LRMG Performance Agency

Laura Overton’s lessons from top-performing global L&D teams about building performance

Posted in Article on June 21, 2016 by: Laura Overton


‘Embracing Change, Unleashing Talent’

In April of this year, LRMG Performance Agency hosted a conference for L&D teams and thought leaders from Africa and across the world. Entitled ‘Embracing Change, Unleashing Talent’, the objective of the conference was to bring together practitioners and thought leaders to facilitate the sharing of new insights, to enable collaboration, and to engender thought leadership on the way forward for HR and L&D. Specifically, it was to share international trends in HR and L&D, based on the 2015–16 Industry Benchmark Survey from Towards Maturity, and to enable African HR and L&D practitioners to find their voice in order to contribute in a meaningful way as Africa in a global conversation.


Managing Director of LRMG’s Africa business, and facilitator for the day of the conference, Irwin van Stavel’s article on ‘L&D’s Role in the high-performing organisation’ provides one voice from Africa coming out of that conversation. The keynote speaker for the day was Founder and CEO of Towards Maturity, Laura Overton, who shared the following lessons from top-performing global L&D teams about building performance, drawn from the Towards Maturity Benchmark Survey.


“In the modern business landscape that is global, fast, digital, fluid and complex, and where modern workers are curious, connected, tech-savvy and self-directed, how does L&D need to adapt to modern learning?” asks Overton.


In statistics drawn from top-performing global L&D teams, Overton argues that benchmark L&D teams are achieving more because they are able to respond to changing business conditions faster, and have increased productivity on the job.


The top percentile of global L&D teams:

  • integrate learning and work,
  • support the self-directed learner,
  • are building the L&D team of the future, and
  • embrace change.


Integrating learning and work

In the quest to integrate learning and work, the top teams are:

  • Business driven – identify business KPIs that they want to improve in partnership with senior management.
  • Results focused – improve productivity, reduce staff turnover, improve change processes, decrease time to competency, and increase cost efficiency.
  • Data-driven decisions – 3x more likely to use benchmarking as a performance-improvement tool.
  • Different perspective – consider the course as one of many options for building competence and improving performance.
  • Look at models that integrate learning and work – 70:20:10.
  • Critical managerial role –
    • managers provide active support in the application of learning in the workflow,
    • define competencies needed for each role in association with senior managers,
    • collect information from line managers on how learning has been applied at work, and
    • communicate successes to line managers / supervisors.
  • Challenge business leaders – with the emphasis on impact and integrated thinking more than traditional courses.


Supporting the self-directed learner

Today’s workers are self-directed learners. They are:

  • Motivated – want to be able to do their job faster and better.
  • Take initiative – learn more by finding things out for themselves rather than through face-to-face (F2F) training / Instructor-led training (ILT).
  • Identify and access resources – know how to access what they need for learning.
  • Understand their own needs – know what learning they need to do their job.


Today’s workers are self-directed learners. They are:

  • Are consumer oriented – are proactive in understanding how their staff learn.
  • Listen – involve users in the design of learning solutions.
  • Facilitate conversation – use learning communities.
  • Increase access – to community, content, technology and clear communication, at the right place and time.
  • Empower learners – in current and future jobs.
  • Are self sustaining – help staff learn how to learn by offering study skills training and encouraging learners to organise their own personal learning strategies.
  • Unleash talent – through establishing an active learner voice, increasing access and empowering learners.


Building the L&D team of the future

According to the statistics, the top percentile of teams apply business thinking to their learning strategy, and work according to the following guidelines, which Overton dubs the ‘Towards Maturity Model’, where the focus is on:

  • Defining need – outputs are prioritised over inputs
  • Learner context – consumer driven.
  • Work context – work within the wider context.
  • Building capability – prepare for change.
  • Ensuring engagement – bring others on board.
  • Demonstrating value – use evidence to review and adapt.


In building the L&D team of the future, the top deck of teams:

  • Think digitally – allocate 25% of budget to technology, E-enable a third of their formal learning, and enjoy good relationships with IT.
  • Focus 70% of their efforts and budget on delivering learning, with the balance of the 30% spread between applying learning and influencing culture. As part of this 70%, the technology tools include live online, assessments, eLearning content, LMS, surveys, job aids, video, SharePoint and mobile.
  • Digitally transform the learning process and are confident in using new media in learning design.
  • Active in building priority L&D capabilities, today.
  • Provide ongoing CPD opportunities for L&D staff.
  • Focus on their own performance first – instead of focusing on old style benchmarks such as measurements, cutting costs and profit, they focus on new learning benchmarks and performance improvement in terms of new ideas, KPIs and strengths and weaknesses.


Overton thus argues that equipping the L&D team of the future is about applying business thinking to a learning strategy, thinking digitally, and focusing on your own performance first.


Embracing change

In the focus on efficiency, individual processes, productivity and engagement, business responsiveness and the learning culture, modern learning strategies need to be performance focused and need to be driven by integrated thinking.

“In a fluid, dynamic, complex workplace, it is time for L&D to embrace change,” concludes Overton.



  1. Download the full Towards Maturity 2015–16 Industry Benchmark Report here.
  2. Laura Overton is the founder and CEO of Towards Maturity – a not for profit benchmark practice that provides independent research to help organisations deliver improved performance through learning innovation. Her work is based on 30 years of practical experience in implementing technology enabled learning strategies for business advantage and is backed by her independent research.
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