Trainers get a good report for the year

A new IPD trends report casts the future as bright for the training sector,
with greater backing, bigger budgets and a more proactive approach taking them
into the 21st century. Tom Powdrill reports.

If the IPD’s latest survey on training is any guide to what is actually
going on in organisations, then training managers could be forgiven for
thinking they are in a good position at the moment.

Chief findings point to a growing commitment to training from employers,
with a larger proportion of organisations having a training budget. In fact,
the total number of respondents with a training budget was 89.2 per cent, up
12.5 per cent on the first IPD training survey last year. A rise of more than
10 per cent can only be seen as a good sign.

Just over half of respondents also said they expect an increase in
expenditure on training over the following year, whereas only about 5 per cent
said they think there will be a fall.

Perhaps surprisingly the focus of this extra expenditure is likely to be
spread evenly across managerial and professional staff, non-managerial and
white-collar staff, and manual employees. Just under 55 per cent said they
expect an increase for professionals, while 47.6 per cent expect an increase in
training expenditure for manual staff.

Business issues

The IPD has also taken a close look at how aware trainers are of strategic
business issues. One perception of training provision is that it is largely
reactive, driven by actual requests from either managers or staff. Clearly, if
training is to be viewed as an essential component in an organisation, there
has to be some evidence of understanding business strategy.

When trainers were asked for their opinions on the importance of various
strategic business issues driving training there was recognition of the
importance of effective use of staff and organisational development. This
suggests there is an awareness of organisational needs.

What is more interesting, however, is the IPD’s analysis of how trainers
assess training needs and whether this is linked to business objectives. Here
it is clear that requests from management and staff are the real drivers.

The study asked trainers which techniques they use for identifying needs –
95.7 per cent use requests from line managers; 93.2 per cent employee requests.
This is not particularly surprising until you compare it with the response rate
for other methods – less than half use project analysis and even less use
cost-benefit analysis.

In fact the low showing for this last category is not quite that simple, as
another interesting fact picked up by the report is the clear split here
between public and private sectors. In the private sector, 60 per cent of
organisations use a cost-benefit analysis compared with 36.7 per cent in the
public sector. Still, three-quarters of trainers also rank training audits and
analyses of business plans as informers.

The IPD suggests that the recognition of such issues is a sign that training
managers are becoming more proactive, and business-focused, in their approach.
But the report also makes the point that there is a gap between trainer
aspirations and what actually happens when methods are ranked by importance
against regularity of use.

Skills ranking

It is also worth jumping to a later section of the report to see how
trainers actually see themselves. The IPD asked trainers to rank the skills
they feel are important to ensuring they perform their job effectively.
Knowledge of people management came out as the most important; the next most
highly-rated skill was knowledge of business objectives. So while trainers do
value a business perspective on what they do, the real issue is whether these
aspirations are put into practice.

Method analysis

Another interesting point arising in the skills rated by trainers is new
training technology, which is ranked as the seventh most important. Undoubtedly
a hot issue of the moment is the increasing use of technology in training, but
how does the reality match up to the hype?

Not surprisingly, traditional methods of training still dominate with more
than nine out of 10 respondents still using on-the-job training, face-to-face
training and formal education courses.

By contrast, use of the Internet and the intranet is reported by only about
a third of respondents. Despite this, the use of the Internet in training was
up by more than 10 per cent compared with the IPD’s previous survey. Meanwhile,
CD-Roms, other computer-based training and video-based learning are all used by
more than half of the respondents. Clearly, the use of technology is becoming a
core skill for trainers.

Finally, the IPD provides a useful snapshot of what trainers expect to be
important issues over the next couple of years.

Once again there is a clear recognition of the importance of delivering the
goods to the business. Top of the list is linking training to performance,
followed by evaluating cost-effective training. Use of Web-based learning is
surprisingly low on the list, although 25 per cent of trainers still think it
is very important.

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