The HILO 80 – Leaders in Corporate Learning

This week we introduced an important new set of research and recognition, the HILO 80® – the top 80 organizations we benchmarked in high-impact corporate learning through our High Impact Learning Organization® research program.

Methodology:   On an annual basis, we investigate the highest impact best-practices in corporate learning, looking at more than 50 different elements of the corporate learning strategy, organization, systems, processes, and governance.  In addition to understanding how these companies manage and implement their learning strategy, we also look at their performance:  performance in workforce readiness, in adapting to change, in talent management, and a variety of other business measures.

The result of this research is a set of modern and actionable best-practices which truly drive results.  These results are summarized in our Top 17 best practices, as well in the High Impact Learning Organization® research.  (I highly recommend you read it, it is one of the most complete research studies in this topic I have ever written.)

In addition, however, we also decided to look at precisely who these “high-impact” organizations are.  With close to 750 companies participating in this research, we had a lot of data to work with.  What we found was that there are a set of organizations that perform far above the average, and we named these the HILO 80.

How they Differ from the Rest:

If you look at these organizations, you find that they are good at many things.  They have strong executive sponsorship for enterprise learning, they invest continuously during good and bad times (but they do not necessarily spend more per employee on training!), they have adopted collaborative and informal learning strategies in addition to formal learning, and they run corporate training like a business (not like an education organization).  They have strong leadership, they hold themselves accountable to the business, and they spend money wisely, measuring the adoption and effectiveness of programs rather than institutionalizing training as an employee “benefit.”

The biggest thing I would like to point out is that they have a strong “learning culture.”  We are going to talk a lot more about what this means throughout the year, but consider the following simple chart:

Impact of Learning Culture

Impact of Learning Culture

When we ask people (employees, managers, and HR staff) how well their organizations value learning, we see a bell curve (the green area).  A small number of companies (3%) believe learning is valued at all levels, but the vast majority find it to be a “spotty” focus area.  When we look at the high-impact group, however (and impact is measured in business terms, not HR terms), you find a strong skew to the right.  These high performing companies are using learning as a business strategy (the topic of the another recent post).

If you dont understand what a “learning culture” means, consider a few of the following top 50 indicators we found:

  • Does your organization value career development as part of performance management?
  • Do people rotate into and out of training and development positions as part of their career?
  • Does your organization value error-reviews and investigation of the causes of mistakes or does it punish people associated with failures?
  • Does your organization maintain its investment in L&D during bad times?
  • Does your organization engage leaders and managers in the development process?
  • Does your CEO and COO consider employee development important enough for them to spend time on?

There are many other business processes which create a learning culture, but one thing is for sure, the HILO 80 do get it.

We built this list for two reasons:  first we want to recognize and reward these organizations for discovering the tremendous power of workforce development in their business success, and second to give our research members and readers a set of role models to learn from.  Many of the companies in the HILO 80 list will be presenting at our research conference, and many are being profiled in our case studies. 

I hope you seek them out individually as places to work, places to learn from, and organizations to emulate.