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An Answer Book, 3 Questions, and 1 Big Concern

By Rich Wellins, Ph.D.

Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D.

Brandon Hall, a leading HCM research and advisory firm, just issued its latest Learning and Development AnswerBook. It provides a great overview of how our precious learning resources are being used.

The wealth of data included in the AnswerBook is valuable for many reasons, but I find it to be especially valuable because it touches upon three questions we at DDI get asked all the time.

1. Do companies actually craft learning strategies or do they still rely on a “seat of the pants” approach to developing their workforces?

According to the AnswerBook, averaging across organization size, less than 50 percent of organizations bother to develop a strategic approach to learning. The three top reasons they don’t? Trouble bringing stakeholders together, the time it takes to develop a strategy, and difficulty in aligning with business.

The reasons strike me as curious. Developing a learning strategy should save time, not waste it. And, not bothering to align with a business? That seems especially difficult to understand, considering that the high-performing organizations in the Brandon Hall sample are 60% to-70% more likely to ensure this connection happens.

2. While we have moved into the brave new world of talent analytics, how are we doing on the learning side?

In a word: awful. Just 19 percent of companies consider themselves highly effective in measuring formal learning. The number is even lower when it comes to measuring informal and experiential learning.

An Answer BookThe good news? High-performing organizations are twice as likely as low- performing ones to give the “highly effective rating” to formal learning evaluation (25 vs. 13 percent). That being said, when it comes to types of measurement, only a small percentage are using more strategic measures, such as revenue per employee, profitability, revenue growth, and ability to respond to market/competition and proliferation of innovation. This matters because these are the metrics that will matter in the future.

3. How much do organizations budget per learner?

The amount, of course, varies. For high potentials, 43 percent of organizations budget over $1,000 annually. For frontline leaders, 38 percent of organizations annually budget $1,000 or more; 46 percent or organizations budget more than $1,000 for each mid-level leader. The percentage of organization budgeting $1,000 or more per learner is the highest for senior leaders, at 54 percent (see below).

One thing to consider in looking at these numbers: The percentages are based on budget, not number of leaders at each level or training hours. There are, of course, fewer individuals occupying leadership positions at each successive level (e.g., for every one senior leader, there may be up to 20 or more frontline leaders), which somewhat skews the $1,000 per-leader amount. Also, as a leader moves up the ladder, it is likely that the “training per hour” cost is more expensive. It is worth pointing out, though, that with the exception of senior-level development, the AnswerBook shows that there is little variance between the high-performing organizations and other” organizations.

In considering the findings highlighted in the AnswerBook, of greatest concern to me is the continued lack of learning analytics. This is troubling because it has been an identified shortcoming in our industry for more than a decade. While progress is being made, we have a ways to go. Our own research from the Global Leadership Forecast shows a similar lack of progress on the analytics front.

Also, we encourage you to find out more about Brandon Hall membership, as it is an excellent source of insights on our industry.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D., is senior vice president at DDI. He is passionate about helping organizations employ alignment and analytics to realize the potential of their leadership capability. He also has a passion for seeking out exceptional restaurants.

Posted: 13 May, 2016,
Talk to an Expert: An Answer Book, 3 Questions, and 1 Big Concern
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