At a glance L&D benchmark history

In 2003 Laura Overton researched and authored the ground breaking Linking Learning to Business report that was launched at the Learning Technologies show in 2004. This study, now in its 21st year is known as the Learning Performance Benchmark run by Mind Tools for Business.

Laura has always been interested in how learning innovation impacts business and in learning changemakers who lean into new opportunities for equipping and enabling others.

What follows is an at a glance history of the first 15 years of the benchmark study originally established through the leadership of Laura Overton.

Following the first report, Laura continued the study from 2004 to 2008 as e-learning champion for the UK government’s Sector Skills Council. Working with Dr Genny Dixon, a precedent was established – researching with the wider community involved in workplace learning for the community.

In 2008 Laura was given permission to continue the study independently of the UK government. Towards Maturity – a not for profit community interest company – was established to continue the research programme which she went on to lead for the next 11 years, publishing the annual Towards Maturity Benchmark where each participant received their own report to track and monitor progress. 

During this time over 10,000 practitioners and 50,000 workers took part in Towards Maturity Studies and the programme became an ongoing dialogue with a community that worked together – suppliers, practitioners, experts and forward thinkers around the globe to surface and share effective practices. 

These studies were referenced around the globe and strategic partners such as the CIPD helped the Towards Maturity team dig deeper – turning data into insights and insights into action.

The global research was not possible without the input  of Dr Genny Dixon, Howard Hills, Dr Gent Ahmetaj and, in the last 2 years, Jane Daly. These individuals were part of the core team working with Laura to analyse and interpret the data over that time.

The Learning Performance Benchmark study now continues under the expert and watchful eye and innovation of Dr Gent Ahmetaj and Dr Anna Barnet at Mind Tools for Business where all of the research reports including the most recent can be downloaded.

Whilst the name shifted from the Towards Maturity Benchmark to the Learning Performance Benchmark in 2019, the principles of excellent practice established over 20 years endure. L&D leaders around the globe can still take part in the Learning Performance Benchmark today here for free.

But for those interested in the history and insights that emerged over the first 15 years – here is a quick overview of some of the most influential reports that were shared  under the leadership of Laura Overton from 2003 to 2019.

2019 – The Transformation Journey

Original research with 700 global learning leaders exploring how L&D can address 3 significant barriers of digital disruption, cultural resistance and L&D capability.

The research explores how 4 stages of L&D maturity influence, established in The Transformation Curve, the way that L&D can drive business value in the areas of efficiency, improving process, boosting productivity, cultivating agility and influencing business culture.

2018 – The Transformation Curve

Original research with 700 L&D leaders.

This unparalleled time of change offers great opportunity for L&D to shift from delivering courses to delivering strategic value. However too many are at the starting point of their transformation journey. This reports maps out the destination (high performing learning organisations) and the roadmap of how to get there.

The study considers the evidence behind 4 stages of learning maturity and the value that each stage can bring to the organisation. At each stage the report considers – governance, formal and informal learning, the role of L&D the individual and the manager. It introduces the concept of the pivot point of change and what L&D need to let go in order to deliver business value.

2017 and 2018: Working with the CIPD

For a period of 5 years, a series of reports were created in collaboration with the CIPD to support the evidence-led decisions of L&D members seeking to be principles-led and outcome driven.

These reports included:

2017 Driving the New Learning Organisation (Daly, Overton) reimagined Peter Senge’s work on the learning organisation by looking at the high performing learning cultures of the top performers in the benchmark.

2018 Driving productivity and performance explored why learning organisations propel and sustain more impact (Ahmetaj and Daly 2018).

It looked at setting goals, getting there smarter, building ownership and empowering people.

2017 – Solving the Compliance Conondrum

This was the final part in a 5 year longitudinal research programme to help us design compliance learning that actually changes behaviour.

2016 – In Focus 70+20+10 = 100 (Overton, Dixon 2016)

This was a popular study that independently looked at the business impact evidence behind the numbers of the 70-20-10 model.

It was part of the In Focus series that used a different lens to explore the benchmark data.

2016 – Unlocking Potential

Original research conducted with 600 global L&D leaders exploring the tactics used by high performing learning teams (the Top Deck) to add value back to business.

Each chapter looks at the technologies most likely to be used to deliver value and the tactics that specifically correlate back to:

  • Improving efficiency
  • Fine tuning L&D processes
  • Boosting business and individual performance
  • Cultivating organisational agility
  • influencing organisational culture

It also considers the priority skills needed by L&D.

2016 – The Learner Voice Series

Our research directly with learners resulting in the Learner Voice Series 1 – 3 (Overton, Dixon 2014, 2015 and 2016) was also pivotal for us as a learning team – calling out the preconceived ideas that L&D have about the way millennials, new joiners, managers and sales people learn what they need to perform and do their jobs better and faster.

The Consumer Learner at Work 2016 (Overton, Dixon) took this one step further, investigating the motivations and experiences of individuals who had invested in their own learning. These Learning landscape studies were amongst the first to provide data around the learner voice back into the equation – a voice that many of us talk about but few listen to!

2015 – Embracing Change

New research with 600 L&D leaders and 1,600 workers around the globe.
Chapters include: Building Business Buy-In, Understanding Self Directed Learners and Equipping the L&D team.

2014 – Modernising Learning: Delivering Results

This report provides a comprehensive, detailed insight into how organisations can modernise their learning strategy.

Our research shows 6 workstreams have been created in order to provide organisations with behaviour’s that characterise learning maturity and growth.

These insights are exceptionally useful for L&D professionals seeking to enhance workplace learning and productivity.

2013 – New Learning Agenda

A comparative research study carried out to aid learning enhancement.

The aim of this longitudinal report is to allow businesses and organisations to see the ways in which they can expand and enhance their learning experience and outcomes for future success.

By providing collective insights, this report addresses how to improve business impact, staff impact and efficiency.

2012 – Bridging the Gap

This in-depth annual benchmark report takes in to account results from a multinational survey, spanning over 37 countries and 500 respondents.

These figures have built the foundation from which L&D is built.

2011 – Boosting Business Agility

Some of the big questions for L&D professionals are focused on business agility and how successful organisations are delivering business results through learning technologies; how can they learn from this?

This report investigates the ways in which organisations utilise learning technologies to adapt and learn, improving cohesion and dexterity within the company.

2010 – Delivering results with learning technology in the workplace (Overton et al)

This was a desk research collaboration with Middlesex University that uncovered patterns within 48 individual case studies where learning innovation delivered bottom line business results.

This led to the Evidence for Change programme that ran for 10 years, capturing the individual stories of how learning leaders delivered true business value.

2010 – Accelerating Performance

With new learning technologies available, the learning landscape is constantly evolving and the priorities within this shifting.

This report provides comprehensive, thorough research into how organisations can utilise this to aid progression and advancement of their current learning strategy.

2009 – Driving Business Benefits

With new learning technologies available, the learning landscape is constantly evolving and the priorities within this shifting.

This report provides comprehensive, thorough research into how organisations can utilise this to aid progression and advancement of their current learning strategy.

2007 – Towards Maturity

This report was significant as it was the first time we reported evidence of 6 foundations for success that correlated back to business performance: Align, listen, influence, enable, engage and improve. This framework of 6 steps created the Towards Maturity Index which was the foundation of the now Learning Performance Benchmark used by thousands around the globe.

2006 – Frontline – elearning for customer support (Overton, Hills, Dixon 2006)

This report provided ground breaking evidence that culture, line managers, individuals and learning specialists all have a significant role to play in ensuring learning innovation delivers business value.

Learning at work is complicated with many influencing factors and stakeholders making lasting change difficult. Preparing and designing for this involves supporting the way that everyone works together really matters!

2003 – Linking Learning to Business

The inaugural Towards Maturity Study with 15 high performing L&D teams and 2000 of their learners.

Chapters include: Creating Firm Foundations, Understanding Learners, Manager Influence and Engagement, Holistic Learning (the pre-cursor to Blends and 70:20:10) and Winning Hearts and Minds.

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