New Research Shows that Only 18% of Workforce Training Goes Towards Developing Performance

Today, when developing talent to embrace new technologies, learn new skills and innovate, L&D professionals are getting more and more support with various digital tools and techniques. The choice of such tools is usually dictated by the specifics of a company’s operations as well as the established culture of learning. Recently, the Fosway Group has published their research results about Digital Learning Realities in 2018, where they highlighted very exciting trends.

Learning content outlook

Top areas of content demand


There’s a reason why YouTube’s popularity has been growing steadily. According to the Forrester Research, “one minute of online video equates to approximately 1.8 million written words.” In addition, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, which is processed 60,000 times faster than text. Just ask yourself: If you need to quickly learn how to use the latest CRM, would you go read a lengthy documentation or watch a video with a visual walkthrough of how to use a new tool?

Micro and Mobile

Many L&D professionals are justly looking for video content that is mobile and that can be broken into smaller content chunks. Such a combination has been driven by the need to deliver on-demand training since the speed of change in businesses is higher than ever before. No matter where your employees are, no matter how complex their challenges are, video microlearning modules delivered through mobile devices can save companies from a lot of trouble and instead navigate them in the right direction.


And the last point, which excites us most of all, is user-generated content. Here we are in 2018, all equipped with smart mobile devices that have super high-resolution cameras but are still trying to buy generic learning content from various vendors that we will then deliver to our workforces. With changes occurring in businesses at the speed of light, such an approach proves to be utterly ineffective.

Instead, today’s L&D leaders are realizing the power of user-generated content. A manager can now record a short video about the best sales practices that she had just learned at a conference and share it with her sales team. Or a cook could share a video of his own discovery of how to optimize food storage at a restaurant.

This all comes down to personalization and customization. Successful L&D leaders are trying to make the learning experiences of their workforces as individualized as possible. Sales people have learned this lesson long ago—the more targeted your messages are, the higher the response rates. So why shouldn’t we individually target our learners in the same way? Why shouldn’t we work to cater to each of their needs and develop a unique, personalized learning journey for each one of them? If we follow through, the results will exceed all expectations. Your people will appreciate how much you care about their professional and personal growth, thus getting an intrinsic motivation to contribute to the company’s growth.

Learning platform features in demand

Top areas of platform demand

After looking at the content trends, it’s logical to dive into what companies are hunting for in today’s learning platforms.

Learner engagement

According to the Fosway Group research, the #1 feature of a learning platform in demand is learner engagement.

Going back to the video content we mentioned before, it’s worth noting that even though video content has many benefits, it is a passive way of learning. That’s why the most efficient way of delivering learning and making sure that it sticks is through learning engagement tools. These tools include, but are not limited to, smart gamification, interactive challenges and quizzes, detailed maps on how to reach learning goals, timely content delivery based on the tight integration of learning with performance and operational data, and much more.

Social & collaborative capabilities

Social and collaborative features are next highest in demand. According to the ATD report, “in high-performance organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a rate four times greater than that of workers in lower-performing firms. That communication is supported by rewarding workers for learning, providing tools and resources for creating and sharing learning content, and making knowledge sharing a performance expectation at all organizational levels.” Delivered through the right platform, social learning brings together communities of employees within an organization to expand their knowledge and expertise through streamlined communication and knowledge-sharing.

Data analytics

Nowadays, being data-driven is the goal of almost every company, and L&D departments are no exception.

When selecting a learning system, look for one that measures things like linear and non-linear behavior, whether learners are staying tightly focused on one subject/topical area or bouncing around. The learning system should also provide data about the types of courses or quizzes that learners are completing. These measurements are more valuable and actionable than knowing simply how many hours a certain population spent on a learning platform. (Karen Hebert-Maccaro, Chief Content Officer at O’Reilly)

Not only does smart data collection help to build a truly automated, personalized learning system, but it also provides incredibly valuable insights that can assist L&D leaders to better adjust their training tools and content and improve the learning experiences of their workforces.

Areas of Talent Development focus

Focus of L&D effort

This is where the biggest surprise comes in. When building a talent development strategy, the majority of L&D professionals focus on very important areas, such as operational learning (31%), the future capabilities of their teams (31%) as well as employees’ personal learning (20%). But only 18% of efforts goes into learning directed towards performance improvement.

This finding highlights a very interesting gap in many learning programs where L&D efforts very often don’t reach the desired results and goals of a company. Making sure that training programs help to future-proof the company is very important and helps employees to develop the skills required for business operations. But only individual performance improvement can help L&D professionals to align their learning initiatives with the direct business impact.

“Easier said than done,” you’ll think. Since it’s so hard to help each employee individually improve his or her performance and become capable to make larger contributions to the business, talent development programs are usually focused on a predefined set of skills developed for the whole company or a department. This is where adaptive learning based on operational and performance data comes in handy.

If we consider the most recent ATD research, we’ll see that adaptive learning comprises a major portion of learning tools in just 7% of organizations. And out of these, only 18% of respondents use AI. For both personalized and adaptive learning implementation, the top two barriers companies identified were a lack of learning technologies followed by a lack of organizational technology infrastructure. While the main goal of L&D is to introduce and train for new technologies, processes and workflows, L&D itself is currently lagging behind.

Both of the reports come at a time when L&D departments can see the urgent need for change but are constrained by the lack of supporting infrastructure to implement smart learning technologies that go hand in hand with employees’ performance. The solution lies in the conjoined efforts of the executive team, IT, HR and L&D departments. Only then will companies be able to enjoy the rapid growth that comes from within their teams growing alongside the business. 

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