Transatlantic trends

Whatever differences world events are highlighting between us and our American cousins at the moment, the training and HR community continues to share common ground and concerns.

The results of the first Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey reveal that on both sides of the pond, organisations are keen to see line managers taking responsibility for the transfer of learning into the workplace and they are encouraging participants to accept the onus of learning transfer themselves.

Take-up of on-the-job training and coaching, in keeping with the climate identified by this magazine and separate research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, are increasing.

However, investment in instructor-led training, which all respondents acknowledge as effective, is expected to fall away over the next few years as other methods snap at its heels.

The differences between the nations are found in the application of technology. For example, the survey found that 49 per cent of North American organisations use a learning management system, while the UK the figure is only 25 per cent.

Online learning
North America is forecasting an increase in e-learning from 15.3 per cent of training outputs to 29.1 per cent by 2006. This represents a doubling in the amount of online learning used over the next two to three years.

A similar doubling in online learning is forecast by UK respondents but the UK is starting from a much lower base. At present, e-learning accounts for just 8.7 per cent of training outputs in the UK.

By 2005, this percentage is expected to have increased to 12.9 per cent, and to 16.4 per cent the following year.

Effectiveness
Survey respondents were asked to assess the effectiveness of different training methods. It is useful to state these as simply as possible to show the marked contrasts between UK and US counterparts.

When listed in order of effectiveness, with the first method regarded as “the most effective”, UK respondents ranked them as follows:



  • Instructor-led training
  • On-the-job training
  • Coaching
  • Blended learning
  • Learning from peers and colleagues
  • Self-study methods
  • E-learning.

When compared with the UK view, it appears that North Americans have a much more positive perception of the effectiveness of blended learning. They ranked the learning methods as follows:



  • Blended learning
  • Instructor-led training
  • On-the-job training
  • Coaching
  • Learning from peers
  • E-learning
  • Self-study.

Efficiency
Respondents were asked to assess the efficiency of different training methods where efficiency was defined as producing “a result that is compatible with the cost and time incurred in the purchase/development and delivery.”

Again, opinions expressed in the UK differed widely from those from the US. Listing the methods in order with the most efficient first, the UK respondents rated the methods as follows:



  • On-the-job training
  • Coaching
  • Blended learning
  • Instructor-led training
  • Learning from peers
  • E-learning
  • Self-study.

However, in North America, the primary position was given to blended learning. The US rankings for efficiency are as follows:



  • Blended learning
  • E-learning
  • Coaching
  • Learning from peers
  • On-the-job training
  • Instructor-led training
  • Self-study.

When combining the responses regarding both the effectiveness and efficiency of each training method, the view overall from both nations is that facilitated learning in the workplace is equally as strong as e-learning and blended learning approaches in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.

Planning
People development professionals in the UK and US feel that they are facing similar pressures when planning a new training solution.
They feel that time is of the essence, as 90.9 per cent of respondents cited participant time commitment as the most significant factor.

This is closely followed by how the learning will be transferred back to the workplace at 85.3 per cent, and then trainer time commitment, delivery time frames and delivery logistics.

Participant time is universally regarded as the most important factor when developing a training solution but the UK and North America differ widely on the importance of participant costs.

For example, 76.3 per cent of UK respondents see participant costs as important when developing a new training solution, compared with 54 per cent of North Americans.

The survey raises the point that less money – and therefore less stress – is important for North Americans. The biggest response from the US was for a price range of $1-130 in daily participant costs, whereas in the UK, 23.7 per cent apply a daily participant cost of between £151 and £225.

However, the financial burden seems to be one that all parties are able to live with, as more than half the respondents said they were not seeking to reduce participant costs in the future, and of those who had cited participant costs as a factor to consider when planning a new training programme, 45.6 per cent were not looking to reduce the costs.

Time factors
Like money, time is not an issue for some respondents. But when it is mentioned as a factor taken into account when developing a new training programme, both those in the UK and North America wish to reduce it by as much as 50 per cent.

Budget allocation
Staying with the subject of money, the survey asked UK and US people development professionals how they planned to allocate their training budgets over the next few years.

The survey detected a decrease in instructor-led training at the expense of blended learning, coaching and facilitated on-the-job training. For example, coaching will be attracting 10.6 per cent of budget in the UK by 2006, from its current base of 8.2 per cent.

In the US, there are predictions that e-learning will be funded by 27.2 per cent of training budgets by 2006, a substantial increase from its present funding of 19.8 per cent.

Save on budget
As the training climate shifts to e-learning, blended learning and coaching, these methods will allow for more training outputs,  while requiring a smaller proportion of the budget.

Overall, blended learning requires 11.3 per cent of training budgets to provide 12.5 per cent of training outputs. In 2006, it is forecast to take 18 per cent of the budget but to deliver 23.6 per cent of training outputs, so it could be argued that it is becoming cheaper.

Training transfer
While both the UK and the US are developing an appetite for coaching and mentoring, the role of the mentor or professional coach is largely undeveloped.

The survey shows just 18.6 per cent of respondents cite them as responsible for ensuring that training is put into practice.

Looking to the future, it is hoped that there will be a greater shift of emphasis to the line manager and participant taking more responsibility from the HR and training department for the transfer of learning into practice.

The current percentage of HR and training departments that say they are responsible for ensuring that training happens (72.4), is forecast to fall to 57.7 per cent, whereas the role of line managers is set to rise to 85.7 per cent (from 61.9 per cent) and that of participants to rise to 76.2 per cent.

In the future, the percentage of mentors or professional coaches who ensure training happens will increase significantly to 32.5 per cent.
British companies are obviously doing a good job in winning over the line managers to play more of a role in the transfer of learning, as 72 per cent of UK respondents recorded this option.

In comparison, 53.3 per cent of their US counterparts noted line management involvement.
A resounding 91.5 per cent of UK respondents want to see the line manager’s role increase, and 80.7 per cent of US respondents say they have the same aspiration.

Focus on blended learning
North America is showing a higher propensity to use blended learning than the UK.

According to the Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey, 76.7 per cent of North American respondents are using this method, compared with 55.9 per cent of respondents in the UK.

Technology is far from dominating the blended approach. For example, the survey shows that e-learning is not as popular a component of blended activities as instructor-led training, and that e-learning is used in less than a quarter of programmes on average.

E-learning overall is surpassed by the use of workbooks and other print-based materials, but US-based programmes make more extensive use of technology than those from the UK, and are less likely to use workbooks and other print-based materials.

Stateside approaches to learning
A professor once said to me: “Take full advantage of your college experience. Where else will you have the time and luxury to learn?” writes Sabrina Hicks, senior associate editor of T+D Magazine, published by the ASTD.

He was right. Once you take a seat in the workforce, there’s little time for organised learning. But Balance Learning’s survey attempts to show that there is a way to incorporate learning with a productive work environment: blended learning.

Readers of T+D Magazine, published by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) will find it interesting that, even with the current emphasis on e-learning, US respondents (78.5 per cent) cited blended learning as the most efficient form of training.

Even more intriguing, the overall statistics indicate that the use of blended learning is expected to match that of e-learning by 2006. Apparently, a blended approach offers learning benefits that workforces on both sides of the Atlantic are searching for.

But the UK and US have even more in common. When asked what factors they consider when planning and researching a new training solution, US and UK respondents agree on a few top drivers: to have frontline managers more committed to the transfer of learning (US 60.7 per cent, UK 77.1 per cent), to cut delivery costs (US 74 per cent, UK 83.1 per cent), and to decrease participant time away from the job (US 90.7 per cent, UK 91.5 per cent).

These statistics reveal that training professionals across the globe are becoming more aware of how to connect what they do to business results. The days of training for training’s sake are over.

Trainers now know that they must illustrate how training affects the bottom line if they are to win the approval of management – and provide employees with good, effective learning experiences.

Successfully matching subjects and methods
UK trainers use a wider variety of methods to deliver leadership and management training. They are likely to call on:



  • Instructor led-training
  • Coaching
  • Blended learning
  • E-learning
  • Facilitated on-the-job training
  • Self-study
  • Learning from peers and colleagues.

North American trainers used all of these to a lesser degree except for learning from peers and colleagues, which is used in 52 per cent of cases.

Reversing the trend seen in the rest of the survey, the UK demonstrates a higher likelihood of using e-learning for IT skills training (70.7 per cent in the UK as opposed to 43.9 per cent in the US).

Survey profile
The Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey 2004 was developed by Balance Learning and is supported by Training Magazine and Venture Marketing in the UK, and by Training and Development Magazine, published by the ASTD in the US. A wide variety of industries was represented.

 

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