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New McKinsey Report Links Learning to Business Performance

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The capabilities that companies need may have evolved, but methods for building those skills have not. A recent survey from McKinsey finds that the most effective companies focus on sustaining skills and linking learning to business performance. 

A 2014 McKinsey survey on capability building within organizations garnered responses from 1,448 executives representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties, and tenures. According to the data, companies primarily employ on-the-job teaching for learning and skill development. And McKinsey finds that more novel skill-building approaches, such as digital or experiential learning methods, remain infrequent among the organizations surveyed. 


More importantly, executives report a lack of learning-related metrics and difficulty ensuring the continuous improvement of skills. In the results from organizations that are most effective at capability building, however, are some lessons for improvement. 

Some companies do report seeing a link between sustaining capabilities and learning to company performance. These organizations typically: 

  • employ more methods to develop employee skills
  • say their HR functions and businesses “co-own” learning
  • use metrics to assess the impact of their programs on the business. 

As a result, these companies report more success at meeting their performance targets. 
For details from the study, read the McKinsey Insight paper, “Building Capabilities for Performance.”

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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