L+D – the search for relevance

The new CIPD Learning and Development report has been released. You can find it here.

I thought, as an experiment, I’d have a crack at writing my thoughts down as I read it – and we’d see where that took us to. I changed my mind and left you with a summary of the foreword and then some thoughts on how some of the key findings may be interlinked

The Foreword – some thoughts

  • Apparently L&D functions are ‘professionalising’ their approach (which is apparently important due to VUCA and big data is getting more important). Given that L&D professionals have always been paid to do work this raises the question of whether we could be defined as unprofessional before – and what professional standards must be agreed for folk to hit the new definition of ‘professionalism’. Sukh Pabial’s post on entry into the profession is well worth a read
  • Google Glass is described as an available Learning Technology – which given how tricky it is to get hold of feels a bit ambitious.
  • The conclusion that you need to know what works to have impact seems absolutely perfectly sensible. That conclusion cuts through a lot of waffle

The Summary of Key Findings

  • Spending per employee is down 5.6% (£286 down from £303 in 2013). This could be explained by less reliance on external providers for coaching and a reduction in the amount of e-learning used (which often requires an external spend). The trend seems driven by a steep decline in Manufacturing and production L+D spend
  • L&D departments are becoming more business focused – which seems a prudent move when 19% have seen redundancies in the last 12 months
  • The most effective interventions are rated as coaching, in house development and mentoring and buddying
  • The biggest problems impacting leadership capability are lack of confidence to manage underperformance and excessive workload of managers. Also inadequate training crops up…
  • Learning about emerging trends in L&D is regarded as less important for success than business knowledge, commercial acumen and the ability to work collaboratively
  • The use of Kirkpatrick to evaluate ROI has increased (up from 18% usage in 2013 to 33% usage) but a new measure of ‘direct observation of changes in employee behaviour/activity’ which wasn’t included in 2013 is the most common method of testing effectiveness.
  • There is more emphasis on ROI from L+D – but this may be driven out of an attempt to be relevant as, bizarrely, the biggest issue to measuring effectiveness (66%) is that managers and leaders in the business don’t prioritise this.

What is clear from the results is a search, not necessarily for excellence, but initially for relevance. Understandable where there is a downward pressure on cost – let us prove we make a difference.

It paints a picture, for me, of a profession attempting to get closer to the business where it can see the impact if has on people up close. Of a profession attempting to build relationships in order to be able to work with people more closely to get things done – not fussed with finding ways to utilise Google Glass but focused on delivering the core components of coaching, mentoring, talent management and education. A profession focused on supporting line managers and leaders to manage performance more effectively, to manage their workload more effectively (they are linked…) and to give them the training they need to perform.

Sometimes you don’t need anything new – you just need to put what you already have into practice.

Be awesome


It doesn’t mean that ‘new’ isn’t valuable or that progress isn’t important – but progress can happen conversation by conversation and interaction by interaction.  The observation in the foreword was that in order to add value you need to understand what works. Our passion to put new things into our toolkit might easily blind us to the fact we already have the tools to do the job. I love new things – but we all need to ensure we aren’t distracted from what is needed by what is possible.

If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail… but if you need to hit a nail – your trusty hammer is the thing to turn to. Don’t bother with the trip to B&Q.

It seems that the most common understanding of what works for L&D is getting close to the business and then working collaboratively with people until they change behaviours/activity in a demonstrable way. Apparently, whilst we focus more and more on ROI, businesses are actually saying they can’t be bothered with it – but they have some real issues they’d like us to help them solve.

The future is coming – but it might just look very similar to what we had in the past. For now.

I’m well aware there is more than one way to interpret the date – so please comment if you have a different view.

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