Monday 18 May 2009

When the Game's Up

Last month I was asked to give my thoughts on the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) 2009 Annual Learning & Development Survey.

One thing became clear when I examined the CIPD data. It was that many L&D professionals (in the UK at least) seem to lack the innovation necessary to push the profession forward to become a leader rather than a follower.

Of course there are exceptions but based on the data in the 2009 Survey L&D is simply not doing enough.

The survey results suggests that the majority of time is still spent in designing and delivering instructor-led courses and curricula.

This should be a real worry to everyone involved in the profession because that game’s well-and-truly up, and has been for some time.

Training/L&D is a big business. In 2007 organisations in the US spent $134.39 billion (that’s right BILLION) on employee learning and development (reported in the 2008 ASTD ‘State of the Industry’ publication). Yet studies have shown that only a small % of this spend actually results in improved performance in the workplace – the Baldwin, Ford & Weissbein studies estimate that not more than 10% of spend transfers to the job.

Yet if the CIPD data is to be believed, over the past 2 years (when the budget pressure has really been on) only 39% of UK organisations have introduced or extended the use of eLearning – for which I think we can read ‘technology-supported learning’ as a whole.

And conversely, the time L&D staff spend ‘delivering courses/time in a training facility’ is still a staggering 46% – down just 3% from the previous year. An additional 46% of time is spent in the overall management/planning of L&D activities.

This means that many Training/L&D staff only plan, develop and deliver ILT training and have no time to do anything else.

What’s happening here?

Well, for a start, only 7% of the L&D Survey respondents thought that eLearning was one of the most effective practices, and only 27% viewed on-the-job training as the most effective L&D practice.

So even L&D professionals haven’t done their research and reading. They are not champions of ‘new world’ approaches.

There’s enough evidence now to show that Instructor-Led Training is not effective as an approach for the majority of employee development. ILT may be helpful for some change management and big-picture ‘concept’ development, but it is demonstrably the least effective and certainly the least efficient approach for most learning that’s required.

The millions of $ / £ / € / ¥ spent on ILT for systems and process training, for instance, are 100% waste of time and money. This training is invariably content-heavy and people can’t retain what they’ve been taught for more than a few hours unless they have the chance to put it into practice in the workplace(which they invariably can’t as the training is carried out pre-rollout/pre-upgrade).

We’d be better off giving our employees the money we spend for training them in classrooms on CRM and ERM systems and letting them go to the pub to spend it themselves – we’d all get better value through a more engaged and less stressed workforce.

If you would like to read a report of my presentation that appeared in PEOPLE MANAGEMENT you’ll find it HERE

The CIPD’s summary of the 2009 Survey can be found HERE.


  1. Charles, spot on. If you take elearning to mean portals, performance support, social media, mobile, sims/games, etc, as well as traditional a/synch, the sum total of what we *could* be doing with that money to really impact the workplace is staggering. It's some sort of mass hallucination that we keep doing the same thing for the same little effect. Can you say "flat learning curve"? Thanks for the insightful review!

  2. Charles. Yes, the game is up for ILT but i don't think most e-learning offers much of an alternative. There can he highly effective ILT as well as e-learning if it is loaded with real world practice, feedback, simulation and connection to job tasks. It's not really the mode of delivery bu the quality of the design that makes a difference. I think the real change needs to come in how we foster and use informal learning and performance support in the workplace.

  3. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Tom. A lot of eLearning is simply an electronic replication of mediocre ILT with few, if any, links to what happens in the workplace, little opportunity to practice, and certainly not drawing on the 'cooperative advantage' of sharing experiences of participants.

    eLerning courses are often based on the same ineffective 'expert-at-arm's length sharing their knowledge' content-centric model that many ILT courses use.

    I think that it's this model that's broken, not the channel of delivery.

  4. This is the first year that the CIPD is moving its conference from Harrogate to Manchester on the 17-19 November. It will be interesting to see how this move works. certainly moving from Harrogate - when it was the only conference in town, to Manchester where there will be other events on at the same time will be a cultural change for the event in many ways..


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