Throughout my career, especially in sales-driven or marketing-driven companies, I have always advocated for the alignment of business priorities, people strategy and constant training even if we don’t have the budget for it. WHY? It’s simply because acquisition and customer retention are affected primarily by sales executives and customer service staff—and they need to be highly motivated and equipped to be effective at their work!
In the same manner, I have always pushed for the HR agenda to be on the executive table. What do not sit well with me are HR groups that operate in silos as if their recruitment and practices do not directly affect our productivity levels. I believe that while the HR strategy belongs to the HR department, people strategy should belong to every manager. Hence, I would always meddle with the learning opportunities, of at least my team (even to the extent of creating teaching or coaching sessions via Skype with our international colleagues).
That’s what I love about the work that I do in training and development, particularly in Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy and its learning events arm, Salt & Light Ventures. We get to recommend and provide business improvement tool designed to advance an organization’s performance through the management and development of their people—proposing integrated models or frameworks that bring forth synergy and uses learning activities and metrics to measure results in relation to overall performance.
For over 15 years in the Learning and Development (L&D) business, I have observed trends in L&D practice and the broader learning landscape. I’ve seen the industry evolve 2 times from people management to talent management and from technology age to the people age. Each year the practice evolves attempting to address the key issues facing the L&D community.
Here in the Philippines, we asked our clients what do they consider to be most effective in the aspect of L&D. Our top clients have identified these findings below:
The top five most commonly used methods in facilitating learning and development among employees:
- On-the-job training (almost half said this)
- In-house trainings, whether subcontracted or internally developed
- Online learning (which includes webinars, mobile or platform-based)
- Coaching or learning from peers, and
- External conferences, workshops and events
Aside from online learning and external conferences, these methods were also among the top five most effective, with the addition of coaching, face-to-face interactions and job rotation, secondment and shadowing.
On-the-job training was considered to be the most effective learning practice, while online learning, external events and instructor-led training event were among the least effective.
The findings indicate that there is common agreement on the use and effectiveness of on-the-job training, coaching and in-house development, while respondents challenge the effectiveness of current forms of online learning. Most of these professionals consider coaching to be more pervasive on its effectiveness. This further suggests that these companies embed coaching in their operations.
From a global perspective, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK conducted their Annual Survey Report 2015 on Learning and Development and found out that in-house methods of delivery remain more popular than external methods and are expected to grow further in use.
These are global trends that you simply can’t afford to ignore. As the world of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace, we have a fantastic opportunity to encourage long-term sustainable growth in organizations through effective L&D practice. Let me share with you some of my insights from this survey. My desire is to help you reflect on your current practice and identify key areas for change.
More internal and less external trainings. On-the-job training, in-house development programs and coaching by line managers or peers remain the most commonly used and the most effective development methods. External training or development events, instructor-led training delivered off the job and coaching by external practitioners are considerably less likely to be perceived as effective by organizations. Larger organizations are particularly likely to favor internal over external activities, presumably and primarily due to economies of scale. I expect the use of the current most popular methods like coaching by line managers or peers will grow further.
But don’t get me wrong, formal programs and courses will still continue to play a key role in L&D. But the survey findings is suggesting a growing shift towards creating a learning culture, with increased use of internal knowledge-sharing events, job rotation, secondment and shadowing, action learning sets and collaborative and social learning.
Looking forward, L&D professionals like my team expect to see a continued shift towards integration with the business strategy and more emphasis on monitoring and evaluation. That’s why we’re building our capacity to be able to do just that.
Increasingly aligned with the business—but still a way to go. The survey says that one-fourth of the organizations broadly aligned their L&D objectives with business strategy hence the need for trainings to be conducted in-house within controlled environment. The major changes to L&D over the next two years will focus on closer alignment with the business strategy and more emphasis on monitoring and evaluation.
Devolving responsibility to learners and line managers also commonly among the top changes include a greater use of self-directed learning (learners identifying and meeting their own development needs) among the top three major changes of the next two years. Organizations that have aligned their L&D strategy to the needs of the business are more likely to anticipate greater use of self-directed learning.
The most common barriers are L&D practitioners’ lack of clarity regarding the business strategy and lack of resources, but also lack of interest or understanding of the purpose and capability of L&D from business leaders.
Some respondents anticipate greater use of user-generated content, reflecting the need for agility and flexibility in meeting bespoke individual needs.
Increased use of technology is also anticipated. Three-fifths expect their use of e-learning courses to grow, over a third see their use of virtual classrooms and webinars rising, and a quarter anticipate an increase in mobile device-based learning. But not all technologies are being embraced. Organizations are split on whether their use of massive open online courses and “gamified learning” will increase or decrease.
Learning technologies are more common in larger organizations. Larger organizations are more likely to include e-learning courses and blended learning among their most common L&D practices. They are also more likely to anticipate that blended learning, mobile device-based learning, gamified learning, virtual classrooms and webinars will grow in use in their organizations in the next two years.
Regardless of size, private and public organizations are more likely than production/ manufacturing and non- profit organizations to predict an increase in their use of mobile device-based learning, virtual classrooms and webinars. They are also more likely to anticipate that user-generated content and collaborative and social learning will increase.
External activities are more common in smaller than larger organizations. While the overall trend is for greater use of internal over external activities, smaller organizations (fewer than 250 employees) are more likely to use external conferences, workshops and events than in-house development programs. They are also more likely to increase their use of external conferences, workshops and events over the next two years, while larger organizations are more likely to reduce their use. Smaller organizations are also more likely than larger ones to include coaching by external practitioners among their most used methods, although the use of internal over external coaches remains more common across all size categories.
The continuing rise of coaching and mentoring. Survey says seventy five percent of organizations offer coaching or mentoring to employees, and is more common in larger organizations. Here we’ll see in-house coaches/trained peers and line managers. A further third use a combination of in-house and external coaches. A significant number will still rely solely on external providers, although this is more common in smaller organizations with fewer than 250 employees.
We are seeing ongoing recognition of the importance of greater alignment with the business. Our findings point to the benefits this has in a number of areas—for example, increased clarity of purpose, how effectively people management practices support leadership development, and ability to quantify L&D’s impact on productivity.
As we continue to grow in meeting the needs of our clients, we are moving towards training content being developed from scratch whether solely by our team or in collaboration with client’s internal L&D practitioners. One approach is adapting or curating existing internal or external materials while another is developing user-generated content (learners creating and sharing their own learning materials or content). There is, however, considerable variation across various organizations depending on organizational size or sector.
As L&D professionals, we face a stimulating and challenging future in meeting organizational and learner requirements in fast-paced and busy environments.
L&D teams need to continue to work collaboratively across the organization to ensure that current and future business needs are met and that L&D is agile, effective and timely. Technological developments and emerging insights from other disciplines have great potential to aid this process—but only if the capability to exploit these tools and techniques are developed concurrently.
We therefore need to keep an eye on the future, to understand the evolving learning landscape, while continuing to build the professional competencies we need today to drive and sustain organizational success.
Boris Joaquin is the Editor-in-Chief of Workwise Asia. He is also a corporate trainer, executive coach and consultant, and is president and co-founder of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy. He is one of the few registered Investors in People Specialist in the country. He is married to FamilyWise Asia Editor-in-Chief Michelle Joaquin and they have two daughters, Ysobel and Julia.