems that work and those that don't. The data can also show which groups of workers using L&D technology are benefiting from their learning experience, and which groups aren't.
Other recommendations the report suggests are:
- Companies should evaluate their current technology, identify what needs to be replaced and integrate new tools.
- Establish an L&D technologist position. The L&D technologist should understand the systems and manage various forms of content as well as integrate learning management systems with other platforms.
- Before purchasing IT software and services, discuss with vendors what the technology offers. Talk to references and meet with the IT vendor's CEO or the head of product at the company.
According to Bersin, as the priority to retain workers rises, the need to implement an effective L&D strategy is growing.
"It turns out learning is an incredibly good retention tool because one of the reasons people leave jobs is that they feel like they are not going anywhere; they feel bored, they feel like they are being stultified or they feel that they are overworked. Learning has turned out to be a tremendously valuable tool for this particular economic cycle," Bersin explained.
He added that learning tools help companies "engage people, giving people a sense of growth, giving people a sense of purpose, giving people a sense of progress, and making them feel better about their companies, and making them feel better about their jobs."
Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.