August 2018
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TD Magazine

I Can’t Hear You

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Address the communication breakdowns between L&D and learners.

For years, L&D professionals have discussed learner-centric approaches to talent development. Have they succeeded when it comes to implementation?


More often than not, the answer is no, according to a May 2018 Towards Maturity research report. While the report found that more than 90 percent of L&D leaders want to improve learner engagement, increase self-directed learning, integrate learning into employee workflows, and facilitate new ways of working, less than 25 percent achieve those goals. Why? Because much of the challenge may come down to differences in what learners expect and what L&D provides.

Here's an example: Eighty percent of learners believe they know what learning and on-the-job support they need—which is critical for increasing self-directed learning—but only 27 percent of L&D leaders believe learners can determine their own paths. Further, 69 percent of employees see how online learning opportunities can further careers—an easy selling point to improve learner engagement—but only 20 percent of L&D professionals say they support career aspirations or personal job goals with technology-enabled learning.

So, what can L&D professionals do to better fulfill learner expectations and thereby meet their goals? The report provides four suggestions:

  • Listen first. Organizations that are proactive in understanding how learners learn are 3.5 times more likely to have integrated learning into employee workflows than organizations that do not.
  • Apply expertise. The highest-performing 10 percent of organizations in Towards Maturity's index of learning organizations (the top deck) are more than twice as likely as other organizations in the index to include activities that help individuals practice, apply techniques such as spaced learning, or encourage active reflection.
  • Focus on outcomes. Top deck organizations are nearly three times more likely than other organizations to collect information about which lessons employees have applied on the job.
  • Influence the influencers. Top deck organizations are more than three times more likely than other organizations to equip their teams with resources to help their teams get the most out of learning.
About the Author

Alex Moore is a research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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