The Learning Leaders and how they do it!

I spent the last 6 months doing qualitative research on the best practices of learning and development in companies in the USA and Europe. My research was aimed to find out the companies that are not only taking organizational learning seriously but are also constantly innovating with new ways of learning.

This is a short summary of my research.

The results can be summarized in 3 very simple categories:

- Learning Leaders (constantly innovating)

- Mediocres or Showoffs (talk a lot but don't do enough)

- the Laggards (bad and they know it)

For this research, I spoke to the head of learning or similar profile and at least 10 employees from each company. I see in most of the researches, the employee feedback is ignored and I didn't want to miss that out.

In some occasions, I also got a chance to speak to senior leaders or CXOs. 

In total, I researched about 73 companies (of 2000+ employees) from the USA and Europe and I checked their level of learning maturity from the graph below:

The Learning Leaders:

It wasn't a surprise that most progressive learning companies come from silicon valley.

They were also most open to talking about their organizations and in fact learn from me the best practices of other companies. I also felt a sense of humbleness in them. Their learning leaders sounded more curious rather than self-absorbed executives. Also, it was much easier to get an appointment to talk to these learning leaders than the mediocre and laggards.

During the interviews, their employees always seemed happy and enthusiastic talking about their respective academies.

Almost all learning leader companies are constantly innovating with digital learning and they have a separate R&D budget for learning innovation, where they experiment various courses curated through VR or AR.

One very important factor that in most of the cases, 2-3 of their leadership team member or Sr. managers acted as a faculty. This is a big deal because when your leaders take out time to be a moderator or a curator, the learning culture is guaranteed!

Naming names: Facebook, Air B&B, Google, Pixar, Cisco, Slack, Amazon, BMW (Europe), GE, Hamburger University. No Surprises here.

At Google, 80% of all tracked trainings are run through an employee-to-employee network called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler).

The Mediocre: 

Most of the companies fall into these categories. And everything I mentioned above for the 'leaders' almost never happens in the mediocre.

Their learning leaders sounded self absorbed and constantly talked about how great they are in bringing change but somehow they did not know enough about best practices around the world. They were too internal focused.

To their credit, they have an active L&D department and a reasonable L&D budget and if you ask them, they have world-class learning programs. However, more than 70% of the employees from this category that I interviewed do not think the same. They either don't know the department or their work or if they know both they are not big fans of their L&D guys.

In terms of learning maturity level, they were at Level 2-3. Which means that have experimented with blended learning but still with a PUSH model.

The Laggards: 

They are bad and they know it.

In this case, even the L&D leaders (known as Training managers) said that their company leaders don't care about learning. They either still do ad-hoc trainings or do not have a training department with a separate budget.

Employees feedback in this case was the worst. Employees felt that their company doesn't care and doesn't invest in their learning and growth. Alarming thing was that more than 50% of the employees I interviewed from these companies are considering leaving.


The Journeyman

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