That is the startling and disturbing finding from the Towards Maturity Benchmark since I last reported their findings exactly three years ago. However, for the top deck of benchmarked organizations whose L&D leaders are moving forward it is a very different picture.

First, a recap…

Towards Maturity claims to be the only global benchmarking organization that focuses on the impact of L&D on improving business performance. My previous piece described the TM Benchmark and its increasing influence as a dispassionate global analyst. Since 2012, TM has added 1,800 L&D leaders to its benchmark database, now over 4,000 participants, of whom over 30 percent are from outside the traditional West European footprint. Influential in that process has been the creation of a network of global Ambassador organizations who promote Towards Maturity’s work. They include SPEEXX (Germany), Kydon (Singapore), and DOCEBO (Italy), amongst many more familiar global brands such as Kineo, Skillsoft, and LEO.

The 2015 benchmark is open. Already 750 L&D leaders from over 40 countries have taken part. There is still time to take advantage of this invaluable free and confidential opportunity until August 14! Participation is now truly global, covering all sectors of the economy and civil society.

So what is the TM benchmark uncovering about what we are doing in L&D? How is it helping our organizations and the people who work in them?

Laura Overton, TM’s managing director, told me “The findings over the last three years make us really excited but also quite depressed! Since our research started in 2003 we have always focused on the alignment of L&D to business and performance outcomes. We have firm evidence from the last three years that learning innovation, done well, is delivering real returns. L&D leaders around the world who have become more business savvy and embraced alignment have reaped huge dividends for their work. That understanding has served to generate a hunger for change in the industry. We see that alignment to business is key to success, but successful organizations are also taking account of the new cohort of technology empowered, self-directed learners and are balancing individual and organizational needs”

Two years ago, TM launched the Learning Landscape Audit, capturing how workers are learning what they need to do their job (with or without the help of L&D!). Laura says, “Eighteen thousand learners globally have taken part in the Learning Landscape, which acts as a complement to the TM Benchmark. It is a powerful tool for comparing what L&D are offering against what learners actually experience for themselves. The bad news is that in most places there is a discrepancy between what and how learners learn for their job and what L&D is offering—and the gap is widening!” A brand new report on the state of leadership development and the use of technology to enhance it, to be published by the end of July, will emphasize the point further.

“That all seems like bad news but there is real good news as well,” says Laura. “Those using benchmarking as a business improvement tool are storming away in demonstrable results. These top-deck organizations are three times more likely to be able to show real business results, three times more likely to be able to demonstrate agility amongst employees, and three times more likely to see application of learning in the workplace. Their approach to alignment sets them apart, balancing organizational and individual needs, and designing beyond the “course”—shifting from course provider to value deliverer.”

Top performing organizations talk about business key performance indicators such as time-to-market for new products, time-to-competence in on-boarding, and reduced attrition in talent management, for example. These are the kind of performance benchmarks at the heart of the Towards Maturity Benchmark process—organizations achieving these are worth benchmarking against.

The top performers have something to teach us all—they take action!” says Laura, “Over the past three years the expectations on L&D to deliver more value have significantly increased. L&D is investing in more technology than ever before and yet is less likely to achieve real results than a few years ago. One reason is that little progress has been made in actively pursuing successful practices that make a difference. By contrast, top performers have an unremitting focus on aligning L&D to solving business performance issues. They report great results year on year. Our benchmark is about using their practices to improve your own!”

At DevLearn 2015 Laura will share “ten lessons from top performing L&D teams”—a great chance to check out the wealth of information and insight under the Towards Maturity banner!

Editor’s Note

L&D professionals around the globe are able to confidentially benchmark their L&D strategy for free until July 31 at All participants will receive their Personalized Benchmark Report in September once all responses have been collated and analyzed.