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Failure to focus on cross-border learning risking profit, people and performance

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  • 58% of 200 international L&D senior decision makers expect performance uplift by sharing learning more effectively
  • 56% believe increasing international collaboration will generate ‘significant commercial impact’
  • 44% admit they are already losing talented employees because they are not constantly being developed
  • Yet, only 20% of businesses very consistently share learning across countries 

Business performance is at risk because learning programmes have failed to keep up with globalisation, according to a new report from The Open University Business School.

Over half (56%) of L&D senior decision makers state there would be a ‘significant commercial impact’ if their L&D teams collaborated across the world. Nearly three fifths (58%) believe their company would experience a performance uplift if learning was shared more effectively. 

Two thirds (66%) believe organisations with a learning culture will be the most successful over the coming years, and a similar proportion (62%) see global learning programmes as the future. Indeed, three fifths (60%) think highly effective learning is ‘critical’ to organisational success, helping companies to adapt quickly to market need (59%) and effectively to disruption and uncertainty (58%).

The Challenges of Global L&D report is based on research amongst 200 senior L&D decision makers in international businesses.

Many senior L&D professionals admit their company is not effectively spreading learning, greatly affecting profitability and performance. With effectiveness and efficiency absolutely critical in an uncertain economic environment, they are now switching their focus from bespoke local initiatives to international learning programmes that will create the greatest change.

Penny Asher, Director of Executive Education, The Open University Business School

Barriers to learning

Despite the commercial imperative, currently only a fifth (20%) of businesses very consistently share learning across the geographies in which they have offices. In two fifths (41%), there is no global strategy for learning, and in nearly half (46%) the learning architecture is ‘decades’ out of date. 

A key issue is leadership support: a large proportion (42%) of L&D decision makers voiced concerns that they lack direction from the top and the leadership team does not value learning. Local resistance is an issue affecting two fifths (43%) of organisations. Outdated technology is cited as another barrier: in nearly two fifths (42%) of companies the L&D team believe they do not have the technology to coordinate learning globally.

L&D as a talent magnet

On a more positive note, the overwhelming majority (94%) of L&D departments are planning to increase investment in international learning programmes over the next year. The report goes on to reveal what is causing this industry shift with talent being a key consideration. 

More than half (56%) of L&D professionals see that employees increasingly want access to market-leading learning programmes, and nearly half (46%) worry they risk losing talent to competitors because their company does not share learning effectively. Two fifths (44%) of businesses are already losing talented employees because they are not constantly being developed. 

This is a pivotal time in learning. We are experiencing a fundamental shift that will affect every L&D department. Tighter margins and the increasing expectations of candidates and employees mean there has never been such pressure to get it right; those that do so stand to make great global gains.

Penny Asher, Director of Executive Education, The Open University Business School

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