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L&D organisation, budget, headcount and investment – how does yours compare?

There is an element of the nosy neighbour in all of us. What car is someone else driving? Where are they going on holiday this year? The world of work is no different but finding out the details of what your peers are doing in other organisations isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to sensitive information around budgets and headcount. But the 2017 Digital Learning Realities research was designed to help cast an important light onto learning and development operations in organisations today, and how approaches and investment is changing.

Digital learning is often a patchwork of different technologies

When it comes to technology, L&D is not very standardised. In fact, only 20% of organisations report a very standardised suite of solutions. For the most part, there is a patchwork of solutions that L&D is trying to make work together. This isn’t particularly surprising given that the market place is relatively immature and most providers do not have offerings that comprehensively cover the entire learning solutions portfolio. But the impact is profound. It means investment is often more transactional than strategic. It also makes managing innovation and the implementation of learning technologies more disparate and therefore more challenging.

Resourcing digital learning

One knock-on effect of this is in the make-up of L&D teams and how much resource is allocated to supporting digital learning.

Fosway Digital Learning Realities 2017_Digital Learning SpecialistsOrganisations with less than 5,000 people typically do have someone who specialises in digital learning, with the vast majority having 1-5 specialists employed in their teams. Unsurprisingly, as organisations increase in size, the number of digital learning specialists increases proportionately. But what the optimum number of specialists is, remains difficult to judge. It is dependent on so many factors including the maturity of the learning operation, the range of learning technology solutions used, the approach to technical support and the learning approaches that they are trying to enable. It also depends on how much the L&D team are content producers or more digital learning consultants, enabling others to harness the power of digital.

There is massive momentum behind increasing investment in digital learning….

More than 90% of organisations expect their investment in learning platforms and content to increase or stay the same in the year ahead. How much this is at the expense of other L&D spend is unclear. Experience tends to show that most expansion in digital learning comes at the price of decreasing spend in traditional instructor-led training approaches. Often there is pressure on L&D to reduce costs overall or deliver more with the same budget. Clearly these pressures are being felt less by digital learning teams than their more traditional training counterparts. However….

….currently, learning technology continues to suffer from under investment

Despite the encouraging data on digital learning personnel, it seems that overall digital learning budgets are still relatively low. As analysts, we are often asked how much organisations should invest in digital learning. A question to which there is no easy answer of course – we typically ask more questions in return; ‘What are you trying to achieve and what is your business case?’ for example.

Fosway Digital Learning Realities 2017_Digital Learning BudgetsSpending more does not guarantee that learning will generate more impact or value than spending a little. But with 41% of organisations citing a digital learning budget of less than £100k – and considering for example the cost per hour of just one bespoke e-learning module – this seems to be a low level of investment overall.

As organisations increase in size, budgets inevitably grow. But what is eye opening is the number who continue to toil with limited budgets. Around a quarter of organisations with between 20,000-50,000 people still spend less than £100,000 per year on digital learning.

From our ongoing research and analysis, there is frequently a strong business case behind higher levels of investment. So if you think your budget is too small, perhaps it’s your business case and business alignment which need to be your focus if you want your organisation’s investment levels to catch up!

This article, written by director of research, David Perring, references Fosway’s Digital Learning Realities research and first appeared in E-learning Age magazine.

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