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The Steady Journey to Impact: The Power of Benchmarking for L&D Teams

July 10, 2023
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Michelle Ockers

Many Learning and Development (L&D) teams face a disheartening paradox: they’re busier than ever, yet too often their hard work doesn’t translate into substantial impact within their organisations.

L&D teams are tasked with building skills within their organisation, an increasingly vital role in our rapidly changing world. However, many of these teams find themselves inundated with activities. They scramble to deliver courses, create and share learning resources, get everyone through compliance training, and track and record it all. Despite this whirlwind of activity, they often struggle to demonstrate a tangible and significant impact on the performance of teams and their organisations.

For L&D teams, the pressure to deliver amidst overwhelming workloads is stressful. It can create a sense of stagnation, and under-appreciation. This is intensified as L&D people tend to care a lot about their work. They genuinely want to help people to learn, grow and shape meaningful careers. They want to make a difference in their organisation. They also want to be respected and recognised for their contribution.

For organisations, misalignment between the activities of L&D and the strategic objectives of the organisation results in missed opportunities for improved performance, innovation and growth.

Caught in a cycle of busyness, too few L&D teams pause to reflect on their practices. Yet, this is exactly what they need to do if they are to break the pattern and move forward more effectively.

Most L&D teams have the potential to contribute much more to business results, even without a larger budget or team. Positioning them to achieve this is at the heart of my work, particularly when I guide a team to develop or refresh their organisational learning strategy. Using Learning Uncut’s L&D Strategy Builder process, we always begin with a Diagnose phase. This period of exploration and reflection includes an examination of their current practices and impact. The most powerful tool I’ve found for this purpose is the Learning Performance Benchmark which Mind Tools for Business offer free for use by anyone.

Benchmarking as a team is an opportunity to bring L&D people from across your organisation together to have a high-quality conversation about current practices. It surfaces issues and opens people up to possibilities they may not have considered. In 2014 I first used the Learning Performance Benchmark in my role as leader of an Academy at Coca-Cola Amatil. This national role was new, and success depended on getting five independent L&D teams in separate regions to work together. I wanted to reduce duplicated effort and leverage common approaches and resources across the group. Doing the Benchmark together helped us to discover and explore each other’s practices. It also led to a lively debate about whether L&D or Operations was responsible for performance support.

This Benchmark compares your performance and practices with those of the other 800+ L&D teams who complete it annually. You can also benchmark against your region, industry and other organisations of similar size. In a strategic review of L&D across Qantas Airways in 2016 I had eight different teams complete the benchmark. This allowed us to compare not only with other organisations, but also internally across these teams. We were able to identify examples of good practices that could be shared and adapted more widely across the organisations.

Data from the Benchmark can help you build the case for change with your senior leadership team. Bringing the outside in lends credibility to your vision of what’s possible and what it will take to achieve it. A global manufacturing organisation that Learning Uncut recently worked with used data from their Benchmark dashboard to highlight the gap in their maturity compared to their industry. They combined this with stories and quotes from their internal human-centred discovery research to bring the case for change to life in an Executive presentation.

The Learning Performance Benchmark provides evidence-informed input to shape an organisational learning strategy. It also encourages continuous improvement as you can update your benchmark annually, track your progress and evolve your strategy.

At networking events and conferences, I often ask people if they have used the Learning Performance Benchmark. I’m often taken aback at how few have even heard of it, let alone used it or read the annual benchmarking research reports published by Mind Tools For Business. If you’re not benchmarking you are missing a significant opportunity to break the cycle of busyness, gain valuable insight and start your journey to impact.

Do you need to create or refresh your L&D Strategy?

Learning Uncut works with L&D leaders and their teams to develop, implement and sustain an L&D Strategy that makes them more efficient and effective. We use evidence-informed approaches such as benchmarking to help shape a compelling strategy in a way that generates key stakeholder buy-in.

If you’d like to know more about our approach download the eBook Co-Create a Compelling Learning Strategy for an Evolving World. You can also book a complimentary thirty-minute call to discuss the condition of your learning strategy with one of our experts, and how we our L&D Strategy Builder service can be of value to you.

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