Career Progression, Professional Development and VET

I wrote about this topic almost 12 months ago, (I don’t want to be a trainer all my life) but a couple of conversations I have had recently have got me thinking again about the whole concept of career progression, talent management and succession in both organisational L&D and the VET sector.  As I sit back and look at the world of Learning and Development and Training, after having been involved in it for quite a lot of years, in all parts of the industry, accredited and non-accredited, public and non-public, delivery, management, strategy, in very large enterprises and small ones, I realise that the path I took to get to where I am was (like with most of the other people I know) quite crooked, there was very little in the way of straight line progression in terms of moving from one role to another and gradually climbing some career progression ladder.  Not that these days it seems there is really that linear progression in terms of careers which were very much part of the generations before us.  The other thing I noticed was that there was very little in the way of mentoring or talent management in any part of my career.  I was essentially left to my own resources.

Which brings me to the subject of professional development and how it ties into career progression and talent management.  It seems to me that the world of Professional Development in the VET sector is divided into two distinct streams;

  1. How to be a better trainer (which includes look at this lovely new piece of technology)
  2. How to meet compliance standards

Now some might try and paint their PD programs to make them look like they are something else, but in reality at least from what I can see the vast majority of PD falls into these two categories.  Please note that I am intentionally avoiding talking about any PD that relates to industry currency that is a whole different ball game altogether.  So my question is where are the professional development programs around leadership, ethics, management (not compliance management, management), mentoring.  There are a whole range of skills that just don’t seem to make it onto the PD offerings for training professionals.  Now I know what some of you are going to say, that sort of stuff is available through other avenues and generalist programs and you are probably right, but wouldn’t it be nice, I dare say even useful to have leadership, management and ethics programs that focussed on the sector.  I certainly think it would be.

In order to do that however we would need to know what career progression looks like in this sector, and I am not sure that we do.  One of the problems is of course one that exists in any sector where there are practitioners and administrators/managers, and much like in the social sciences practitioners  at some point have to choose, whether to stay a practitioner or do I want to be a manager.    Trainers and facilitators have to choose as well, do they want to stay heavily involved in the teaching side of the profession or do they want to move over into administration and management.   This is why in a lot of organisations, particularly as the organisation gets bigger, more and more of the management staff coming from the administrative/co-ordination/compliance side of the business than the training side, the move seems a lot easier to make.  And make no mistake this is not just the case in the non-public side of the sector, even in the public (TAFE) side we see the same thing and they have a very structured environment with all of these levels and things for trainers to traverse, but again at some point the trainer has to choose and in the case of TAFE added to the change in focus from actual training to administration which comes with any move like this there is also in a lot of cases a loss of ‘perks’ such as non-contact hours and the like, things that people from the administration side have never really had anyway so they won’t miss them when they move.  The other thing we need to know is what makes a good manager in this sector, what is the skill set of  someone in Educational Management?  We also need to know how to take someone who is a good trainer and help them to become a good manager and we cant do this if we don’t know what we are aiming for.  Then of course it is just a simple matter of getting people on board with the idea of doing something for their staff other than sending them to a conference or a two day program in flipped learning and that more than anything may actually be the biggest challenge.

Creating a High Impact Learning Culture

2013 ASTD State of the Industry Report

So as many of you know I am an avid consumer of the ASTD’s yearly State of the industry Report and guess what, the 2013 edition is now available.

So what does it have to save about the world of L&D this year. Well it is interesting, there is not a lot of change from last years report.  We see that spending on L&D globally was about $164.2 Billion with an average direct expenditure per employee of about $1,195.  In terms of Average Direct Expenditure, this represents a very small ($13) increase over last year.

Again however Learning hours used per employee stuck at around the 30 hours mark, 30.3 this years to be exact.  On suggestion for this stalling over the last four years in the increase in usage of non-traditional instructor led training and the more informal, workplace, just in time learning which is much harder to track and quantify.  We also see that Direct expenditure as percentage of payroll rise only slightly to 3.6% as has the Direct expenditure of percentage of revenue rising slightly to 1.32%.

There has also been little or no change in the percentage of expenditure taken up by internal costs which remains steady at 61.5%, lower that 2009 (62.4%) but higher than last year (60.5%).  There has however, been a not insignificant (5%) drop in the number of employees per L&D staff member which now sits at 299:1, there is an even more startling drop of  around 40%, in this number in the ASTD BEST organisations, taking the number there from 288:1 down to 178:1.

The cost of learning has also gone up both in terms of the cost of providing one hour of training to one employee, rising to $89 and the overall cost of developing one hours training rising to  $1,772, a rise of 20% over the last 4 years.  Some reasons suggested for this increase if the up front costs of technology and the reduction in the ratio of employees to L&D staff members.

Managerial and Supervisory training makes up the largest content area for Learning programs, closely followed by mandatory and compliance training, business process and practices, and industry specific training with these four areas taking up just of 40% of all the learning programs delivered.  How these programs were delivered tells what I think is an interesting story however, while yet again, instructor led classroom delivery dropped (5% down to 54.28) and technology based learning rose slightly to 39.20% which is not unexpected.  What I find interesting is that  All Online delivery has remained around the same percentage, (27.29% this year) since 2008.  When you pair this with the fact that instructor lead training (either classroom or online/remote) accounted for some 70% of all training delivered, it seems to suggest, at least in my opinion that participants like to have instructors to interact with even when utilising online training.  The other final thing I find interesting about the content and delivery data is that while there was a big jump in the percentage of hours used in terms of mobile technologies between 2009 and 2010, this usage has flattened out of the last three years remaining at 1.51%

So what does all this data mean?  A couple of comments I would make would be that

  1. Instructor led learning is still the preferred method of delivery for a large amount of participants,
  2. New technologies may have had a quite significant effect on the overall cost of the development of training,
  3. Mobile learning is not the powerhouse, game changing, way of the future that everyone keeps suggesting it is.

I would be interested to know what others think of the data and what it means for the industry.

The value of Coaching for an Organisation

What is the Value to an Organisation for having an embedded coaching program?

I and a number of my colleagues have been involved over the past 10 months or so in a coaching accreditation program designed to provide us with the skill and competencies to be good or better coaches.   It has involved us being coach/mentored while coaching other staff members and has been an interested experience for both us and the staff we are coaching.  More importantly perhaps it has made us look at the place that coaching has within the organisation and what is  and where does the value in a program like this sit.

Interestingly I think that perhaps when we considered this kind of program we saw the value sitting with those people being coached.  So in providing an opportunity for the staff being coached to grow and develop and become better, more fully engaged and capable members of the organisation.  This thinking has shifted, and while it is still the case that there is value and significant value sometimes for the people being coached, it seems that there is far greater value in the process of coaching and becoming a coach.  So the real value that exists is that by becoming coaches, coaching staff members and being mentored to be a better coach, we have significantly improved the capacity of our senior management cohort as well as its ability to link and communicate with our staff, which to my mind is much more substantial win than we had expected.  The value we are seeing is such that we are seriously considering ‘encouraging’ all of our senior management to become involved in the process of being a coach and being mentored through the process.

I would love to hear other people’s experience of organisational coaching, its effects and where you think the value lies.

Chief Learning Officer 2013 LearningElite Awards

Chief Learning Officer 2013 LearningElite Awards

Executive Education – Is it really all about the name?

I was talking with a couple of fellow L&D folk the other day about programs such as those offered by the Harvard Business School and  the University of Queensland Executive Business School  and what it was that made executive education such a lucrative and high end business and what it was that people actually got from attending one of the prestigious schools of excellence.

After the conversation I was left wondering whether in essence Executive Education is far less about learning things and far more about creating networks and being able to put a prestigious program on your resume.  Now I know that this sounds may sound cynical, but it is not actually meant to be.  We are generally talking here about people with wide experience, already with high level qualifications, for whom learning has, at least in my experience become incrimental, a good idea, piece of knowledge, or a new framework, which extends their mindset and model fo the world, rather than the rapid expansion of knowledge and skills we tend to find with earlier career education.

Given that this is the case it does seem to be the case, it does seem that the networking aspect of these programs is at least as important as the education one.  But what makes certain programs better therefore, is the quality of the participants just as important as the quality of the facilitators?  If this is the case then are what we really paying for the ability to network and ‘work’ with individuals with whom we may not have been able to in any other setting.

I would be interested in other peoples opinions.

Is this training course any good?

I really do wish I had $1 for every time a manager or a staff member has asked me that question.  It usually comes in an email with a flyer about some program or other that has landed in their inbox (electronic or otherwise) and its sparks interest for either themselves or a staff member.

Of course how does one determine if a course or a program is good or valuable or will produce a discernible ROI for the organisation from a one or two page pdf flyer.  Now I could of course just simply look over the provided information and given that overview say yes or no and if I say yes, indicate that I would like the person attending to evaluate the program utilising our standard evaluation tools and provide that feedback to me so I could make a more informed decision in the future.  This is not too much of a big deal when the program in question costs between $50 and $150 per participant, particularly if we are only going to send one person as almost an evaluator.  However given that the cost of these programs often runs in the high 100’s or in some cases 1000’s of dollars there may actually be no positive benefit in sending someone along, unless there is some other incentive , to evaluate the program.

I could also take the time to ring the provider and talk to them about the content, delivery etc ask for referees, ring them, talk to other people and see whether there is a consensus on the value of the course or program, the problem with that is it takes time, in some cases a lot of time, particularly given that on an average week we would probably get 6-12 contacts from staff asking this question and on bad week, well lets just say a lot.

Now admittedly we do have a database of those programs which people have attended and found valuable and more often than not we can make recommendations based on that, same provider, same facilitator, good testimonials from people whose opinions we trust etc.  but just as often we can’t, so it comes down to almost a gut feeling, based on experience etc, by either me or the manager in question or both of us (an a little bit of hope sometimes) that the program will actually be good and provide us with solid ROI for the staff that attend.

So I guess the question I am asking is how do people make these kinds of decisions, how do you decide it a course or a program is going to be worth sending staff to.

Can training create great leaders or managers

Recently I have been involved in several discussions around developing leaders and managers within organisations and the role that training, coaching and mentoring plays in creating and developing people to be great leaders or managers or both. I rocked the boat a little when I expressed the opinion that while it was possible to create great managers through training and development, the same was not the case with leaders. Training can make people who already are or who have the potential to be great leaders better, but it cannot create them.

This appeared to challenge the pervailing feeling of several members of the group who suggested that everyone could be a leader they simply need the to have leadership skills taught to them and dveloped in them and as a result of this they would become leaders.
While I think this is definately the case with management and managers where there is a set of skills that can be taught to people and then those skills developed over time, that most people have the potential to be good managers. What stops or inhibites people from becoming good managers is their level of motivation to achieve that goal.

This is not the case with leadership and leaders. While there are many skill sets that people point at as the set of skills that leaders should possess, just teaching and developing these skills to people does not by necessity make them leaders. There is something else they need and whether you call it vision or intutiion or whatever name it takes, it is something that you cannot give to people who dont possess it, no matter the amount of training, coaching or mentoring provided.

I would be really interested to see what other people thought about this.

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