AHRI – Pulse Learning and Development Report 2013

As most of you know I devour these reports and state of the industry papers about the world of L&D so it was with interest that I read the 2013 release of the Australian Human Resources Institute – Pulse L&D report.

So what are the interesting little highlights I found when I read through the data collected.  Well before I talk about that it is important to note that this survey unlike the 2010 survey was not done in conjunction with the AITD, but was done solely with AHRI members, which may or may not have had an effect on the results.

The first thing I found interesting was in the comments from the AHRI Chairman, where he says ‘it is pleasing to note also that nearly a third of the sample group (31 per cent) report that learning and development budgets account for more than 5 per cent of revenue’  but seemed disappointed that 68% of the organisations surveyed had L&D budgets which were less than 5% of revenue.  I find this statement a little strange and at odds with the general level of L&D investment (as a % of revenue) globally, and this may be a case of simple misunderstanding of the wider global L&D community trends.  I say this because in the 2012 ASTD State of the Industry report the average figure for direct expenditure as a percentage of revenue is around the 1.2%, with most Global Fortune 500 companies averaging around 0.7% of revenue.  Now while it is true these levels globally are rising, it would be difficult to suggest they would top 5% of revenue anytime in the next few years at least, which to me says that investment in Australia in L&D is in very very good shape, when we compare it globally and to intimate that budgets of less than 5% of revenue are disappointing, is a little bit strange.

Still as always the vast majority of people in the industry are female (70%), though I would really like to see a survey done in the Australian market that look at gender across roles within the industry as I think, particularly if we think about senior management and executive learning roles these figures may not be giving us the full picture.   If anyone knows of a survey like this, particularly one with data collected from organisations with a range of L&D functions I would be interested to know about it.

Again as we tend to always see in these surveys, most L&D functions sit either solely with HR or within HR and externally to it, with only 11% sitting outside of HR as a separate function.  Now as we know where Learning should sit has been a topic of debate for a long time now, but in reality it seems nothing much has actually changed.  The other thing that interested me on this page of the report was the size of L&D team with more than 75% of learning functions only having between 1-5 staff.  Now I am sure that this has something to do with the fact that 60% of the respondents worked for companies with less that 500 staff and 80% for companies with less than 2500 staff.  I also think and this is just personal opinion here, that it has a lot to do with the Learning function sitting inside HR, and to some extend being treated as a poor cousin to other HR functions, and a misunderstanding of the value both in people and monetary terms of a well-funded, highly functioning Learning unit, but then again I am a L&D person I would say that.

Some of the really interesting information for me starts on page 11 of the report were it begins to look at the mix of L&D activities with organisations.

The vast majority of L&D activities within organisations turn out to be….. wait for it……Internal face to face training, Well who would have thought that.  Certainly not anyone who had been to any of the major conference recently where it almost seemed that if you talked about-face to face training and not, informal MOOC’s than you were a dinosaur, who needed to move out of the way.  In fact this idea is only further supported on page 12 where we see that only 8% of the Learning Activities provided by organisations are e-learning based, with the two largest percentages being in-house training and inductions. (Sorry had to say that, it is just nice to see some real figures that point to the fact that online learning in not taking over the world at least not inside organisations.  The other two really interesting bits of information from this were that the split between formal and informal learning was about even with informal a little bit ahead, nowhere near the 90:10 split we would expect to see under some models of informal learning and the in terms of kinds of training compliance and other training were split about 50:50 as well.

So what then do people think are the most and least valuable learning and development activities, well the most valuable are clearly induction of new staff and leadership training (though I am unsure of the real value of leadership training myself), closely followed by training relating to in-house operations, (surprising all the stuff that organisations need their staff to know), with the least valuable (as I have always suspected to be the case) Team building activities followed by compliance training.

So there you have it, nothing stunning, but some facts which I think tend to shed some light on some of the rhetoric of learning pundits and evangelists out there.

As always if you have any thoughts of comments I am more than happy to hear them.

 

 

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Evaluating Informal Learning

As some of you know the problems associated with capturing the organisational impact and increases in competency (if any) gained by staff through their informal learning has occupied my thinking for some time now, and I have posted and spoke about it on a number of different occasions.   I really got to thinking about it again after the recent learnX conference, particularly after some stimulating conversations with Con and Saul amongst others.    The problem for me is that even if you don’t believe the numbers  in 70:20:10 (which I don’t)  there is still a lot of informal learning that happens in a person’s life and at least some of that learning has to relate to their job roles.  Just before I go on however,  I want to set some shall we say boundary conditions to what I am talking about here and that is informal learning that has some impact on the day-to-day operation of the organisation.  If you choose to go off in your own time and as one of my colleagues loves to call  it, study underwater basket weaving, I am really not interested in the fact that you have done that, unless you can show be some tangible link to your day-to-day work.

So for me there are two types of organisational informal learning, that learning that simply increases, builds or improves a skill and that learning that does that and in addition provides some ‘formal’ recognition pathway for the learner.  When I think about this however it is more  the job role or the organisational imperative that moves us towards the path of recognition rather than in general the needs of the staff member.  Again however,  when I am talking about recognition I am talking about formal recognition, where there is some ‘qualification’ style outcome as a result of the learning, usually in an Australian sense a Unit of competency for example.  I am not talking about badges and other like devices to capture learning, be they peer-reviewed or whatever, for from an organisational point of view they in my opinion are (at least currently) meaningless.

Why do I say this; I have often recounted a story of being asked as part of a formal investigation into an incident involving a member of staff, “how did you know this person was competent?”  Now if my answer had been, well he has a badge for it, I think I may have gotten a much different reaction to saying, as I did, “Well, they have completed all of the assessment tasks, including a third-party observation, necessary for us to be satisfied that they were competent under the rules of evidence set out in the legislation pertaining to the operations of Registered Training Organisations.”

Not all informal learning though is going to lead a staff member to a qualification however, some of it is not related to or captured by the range of qualification available, some simply adds to the skill set they already have, making them better at their role, but not providing them with a new skill. So for me there are a number things that we need to know in order to be able to begin to evaluate informal learning, and I am indebted to Saul Carliner for some of his thinking around this;

  1. A baseline – what is the staff members current skill level,
  2. What they have learned,
  3. How they have learned it,
  4. New skill level,
  5. Is there a competency attachable to the learning,
  6. Effect of learning on organisational metrics – reduction in customer complaints, less injuries etc, and maybe
  7. Return on Investment?

Now you might look at that list and say well isn’t that what we would want from any kind of organisational learning process, and in fact is not exactly the kinds of data that we want from our formal processes.  I don’t see why we should be treating the outcomes of informal learning differently to how we would treat formal learning.  Now it may not be relevant, we may not or able to or we may not want to, capture the standard ‘smile’ sheet satisfaction style data that we collect from formal training and yes, the natural of the learning, pull not push, driven by the individual, just in time etc, all make the nature of the process of learning different.  However, when we look at it from an organisational point of view aren’t we not looking for the same thing as with formal learning.  We are looking for an increase in the skill level of the staff member, such that increase in skill will have an effect on the relevant workforce metrics that relate to their role in the organisation.  If we aren’t looking to improve the skills of our staff and the organisation as a whole, what are we investing in informal learning systems in the workplace, and why has it become so important.

So what are some ways in which we can achieve this?  If we start with the idea of a baseline we might be able to sort out some structure and processes around this idea.  So, where might a baseline come from;

  • Position Description,
  • Performance and Professional development plans,
  • Self Assessment,
  • Formalised Assessment, or
  • Job skills analysis plus a rating system.

There are a range of ways in which we can establish this baseline, but how can we do it without it being onerous on everyone involved.  If we use position descriptions as our starting point, we have the problem of there not being enough detail or they are not skills based or we don’t assess the person against them in a really formal way, that gives us any real data to work with in the first place.  They could be coupled with self assessment, and direct manager assessment to give a fuller picture of the skill set and levels of an individual staff member.  PPD plans can be seen in the same light, in order to make them more useful in terms of presenting us with a baseline we need to capture more granular detail about the role and the staff members skills relating to that role.

So I have a bit of a rough process around my thinking in relation to this and it goes something like this;

  1. Skills Outline for each role type within the organisation,
  2. Assessment of Staff member against skills outline – there are a range of options here, but I think there has to be at least self assessment + manager assessment at the very least,
  3. System for capturing staff informal learning activities,
  4. Regular (6-12 Month) updates of Staff skill assessments,
  5. Data capture of changes in skills levels across the organisation,
  6. Method of mapping skills changes to competencies. and
  7. Methodology of converting skills changes to organisational metrics and ROI.

So as I said that is my thinking currently, I would be really interested in getting everyone’s feedback on what they think, so feel free to chime in and let me know what you think.

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and VET education

Is Education Snobbery still alive and well in Australia?

As some of you might know one of my first posts on this blog was about Academic snobbery and the perceived value of VET qualifications, where I talked about the ‘I have a degree, why would I want a workplace (VET) qualification?’ and what it said about the perception of the value of VET sector qualifications.

This whole idea of the VET and organisational learning sectors, not being as professional, rigorous, or just plain good, as the ‘Teaching and Academic sectors’ has risen up in a number of conversations I have had with people recently.  This time however it has been the ‘But that just training’ or ‘They are just a trainer, I’m a teacher/lecturer’  commentary.  What I find really interesting about this is that I almost never here this language from people in the organisational learning and VET sectors only from those in the teaching and university sectors.  The other thing that I find interesting is this (and I am going to generalise here so beware);

Teachers are experts in practice of teaching, they are not for the most part subject matter experts;

Lecturers and Academics are subject matter experts, and not for the most part experts in the practice of teaching;

VET and organisation learning practitioners are expected to be both, they must have subject matter knowledge and expertise and they must hold training qualifications.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that practitioners in the VET and organisational learning sector are better or more qualified than those in other sectors.   I have known over the years outstanding teacher, lecturers and trainers, I have also known some, in all three sectors, that were downright awful and made me wonder how they managed to continue to be employed.

So  lets stop this petty bickering about who or what sector is best, applaud great talent where we find it and work together to ensure that the people we educate get the best outcomes they can regardless of the sector they are in.

Learning to Change and Changing to Learn or BBQing the scared cows

 Why is it so hard to people to accept change?

 Sorry for the lack of posts recently the world of work was very busy over the last couple of weeks, which has amongst other things prompted my thinking around change in the workplace, changing how we learn and how we deliver learning and change management in general.

Organisational change is a difficult and sometimes messy beast, but there is a lot I think we can learn by changing and by thinking about how to change.  Over the past few months I have been involved heavily in assisting an organisation through a process of change around how a core piece of their training.  This is a total revamp of the package, content packaging, delivery, even the outcomes of the training and its structure to achieve those outcomes.  We really were BBQing sacred cows with this change and there in lies the issues I wanted to touch on today.  The concept of changing something in order to learn and people and organisations learning how to change.

To paint a little bit of a picture, there had been for about 12 months or so prior to this change been a level of discontent in some quarters about the training that was being delivered, particularly around how it was delivered and what the outcomes were, it was frankly, starting to show its age.  That is not to say that it was fatally flawed, just ideas about delivery and content had moved on as had the landscape into which its outcomes fell.

As a result a project was put together to look over the entire package of the training and see what could be done to make it better fit the outcomes that were needed.  Now it was made clear at the start of the project that there really wasn’t any part of the training that was out of scope, if something needed to be changed and there was good justification to change it and it was going to fit the outcomes better, then there was an ongoing commitment to change.

So after about 6 months of consultation and work the team started to talk about and show parts of the new package to stakeholders and this is where an interesting thing happened, a lot of the people who had been critical of the original training program, did not like what they were seeing and we heard things like,

“Why did you change that?”

“That’s not how we do things around here.”

“You have changed everything, it’s not the same course.”

People who had previously complained about the program were now defending it and a lot of the issues seemed to be around the fact that things had actually changed,  the Powerpoint hadn’t just been updated, the actual material, how it was being presented and the outcomes had all be reimagined.  It drove home to me the fact that a lot of the time people don’t actually want change or at least not real change, they want superficial change, so that they can still feel safe and comfortable in what they know.

It really strikes me as a shame though we as individuals and organisations learn so much through change, if everything stayed the same why would we need to learn anything new, how would we grow and become better at what we do.  In fact some of my strongest learning come out of the most confronting of changes.  Now I know that individuals and organisations have vested interests in staying where they are, in not changing, but not changing is an evolutionary dead-end, it goes nowhere.

Both as individuals and os organisations we really need to Learn to change and change to learn.

Communication and Organisational engagement

Highly engaged employees are a vital part of a healthy organisation,

but how do we create them, how do we ensure that everyone within our organisations feel like they are actively having their voice heard, particularly on issues that or important or which they are passionate about.

I know this is a little off my usual topics but I have had a couple of weeks in various workshops where the subject of communications and how develop really effective communications with staff so that they feel engaged and part of the larger organisation and have had some very interesting conversations around it.  Over the time a couple of things have struck me, the first and I think probably most important one is noise.

What do I mean by noise?  I mean the general background noise of the organisation and of peoples day to day work and lives, this constant flow of information and opinion and discussion, and conversation that occurs just because we live in highly complex and connected environments, both at work and outside of work.   I was talking about this with some of the other participants in the workshops and the comment was made that maybe it is not necessarily the case that we are not communicating effectively, maybe it is the case that there is simply too much noise, that it is very very easy for even a highly targeted message to get lost, or put to the side and not given the attention it deserves.  And this is a problem in both directions from management to staff and from staff to management, background noise is eating up the messages and vital information and knowledge are being lost as is engagement with staff.

The struggle though is what to do about it.  I know there are multiple courses and programs and systems out there designed to make us work more effectively, to attempt to allow us to focus on what is important and cut through the noise, and of course doing anything is better than nothing.  However for me this is more that just an issue of person effectiveness and focus, because you can be as effective and focused as possible and still the noise is there.

I don’t know what the answer is of course and if I did I would probably be able to make myself very very rich, but I would be very interested to hear what everyone else thinks about organisational noise and how to combat it.

‘Bring your Parents to Work Day’ – Learning TRENDS by Elliott Masie

I was reading Elliot Masie’s Learning Trends this morning and the first article he had there was one entitled

Bring your Parents to Work Day.

At first when I read the title I was intrigued and was really interested in what Elliot had to say which was this

‘Bring Your Parents to Work Day” would allow highly involved and concerned parents to meet the colleagues and bosses of their kids.  Just as they did in K to 12 school settings, parents are often able to advocate for higher performance ratings once they meet their children’s evaluators.  Some parents might even help their children re-decorate their work space or cubicle. 

It will also be valuable for the older, retired parents of some employees.  These parents can come in and be deployed as meaningful one day assistants – leveraging their skills and experiences of decades of work.  In some instances, the retired parents can even be deployed while their children are on vacation, filling in for them on key assignments and committees.’

and when I got to the end of the piece I was well, lost for words.

He goes on to suggest that some organisations might be challenged by this idea, and in my opinion he is right, but for the wrong reasons.  Organisations should be challenged by this idea because if it utterly wrong-headed.  All I can think is that if the parents of someone who worked for me came in and wanted to discuss their child’s performance or wanted to help them re-decorate their cubicle I would say;

‘Why are you here, this is a place of business if your child can’t look after themselves and needs you to intervene of their behalf or assist them with redecorating then I am not sure they have the skills to actually be employed here.’

Have we got so paternal, have our children got so useless that they can’t cope in the world as adults, without their parents to help them.  There are no learning opportunities here, unless that is you want to learn which of your staff have over controlling, over involved parents and who can’t actually look after themselves in the real adult world.

Sorry Elliot, you say a lot of good things most of the time, but this time you have really missed the mark.

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.

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