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Why Learning Technologies are Key to Successful Leadership Development

Why Learning Technologies are Key to Successful Leadership Development


In a recent survey we conducted of more than 1,000 C-level executives, the biggest concern raised surrounded leadership, specifically developing “Next Gen” leaders. The survey also revealed that only 41% of executives rate their organisation’s current leadership development as high-performing. Companies spend at least a third of corporate L&D budgets on leadership development. So what accounts for the disparity?

To answer this question, Towards Maturity and Skillsoft partnered to uncover the truth behind successful leadership development programmes and explain how other businesses can learn from them. We worked with over 700+ L&D professionals, 10,000+ learners and 200+ L&D leaders to get answers and the findings are explored in greater detail in the new research report, Driving Leadership Capability.

What successful leadership development means for organisations

Organisations that succeed in creating a learning culture are three times more likely to use learning technologies when developing their leadership than those which do not. Furthermore, these strong performers- those in the top quartile (10%) of the transformation curve with the most effective learning strategies – actively seek to democratise and engage a broader audience to create a leaner-centric approach. This inclusion of technology and expansion of availability of training results in a:

  • 17% increase in organisational activity
  • 33% improvement in time to competency
  • 11% increase in reduction of staff turnover
  • 11% increase in organisational revenue

A new learning approach

The use of technology to deliver learning is another contributing factor to successful leadership programmes. Exclusively relying on face-to-face and classroom settings limits the number of individuals who can be developed as leaders, thereby shrinking the pipeline from the very outset. Using a blended approach which incorporates both online and instructor-led training expands the audience and opportunities for development.

Organisations that successfully use learning technologies when developing leaders and managers are more likely to:

  • improve access to support at the point of need
  • increase learning access and flexibility
  • improve talent management

However, offering blended learning alone is insufficient to fully democratise leadership development. Currently, most leadership training is restricted to those already occupying management positions, and this is where company culture needs to shift to have a greater impact on organizational success.

Learning technologies

Based on the data gathered from 200 L&D leaders, the top 5 most used technologies are:

  1. e-learning courses – “off-the-shelf” 73%
  2. Other online resources (e.g., e-Books, e-Journals) 69%
  3. Webinars 68%
  4. Internal/enterprise-wide information services (e.g. SharePoint) 68%
  5. Learning Management Systems 67%

And yet we found that organisations use learning technologies in an overly prescribed manner. The use of technology serves as more of an extension of the classroom rather than as a front-line digital mentor that encourages active participation from learners.

The role of L&D need

Part of the winning formula for top deck organisations is that their L&D teams have the knowledge and skills to exploit learning technologies fully. Those teams are:

  • 3X more likely to have the right skills to exploit learning technologies
  • 2X more likely to have an approach that is shaped by models that support learning in the flow of work
  • 4X more likely to blend their use of several different learning approaches

Having the right L&D skills in-house is the final key contributor to establishing successful leadership development programmes.

Barriers facing L&D

However, while learning technologies and L&D acumen are essential components of a successful leadership development strategy, achieving these elements poses challenges. All organisations experience barriers, regardless of the industry, and it is best to approach these hurdles by promoting the value that technology can bring by providing empirical evidence of its impact. The most prominent barriers to overcome include:

  • Cultural bias towards classroom learning
  • Reluctance to adopt new ways of learning
  • Unreliable ICT infrastructure/low bandwidth/technical restrictions
  • Opposition to social or collaborative learning
  • Lack of knowledge and skills amongst L&D regarding learning technologies.

Overcoming these barriers is well worth it, though, because the role of leadership development is more critical than ever in our fast-paced, exponentially-changing, technology-enabled business context. This brings me to my final point, which while obvious, remains elusive.  It’s fundamental for HR leaders to align their leadership development efforts to their business strategies.  While business goals and priorities may evolve, establishing leadership mindsets and behaviours broadly and deeply in the organisation will accelerate the achievement of business goals. Every learning leader should undertake a concentrated effort to democratise leadership development and leverage technology in the process.


Read the full report and discover all that we learned from our work.


Heide Abelli is the SVP of Content Product Management at Skillsoft.


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