A cloud of pessimism threatens training and development departments. Many professionals are feeling the pinch as adverse economic conditions impact on training spend and they fight to overcome reluctance from staff to engage in learning.
These are some of the key findings in the Training and Development Survey 2005 from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), published to coincide with the institute’s forthcoming HRD Week Conference and Exhibition (12-14 April, London Olympia).
The findings make slightly depressing reading, but could also be taken as useful pointers for people development professionals still striving to make a mark on the business. The winning individuals and organisations in the next few years will be those that can read these signals and adapt accordingly.
Economic conditions have a huge influence on training funding. The CIPD has looked at the conditions facing organisations and their impact on budgets.
Across all sectors, 15% of respondents feel they have seen an improvement in economic conditions in the past 12 months, while 33% feel that things have deteriorated. This leaves nearly half the respondents noticing no change.
When analysed by sector, public sector training managers have the most negative outlook, with almost half thinking matters are worse, compared to 27% in the private sector and 32% in the voluntary sector.
The private sector marginally has more reason to be optimistic with 18% feeling that economic conditions in the past 12 months have improved. But in the public sector, the proportion of respondents who believe that the funding situation has improved has fallen from 13% to 11%.
Overall, the majority of respondents think that training budgets have stayed at a similar level to previous years. However, public sector respondents have a negative view, with 29% believing that the funding situation is worse, as opposed to 23% in the private sector, and 25% in the voluntary sector.
Looking ahead, 20% of all training managers expect an increase in funding over the next year, with fractionally more, at 23%, expecting a reduction.
The most gloom is felt among public sector managers, with 32% expecting funding to fall. As the CIPD points out, this is somewhat of a puzzle as government spending has actually continued to rise in the past year.
Possible reasons for this pessimism include “low manager morale throughout the public sector and money being diverted away from training to increase pay levels in order to confront recruitment and retention difficulties,” says the CIPD.
The old favourites still dominate the list of popular training activities, but a strong showing by the newer and informal methods indicates that their dominance may not last for much longer.
As the graph shows, traditional training options such as on-the-job training and formal education courses are by far the most frequently used people development methods.
The widespread use of on-the-job learning reflects the fact that it was considered the most effective way for staff to learn, as revealed in the CIPD’s recent Who learns at Work? survey.
Some newer methods are gaining ground, but coaching by line managers is used by almost nine in 10 respondents, and around two-thirds say they use external practitioners to coach staff.
A significant increase is expected in coaching by line managers, as 74% of respondents are predicting this change over the next few years. Two-thirds of the respondents expect to increase their use of mentoring and buddying schemes, while more than half say they will make more use of on-the-job training.
More traditional methods, such as formal education courses, external conference and instructor-led training, are predicted to increase more slowly over the next few years.
The CIPD asked its respondents to give effectiveness ratings for training methods. Again, the old favourites came off best, with on-the-job training, and instructor-led training delivered offsite, leading the pack.
One of the more startling observations is that while more people use line managers to coach their staff rather than external coaching practitioners, the external coaches are seen to be more effective. This is ironic, given the constant battle to involve line managers in training.
Action learning sets and learning resource received the least votes of the methods suggested.
Technology is making its mark via informal learning in the workplace. When the CIPD asked respondents about the extent to which informal learning takes place in the workplace, the internet or a company intranet are jointly the most frequently used informal learning activity, with 60% of respondents reporting that workers frequently use the internet for research purposes, and only 7% saying the method is rarely used.
However, with a close eye on relevance to the business perhaps, a third of respondents feel that challenging work assignments help to foster informal learning among employees in their organisation.
Last year, Training Magazine conducted the Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey, developed by Balance Learning and supported by US-based Training and Development Magazine, published by the ASTD.
The sections of the CIPD survey relating to the use of blended and e-learning pick up on the general mood indicated by that 2004 survey.
Many of those not using e-learning plan to introduce it in the coming year, and among those already using it, 71% say that they will increase its usage in the next few years.
In keeping with the Training Magazine survey findings, e-learning is most likely to be used for IT training (rated by 70% of CIPD respondents and 70.7% of Training Magazine respondents).
These figures are followed up by other types of non-people skills in the CIPD survey , with e-learning used for technical training (45%) health and safety (34%) and induction training (33 %).
In the survey, the CIPD explains that it was looking to find out how many people believe that e-learning is more effective when combined with other forms of learning. It repeated an exercise from its Training and Development 2002 survey, and found a significant increase in the number of people who believe e-learning is more effective when combined with other forms of learning – 94% now, compared with 63% in 2002. This reflects the popularity of blended learning, which has become increasingly popular in the past few years as training professionals have found ways to support learners.
The key benefit of e-learning is that it is available ‘just in time’ and can be used continuously.
Respondents expect a more demanding future in terms of their skills requirements. They generally anticipate a higher level and a broader range to be required over the next few years.
The main drivers to this are the need to meet the requirements of organisational strategy and the demands of legal and technological requirements.
Cost constraints are the major negative force against this impetus, with 65% reporting this limitation as a barrier, and 41% believing that their employees are not interested in developing their skills.
TOP SKILLS NEEDS
When asked ‘which skills does your organisation need to develop in order to fulfil requirements in three years’ time?’, respondents listed, in order:
1 Management and leadership
3 Business skills
4 Customer service
5 Advanced technical skills
6 Broader skillsets
7 Coaching and mentoring
9 IT skills
10 Ability to adapt easily to change
To read more on the survey and essays commissioned to analyse specific elements from the results visit the CIPD website.