Learning & Development

Learning maturity models explained

Learning maturity model

Organisations are increasingly recognising that their ability to adapt, innovate and excel hinges significantly on not just the learning culture they cultivate, but also on the level of the organisation’s ‘learning maturity’. 

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Why learning maturity matters

The learning community continuously grows and develops – always has, always will. However, aside from AI/technology, can the same also be said for the learning departments we lead? I've had the pleasure of working in and leading both immature and mature learning functions and there are certainly pros and cons to both.

The challenge of an immature learning function is that it presents such a rich playing field for growth that it’s hard not get a buzz from all the possibilities. What typically comes along with this immense opportunity is also an equally diminutive learning budget. However, this is where creativity and innovation start to germinate, and the journey begins.

According to Bersin by Deloitte, organisations with mature learning and development functions are 92% more likely to innovate and 58% more likely to be prepared to meet future demand​.

Conversely, the mature function brings structure, a well-honed vision and often a team of established specialists embedded into the business who will be anticipating and assessing needs at every turn. This can often come with a compromise in the form of being slower moving and resistant to change, alongside a plethora of large, complex organisational problems for L&D to solve.

The digital age has hastened the pace at which new technologies and methodologies emerge, and equally become obsolete. As such, companies can no longer afford to view learning as a static activity or a mere box to be ticked. Instead, it must increasingly be seen as a strategic, ongoing process that supports an adaptive, skilled workforce capable of overcoming future challenges.

Learning maturity is not just about having online content or training programmes in place. It's about developing a culture that values continuous improvement, knowledge sharing and innovation. This maturity enables organisations to respond more effectively to changes, derive meaningful insights from past initiatives and drive sustained success.

One of the biggest obstacles I have encountered when building functions from immature starting blocks is the view and mindset of the C-suite. The senior leadership team often exhibits a ‘fixed’ versus ‘growth’ mindset, meaning they tend to be stuck in their ways and resistant to change, and through all the positive rhetoric about people and value, there remains an overarching sense that ultimately what they seek is a tick in the ‘we provide training’ box. Gaining credibility and demonstrating impact at this level, in my view, is the key to open the doors to various levels of learning maturity.


The role of maturity models for corporate learning

Organisational learning maturity models provide a structured framework to assess and elevate the effectiveness of learning. These models often define multiple stages of maturity – from initial, unstructured activities to fully integrated, strategic learning functions that are aligned with business goals.

What are the pros and cons of a learning maturity model?

Pros and cons of learning maturity models-1


  • Strategic alignment: Maturity models ensure the alignment of learning strategies with your business objectives. This alignment ensures that learning initiatives contribute directly to business outcomes, enhancing ROI and justifying learning investments (which is never a bad thing in the eyes of the C-suite).

  • Enhanced visibility and ownership: By defining what ownership looks like at every level, maturity models help clarify roles and responsibilities. This clarity promotes engagement and accountability across the whole organisation, from front-line employees to top executives.

  • Cultural transformation: Effective models aid in creating a conducive learning environment. They underpin a learning culture where continuous improvement and knowledge sharing are valued, supporting the organisation's long-term resilience and adaptability.


  • Complexity and overhead: Implementing a comprehensive maturity model can be daunting. It often requires substantial time and resources to assess current levels, design and implement appropriate interventions and monitor progress. This complexity can be a significant hurdle for learning leaders – especially those in smaller organisations with limited resources and capacity.

  • Rigidity vs. flexibility: Some models may come off as too prescriptive, or fail to take into account the unique challenges of an organisation. This rigidity can stifle innovation, especially in dynamic industries where learning needs rapidly evolve.

  • Technology dependence: The temptation to drive maturity through new technologies can lead to a ‘tech-first’ approach, where the shiny new systems are prioritised above the actual objectives. Selecting tools before clearly defining learning goals may lead to mismatches between technology capabilities and actual learning needs.

A balanced approach to implementing learning maturity models

  • Ownership – Define ownership clearly
    Articulate clearly what ownership means in terms of actions, behaviours and outcomes at all levels. This definition will help in setting clear expectations and creating a sense of accountability.
  • Environment – Foster a learning environment
    Cultivate tools, programmes and opportunities that encourage experimentation and knowledge exchange. This could involve in-person learning opportunities, virtual platforms or a combination of both, tailored to support seamless learning experiences.

  • Alignment – Align learning with business strategy
    Ensure that learning objectives are not only aligned with, but directly contributing to, the strategic goals of the organisation. This alignment should be communicated clearly and consistently in the language of the business to ensure widespread buy-in.

  • Selection – Choose the right tools
    Adopt a strategic approach to technology adoption. Assess the specific needs of your learning programmes before selecting tools, ensuring they enhance, rather than dictate, your learning strategy.

  • Adaption – Stay agile
    Keep abreast of the latest developments in learning theory and technology. Regularly revisit and update your strategies and tools to ensure they remain relevant and effective in meeting both current and future learning needs. 

From millimetres to kilometres

For businesses small and large, understanding and implementing principles from the various learning maturity models available can be a game changer. By systematically evaluating and enhancing your organisation's approach to learning, you can build a good learning culture that not only supports the current strategic goals, but also prepares your workforce to face and shape the future effectively.

All learning maturity models in this space are a variation of a theme – however, the key is to identify where your department is now and identify the component parts that will move it forward. This can take time, and on occasion be frustrating, however moving forward a millimetre versus a kilometre, is still progress.

Ultimately, learning leaders need to be creating an environment where people want to (and feel safe to) learn, develop and progress. Keeping a close eye on how learning is ‘becoming a grown up’ in the organisation will pay dividends in the form of performance, engagement and retention. It’s also important to remember that when striving to create a ‘learning organisation’, it goes beyond the L&D department.

The ability to retain top talent is significantly enhanced by mature learning environments. Research from LinkedIn suggests that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

As we continue to navigate these challenging times, the value of learning as a strategic business tool has never been more apparent. It is imperative for learning leaders to both understand and champion these models, driving their organisations towards higher learning maturity and, consequently, greater overall success.

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