Is Corporate Learning Failing Global Learners?

This article is part of a series meant to equip the learning leaders of global organizations on the best practices for creating engaging and impactful learning experiences for every team member, no matter the region or culture. CLICK HERE to see a list of the topics covered in this series and access the articles.

As the old saying goes, there is good news and bad news for those who lead learning efforts in global companies. For the sake of positivity, let’s begin with the good news.

The Good News

The most recent LinkedIn Learning Workplace Report found that “82% of global leaders agree that HR function is more critical now than it has ever been.” (need a link called “Linked Report Few of us would disagree with the statement that these are anything other than challenging economic times.

LinkedIn’s report provides further evidence of the rising importance of learning and development in organizations. From 2022 to 2023, there was a 16% increase in the number of learning leaders who regularly meet with their Chief Human Resources Officer, from 43% to 50%. Even more significantly, there was a 13% increase in the number of meetings learning leaders had with other C-Suite executives.  

The good news for learning leaders is that training is seen as critical to the success of their companies which is demonstrated in more time devoted by those who are executives in those organizations. Not surprisingly, almost half of learning leaders surveyed anticipate that their budgets will increase while only 8% believe their budgets will decline. 

More attention, more access, and more budget. Who could ask for anything more? If only we could stop at the end of the good news.

The Not-So-Good News

The bad news comes from Willis Towers Watson, a multinational company providing insurance services. Their research found that among global companies, nearly 75% of all change initiatives did not actually create sustainable gains and nearly 50% produced no measurable results of any kind ( 

Of course, not all change initiatives are related to learning, so perhaps we are off the hook to some degree? More data from the global consulting company, McKinsey, closes off that option. They surveyed 300 senior executives at global companies and found that “few surveyed executives felt that their companies were good at transferring lessons learned in one emerging market to another.” In other words, even when learning worked well in the location of their headquarters, it most often did not achieve its objectives in other regions of the globe.

Perhaps even more disturbing, according to the researchers at McKinsey, “Barely half the executives at the 17 global companies we studied in depth thought they were effective at tailoring recruiting, retention, training, and development processes for different geographies.”

McKinsey Research

The summary of the state of learning in global companies is that it is highly valued, seen as critical to organizational success, has the attention of the C-Suite, and is receiving increased budget but, in many instances, is not delivering. This does not mean global learning efforts never have any impact. It does mean that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

The Challenges

Developing learning and training in a global company is one of the most difficult challenges for learning professionals. The causes are not difficult to understand. Anyone who is responsible for working in multiple languages knows that translation quality and accuracy require a robust process, experienced translators and an array of the right tools for the job. However, bringing learning to a global audience requires more than translation.

Even when a learning experience is translated accurately from one language to another, it does not mean that the learners who received it will understand or connect with it. Cultural differences are significant between regions of the world. Idioms, slang, colloquialisms and even humor will likely cause learner confusion or worse. Graphic sizing, voice-over choices, colors, and samples may require adjustments depending on the culture. What emotionally connects in one culture may cause offense in another and often does.

Access to technology varies from nation to nation. Beyond just connecting to the internet, learning developers sometimes find the perfect YouTube video that demonstrates what they want to teach only to find out that learners in a region are unable to access the platform. 

There is a rarely-expressed reality for many learners who work for a global company but are in other regions of the world, speak different languages, and come from different cultures. To them, it may seem that their learning was really developed for someone else, somewhere else. Some things don’t make sense because they are poorly translated, badly localized or, in some cases, mostly inaccessible. They are consuming the learning experiences as best they can but it was not truly made for them and they know it. They feel like an afterthought. Few things are deadlier to a healthy global culture of learning.

Moving Forward

This series of articles will break down the challenges of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation for those working in a global, multicultural, multilingual context. Articles will consider each step of the development process. Other articles will examine best practices for translating and localizing learning and doing quality assurance. Subsequent articles will consider how to market and launch global learning initiatives, track their performance, and build in lifecycles. Given that C-Suite members have placed a high value on training and development, the final article will focus on how to communicate with the executive leadership in your organization. 

Learning professionals are passionate about people’s development and growth. They want learners to do their best work and have opportunities for advancement. They also want their companies to thrive and meet their objectives. Achieving these goals in a global environment is not easily done but it is certainly worth our best efforts.

Ingenuit is a unique learning agency that combines expertise in learning, localization, and staff augmentation. We are ISO-certified in three different areas to ensure projects are on time, on budget, and on target. To view our solutions, please visit our learning solutions page CLICK HERE. If you need another set of eyes on your global learning solutions, the learning experts at Ingenuiti are ready to help. We offer a Global Learning Needs Analysis which is a session with our learning experts to review your learning challenges and consider solutions. Please click CLICK HERE to set up a time to talk.