Thursday, July 08, 2010

Depressing survey of L&D

It’s has been claimed by the likes of Donald Taylor and Jay Cross, that training must transform itself or risk being ignored. And there is a feeling in the training world that all is not well, and that the deep, dark secret is that training is regarded by many as second-rate, full of odd people delivering oddball stuff using outdated methods.

For the first time I’ve seen evidence that this may be true. So I draw your attention to this independent survey of decision makers at 100 of the UKs top 500 companies (by turnover):

70% see inadequate staff skills as barrier to growth

40% see risk of employee skills risk being obsolete

55% claim L&D failing to deliver necessary training

46% doubt L&D can deliver

less than 18% agree that L&D aligned with business

(Coleman Parkes Spring 2010)

Too often astrology not astronomy

Worrying or what? Imagine the furore around these stats if applied to your production, finance or marketing department. These stats suggest an L&D lag that threatens to hold organisations back in any economic recovery. What lies at the heart of all this is a non-strategic approach to training and development. The industry is mired in a gooey swamp of faddish, non-empirical and ineffective approaches from fuzzy leadership courses to life coaching and NLP, that ignores key competences. It’s too often astrology and not astronomy.

Outdated delivery

Imagine the production department hand crafting products using cranky old mechanical, as opposed to computer controlled, production tools. Imagine the finance department using pen and paper without the use of spreadsheets and computers. Imagine the marketing department ignoring the breadth of marketing techniques and ignoring online marketing. That’s exactly what training departments so often do – the main form of delivery is STILL largely talk and chalk.

Strategic alignment

Getting our houses in order means producing some real strategic initaives within a change management context. It means shortening courses and replacing many courses with more agile and flexible tools and delivery methods (usually online). It means making courses shorter and cutting curricula to avoid duplication. It means less classrooms and depressing 3 star hotel venues and more fast delivery design and delivery (usually online). It means reorganising L&D around a more flexible and responsive delivery. It means a different set if skills within L&D. It means better evaluation, targeted at the decision makers. It means freeing training from that money-making monopoly the CIPD. Above all it means fostering a spirit of innovation within L&D that matches the aspirational innovation of the organisation.

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16 Comments:

OpenID srleosalazar said...

The numbers are indeed shocking and a real call to action. But why do I get the feeling that your suggestions, while good, are simply making the buggy whip manufacturing process more efficient?

I see a lot of the words "more" and "less" in your list of solutions, while what I had hoped was a true proposal for revolution. What did I hope to see in your list?
- The use of social media in formal learning processes: why forbid the tools that learners are accustomed to and are using every day?
- A call to stop using "trainers": the vast majority don't understand the business anyway, which only reinforces irrelevance. Instead, enable subject matter experts within departments to spread their knowledge and experience amongst their colleagues.
- A focus on business relevance: perhaps a return to classic action learning methods (a la Reg Revens), enhanced through virtual methods, as a way to focus learning on business results.

Innovation? Let's make it a revolution.



It means shortening courses and replacing many courses with more agile and flexible tools and delivery methods (usually online). It means making courses shorter and cutting curricula to avoid duplication. It means less classrooms and depressing 3 star hotel venues and more fast delivery design and delivery (usually online). It means reorganising L&D around a more flexible and responsive delivery. It means a different set if skills within L&D. It means better evaluation, targeted at the decision makers. It means freeing training from that money-making monopoly the CIPD. Above all it means fostering a spirit of innovation within L&D that matches the aspirational innovation of the organisation.

12:26 PM  
Blogger ed.stonestreet said...

A great post, which to me goes to the heart of the matter, how can we (Very broad 'we' in terms of those individuals and companies involved in building, developing, supporting and delivering training and learning) work to change this?

IMHO not by dealing with the L&D dept. I have had far greater success and engagement from the CXOs and strategic thinkers who see value in a more dynamic learning environment.

As you may have picked up from various blogs, tweets etc we at Yoodoo are involved with the delivery of engaging training and marketing. We are fairly content agnostic, although we do work to support our customers on this, and our focus is on ensuring that the user remains engaged and learns by stealth.

I would appreciate any thoughts or guidance you might have on the work we are doing (Have a look at www.yoodoomedia.com for the corporate website and www.yoodoo.biz for our free B2C site targetting wannabee entrepreneurs).

Ed.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Jude said...

interesting!
what you say aligns with what i have found in the day to day life of being an elearning consultant - so much time and opportunity lost on the old argument whether there is a valid argument for putting the training online or not, rather than just getting on with it.
i think there is something to be learned from the education sector about creating effective learning online and making sure its relevant - which is a better understanding and application of LO's. The schools/ed sector is very good at specifying/creating 'small' objects and making 'curricula' - a route through the learning to suit ability & objectives - from many smaller objects. Whereas, when i have worked in ID for the commercial sector the LO 'chunks' (& the way they are intended to link together) - seem to be much larger - making it harder to customize the training to a range of scenarios.
just some thoughts for the pot...

2:00 PM  
Blogger Joanna said...

Yes! Finally another L&D professional who gets it! What do you think it will take to move L&D in a strategic direction? I am constantly surprised by the resistance among my peers to move this way. I'm beginning to think most L&D people, at least in my experience, lack the business acumen to feel comfortable driving strategy. I'd love to know your thoughts.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

sreosalazar
I agree and many of my posts going back over the last four years have made precisely these suggestions. I often give talks at conferences making these radical suggestions.
ed
Good point about appealing straight to decision makers CxOs etc. My own view would be to scarp Kirkpatrick and make evaluation more relevant to these people.
Jude
Not so sure about the revolution in education. In my experience 'education' is largely fixated with teachers and lecturers, not learning per se. However, you have a point, which I've blogged about before, concerning the 'course' fixation.
Joanna
L&D professionals should be forced to do and develop a course on the business/organisation's strategic objectives (not just some hokey induction course). This needn't be long, just quick and relevant. All training should then flow from those strategic aims. Above all,we need less, shorter courses and a more sophisticated view of learning within organisations, not just 'course' timetabling.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Sui Fai John Mak said...

Hi Donald,
"In my experience 'education' is largely fixated with teachers and lecturers, not learning per se." What would you suggest to replace it with? I am a teacher of logistics but have been working in a totally different capacity to the traditional role of a teacher -by working with industry for the past decade.

"L&D professionals should be forced to do and develop a course on the business/organisation's strategic objectives (not just some hokey induction course). This needn't be long, just quick and relevant. All training should then flow from those strategic aims." All agreed. And yes I did.

There are few more considerations when working with industry: are the strategc objectives static or dynamic in these organisations? Who are the ones who need to cope with those changes? I must admit that when I was delivering training in industry, it was far more dynamic, and customer focus than the "traditional hierarchical business model of teaching" in typical institution. It was like living in two different worlds, talking in 2 different languages. But was that expected at work back in the institution? One has to be accountable and responsible to "management", but also deliver a superior service that exceed our corporate client's needs, and that is a different story. Can one serve two masters? Or can we serve both the learners' and organisations' needs? Which are more important?
I have been working in such capacity since 2000, basing upon workplace training and mentoring. The challenge is:"Who are the ones to learn all these? "We" (just a few teachers working as corporate trainers?) have been doing all these for decade, based on connectivist principles, but so what happens? We need to re-think ourselves as ambassadors to our organisation, as change agents and learning partners (expert learners, if ever possible) in order to achieve the goals.
I would respond to your other post on leadership separately.
Thanks again for your insights into this.
Do you have the link to the survey?
John

7:16 AM  
Blogger Garry said...

Where can we get hold of this report? I can track it down.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

I looked into this myself. Commissioned by Capita, but not online. I was sent the Exec Summary. Some would say an interested party, as an outsourcer, but it was done independently. Quantitative interviews by Coleman Parkes, with questionnaire designed by Man Bites Dog, only with organisations that had a dedicated L&D function. Research in accordance with MRS Code of Conduct by trained interviewers to IQCS standards.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Christopher M. Janney said...

I think that the perspective that you present is very much on target Donald, and I believe that there is a type of evolution (a revolution is realy not necessary) that can take place (and is) to make the process applicable, dynamic, and relevant. This process is Human Performance Improvement, and more specifically utilizing the Human Performance Technology (HPT) methodology utilized by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

With this methodology, the focus is on systemically and systematically breaking down the business and creating solutions around the gaps and needs found to exist. Of course, this is not a one time process but rather an ongoing and continuous process. Also, it requires understanding the strategy of the organization and being able to tie all activities to that strategy, and involves inclusion of all stakeholders in achieving the solutions. This is the way that you can tie in all of the previously commented solutions and in such a manner that our industry evolves to where it needs to be today, and continues to grow and evolve from here.

I truly believe that until organizations, as well as practitioners in the field of L&D, identify the need to change, evolve, and grow in this manner we will continue to see a disregard for what we do. Too often we have all fallen in to the trap (many times facilitated by an organization that doesn't support or understand otherwise) of simply trying to be "order takers" and thus completely reactive. That makes us a cost center, not a strategic function of the organization and a proactive profit center.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Peter Casebow said...

My blog on this: http://goodpractice.com/blog/will-ld-take-this-once-in-a-generation-oportunity/

2 key points: Firstly, it's not just learning that is responsible and needs to change, it's the executives who have let them work without holding them accountable. Secondly, this is a great time to be a learning professional and get this sorted out.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

I'm not so optimistic Peter. L&D seems locked into a cycle of faddish, new-age thinking, poor quality courses, expensive non-scalable delivery methods, a deliberate avoidance of 'evidence-based' practice and irrelevant evaluation. It has no real 'voice' as the CIPD has turned into a corrupt, money making machine, serving its managers and not its members.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Peter Casebow said...

Donald, I agree with issues, but I'm hoping the reality of the recession, tighter budgets and the need for change will drive things in the right direction and make both sides realise that it doesn't have to be this way. If the CIPD is not the right voice for the industry who is or what needs to be done to create the leadership the profession needs, because I agree it must be much more grounded in evidence and focussed on performance outcomes.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Nick Shackleton-Jones said...

On reflection, I still prefer cookery/chemistry over astrology/astronomy: I don't doubt that there are inspiring things happening in classrooms, but these rely more on instinct than science (I have been quite happy to listen to you talk, on occasion).

My point is this: unless we make real progress in our understanding of learning, then online will fare no better (and often worse) than traditional methods.

I agree with the evaluation point - but principally because good evaluation will only confirm what we already know to be true: we don't know how learning works.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Neil Lasher said...

Oh you know how to set the world alight! So here is my two penneth to add as I agree with a lot of the comments.

First, give L&D a place on the board instead of HR. Let HR go back to dealing with staffing and let L&D help actually power the business.

Second, stop asking the top 500 cash wasters and use what they say as the rule, ask 500 mid size companies and get a representative view of the real world.

Fully agree about throwing out old styles and fluffy training, but first throw out the old school embedded in these companies and let new blood start to get a hand in running them. Only 23 out of top 200 companies are run by GenX the rest by Baby Boomer. No wonder we are stuck in the past!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Charles Jennings said...

I've just got to read this post, Donald. Excellent summary!

Although there are pockets of innovation and impact coming from L&D in some organisations, the overall picture is bleak. The data you quote seem to verify that.

One of the problems is that there's still an overwhelming focus by L&D practitioners on courses, content and process as the answers to everything, no matter what the question. Yet content is ever in flux, courses are generally ineffective and certainly inefficient, and process is the last hiding place of the incompetent.

These need to be replaced by a keen focus on speed-to-competence, activity (creating & supporting workplace learning experiences) and meaningful output. The old content-centric, process-heavy model is well past it's sell-by date.

There certainly needs to be some major and rapid changes in approach and business focus if L&D is ever to become a strategic business driver.

Charles

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting reading, and I absolutely agree with you about the need for strategic direction. But its lack/absence is not always the fault of the L&D dep't itself. I'm an L&D officer in UK local government, and have been frustrated for a long time by the fact that there is no clear organisational strategy, and it is therefore, IMO, impossible for us to have a clear L&D strategy. Strategic aims are (to borrow your word) 'gooey' - they amount to "Serve local people as well as we can with the limited money we've got" - which gives those of us in L&D no clues about development needs and priorities. We spend a lot of time telling senior managers what *we* think they need in the way of L&D, often based on what's causing the organisation difficulty, rather than what it's trying to achieve and how - because it doesn't know what this is. What I'm saying, in a nutshell, is don't blame L&D for being unfocused when leaders themselves don't have a strategy!

10:35 AM  

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