Vocational Education, Formal and Informal Learning, and Organisational Development

I wrote last week about the connection between L&D and VET and asked why L&D departments chose non-accredited training over accredited training even when the costs involved were much higher.  Two of the strongest comments that came through from the discussion were around the time it took to get people through an accredited program.  This was not necessarily a criticism of the system as it was well understood that the time it took was directly related to the robust nature of the Australian VET system.  The second comment was around the complexity and amount of paperwork which was involved in the system, particularly in relation to government-funded initiatives.

So I thought today I would look at how some of these issues can be addressed though a model of training delivery which incorporated, organisational learning and VET into the one picture.  This model has been utilised very successfully by a number of Enterprise RTO’s as well as by organisations utilising external RTO’s.  In order for this to work successfully there needs to be close collaboration between the RTO and the L&D department, which is why this tends to work so well within an enterprise environment, but as I have said with good collaboration it works equally well with an external provider.

The first idea behind this model is a simple one – L&D departments are going to run non-VET training for their staff.  The second idea is just as simple – it doesn’t matter where you learnt it as long as you can show that you are competent.  If we take these two ideas and combine them together into a model, this becomes a very powerful.  The organisation can deliver the training that it wants and needs for its staff and its staff can work their way through the system to end up with a Nationally Accredited Qualification if they want, or at the very least a set of Units of Competency.

So what is the model.  Below is an example of how the concept can work within a community services organisation.

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All staff at all levels of the organisation go through a standard general induction, the standard who we are and what we do style program.  Once that is completed each business unit then has a separate induction program specific to their own needs and training requirements.  A small number of Units of competency can be built in at this level, the completion of which along with the rest of the induction program can be linked to the probation periods and extensions.  Once the induction training is completed there will be a set of training programs that everyone in the organisation will be expected to undertake, from generic programs  like Fire safety and Workplace health and safety to more organisationally focussed program such as in this case, mental health awareness and strength based practice. Along side this training there will also be business unit specific training which is also required, a disability support worker for example would need behavioural awareness training, where as a senior manager might be put through a more rigorous financial accountability program.  There will then be a range of programs delivered by and for the organisation which are available to all members of staff, these might be things like communication skills, crisis intervention skills, computer skills, and a range of other programs.  Once staff have completed all of the mandatory programs (both generic and unit specific) they can then undertake any of the training available within any policy constraints put in place by the organisation.

So all that has happened here is that the organisation and any associated training providers have simply delivered the training that they would have normally needed to deliver.  However if the RTO (be it internal or external) has mapped all of the training being delivered and looked at the assessments and what gaps are needed to be filled in order to meet the requirements of training package, what has actually happened is that the staff member has progressed quite a long way towards a qualification.  Now they may need to do some additional assessment work, on the job training or skills observations by their managers and supervisors, but they will, if they wish and this system seems to work best if it is voluntary for any extensions over what is mandatory, have accumulated a group of Units of competency.  From here the staff member can sit down with the RTO, their manager and anyone else who may have relevant input look at the range of qualifications that the units they currently have could lead them to and what they need to do to achieve them.  What this means for the staff member is that they may be able to achieve a number of qualifications, rather than just one, by doing a much smaller amount of additional work.  This also provides both the organisation and the staff member with a little bit more flexibility in terms of talent and career development options as well.  Someone who is moving towards a management track can be encouraged to take more management based units to fill out their qualification, rather than practice based units which might be more applicable for a frontline worker.

There are a number of very useful things which happen within this system (particularly when any additional assessment or learning is made voluntary)

  • organisational training can remain the same, additional assessment are simply plugged in for those staff who wish accredited outcomes
  • staff with existing qualifications do not need to do additional assessment over and above what is organisationally required
  • provides flexibility in the talent management pipeline
  • allows staff flexibility in terms of qualifications and training
  • reduces the cost of delivery and the time off work costs associated with accredited training.

A more generic example of the model can be seen below.

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The adoption of a system such as this allows for all of the training both informal and formal that is undertaken by staff and delivered by the organisation to be utilised towards a qualification or set of units of competency.

My favourite L&D Books

I thought as a start to the year I would begin building a list of my favourite Learning and Development books, these are all books that I have read and would recommend highly.  If you have any other suggestions then feel free to let me know.

The business of learning – David Vance

The success case method – Robert O Brinkerhoff

High Impact Learning – Robert O Brinkerhoff

Ten Steps to a Learning Organisation – Kline and Saunders

Building the Learning Organisation – Marguardt

The Fifth Discipline – Senge

The Training Measurement Book – Bersin

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning – Wick, Pollock and Jefferson

How to measure training results – Phillips and Stone

 

So as I said if you have any other books that you like let me know.  I intend to build this list over the year.

 

2014 ATD (ASTD) State of the Industry Report

Well for those of us fascinated by L&D statistics and the meaning and implications behind them, ATD (Formerly ASTD) have just released their annual state of the industry report for 2014.  So what does it have to say and what implications can we draw from it.

So what did it cost?

Firstly we see that spending on training for organisations has gone up, not by much, around 1%, but still it has gone up to an average of $1208 per employee.  The interesting thing about this number is that it is much higher for smaller organisations (less than 500 staff) at $1,888 and much lower for large organisation (over 10,000 staff) at $838 per employee.  Much of this can be put down to larger organisation being able to take advantage of economies of scale when it comes to development, maintenance and delivery costs of training and have the same dollar spend spread over a large group of employees.

We see also that learning hours used is about 31.5 hours per employee across the board which is relatively the same as last few years.  An interesting wrinkle to this average is that medium size companies (500-9,999 employees)  only come in at about 27 learning hours used per employee and while this might be interesting to attempt to investigate further, it may simply have to do more with the relative size of the data samples then any other actual trend.  Again we also saw that direct expenditure on learning as a percentage of revenue again remained relatively stable at around 1.2%.  The vast majority of this spend is, as it has been for many years, made up by the internal costs to organisations for the delivery of training, remaining again in the mid 60% range.  With external services (27%) and tuition reimbursement (10%) making up the balance.

 

So what did we deliver and how?

The three content areas that made up more than 34% of all the training delivered were;

  1. Mandatory and Compliance Training
  2. Managerial and Supervisory
  3. Profession or Industry specific

with the bottom 3 areas being;

  1. Executive Development
  2. Interpersonal Skills and
  3. Basis Skills

As far as delivery methods for training goes the winner and continuing champion by a long margin is of course – Instructor Led Classroom Based.  Yes folks yet again, face to face classroom bases training got the gong for being the most frequently used delivery method at 54.6%.  Not a bad effort for the old-timer in my opinion.  To be fair to the up and coming, much-lauded new world of learning deliver self paced online learning came in second with 17.9% and the most important game changing learning and development technology mobile or m-learning came in with a massive 1.7%.  All right I apologies for being a little facetious there, but I think what these numbers show is something quite simply for all of the rhetoric about mobile learning being the most important development in L&D ever are simply well not stacking up at the moment at least. Even when we throw all of the technology based delivery methods together they still only account for about 38% with the balance being taken up by options like self based print based learning (which by itself and I find this incredibly interesting  accounts for 4.75% of delivery, three times higher than mobile learning).

So what is this all mean.  Well I think for the most part we as an industry should be happy with the results.  We are seeing consistency in spend and the kinds of training being delivered.  There seems to be no great surprises (well except for those who tout M-learning as the next big thing, ok I will stop now) and seems to be to be much what you would expect from a stable, mature industry that know what its goals are.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Spaces or Spaces to Learn – What can we learn from delivering training to the homeless.

The concept of where and how learning programs are delivered has been on my mind a little bit lately, particularly since a particularly good presentation I attended recently on the interface between homeless persons and training delivery.  One of the key points which was bought up during the presentation and subsequent conversations was the fact that if we take a group of people like those who either homeless or at risk of homelessness, we will tend to find that there are a raft of other issues that sit with and around the issue of homelessness and all of these issues will have a significant impact on the delivery of training programs to people within these groups.  These impacts are things like;

  • a mindset of failure particularly around academic/scholastic pursuits
  • uncomfortableness in traditional learning environments (classrooms)
  • limited ability to travel to get to training venues
  • limited support network
  • possibility of having to move a significant distance from where training is conducted to secure accommodation
  • limited financial means

These issues and a range of others mean that it is difficult if not impossible to deliver training within what could be considered traditional environments.  This means that learning programs need to be adapted and delivered in different ways such as;

  • within the environment where the person already is and is comfortable
  • shorter sessions to allow participants to take care of their other priorities (it is difficult to concentrate from 9-5, but imagine how much more difficult it would be if you were worried about finding a bed for the night)
  • a wide range of learning activities to engage participants in a variety of ways
  • changing assessment models to ensure that all participants are able to display in competence in ways that are most effective for them

The thing is when I started to think about developing and delivering learning programs, particularly workplace programs it struck me that most of the adjustments that I was considering were things that we should be doing anyway.   We spend large sums of money on creating physical spaces for people to learn in, or online platforms delivering state of the art gamified elearning, when in reality the participants are probably going to learn more from a 2 hour session held in the staff room, coupled with solid support tools to allow them implement the things they have learnt.

And to be honest I think the problem might be us, it is far more challenging to deliver training in a staff room, a homeless shelter or a skate park where there are a range of other things happening in the background, than it is to deliver the same training in our lovely state of the art training room.  Walking though an instruction manual or workbook with a participant is far less fun for us than creating sexy video content or gamifiying our learning programs, but does it make the participant more comfortable and able to learn better.

We need to be able to create spaces for people to learn, that fit with what they need, not with what makes us comfortable.

Creating a High Impact Learning Culture

Accountability, Innovation, Agility and the skills Gap

So yesterday I went to a fantastic presentation from Denise Myerson and the MCI Team including the wonderful Natasha Wright about their recent

trip to the recent SHRM Conference in the US and the themes and trends that came out of it.  The four major themes (see the title of this blog post) were

  1. Accountability
  2. Innovation
  3. Agility
  4. Skills Gap

Now what I found really interesting about the afternoon was the fact that these four issues or challenges if you will resonate quite strongly both personally and organisationally, in particularly agility and the skills gaps.  When I look at the way the landscape has changed over the last few years, in the not-for-profit and government sectors, in Learning and Development and HR and in the business world in general, Accountability and the ability to respond in an Agile manner to the myriad of challenges which face us every day do call for innovative solutions.  The real problem I see is the skills gap, when I look at the health and community services sector, the mining and industry sectors we are all crying out for staff who have the right skills, attributes and behaviours to meet the needs of industry, particularly at entry level positions, and in highly technical areas.

We seem to have a situation at least in my opinion where we have plenty of  people who skills that are not relevant to the needs of industry, who aren’t interested in entry level positions, who are unwilling to do something that is outside of their vocation or to be retrained and we seem to pander to these attitudes.   If we don’t find ways to address the skills gap, if we don’t have people with the right skills and behaviours in the right roles then how can we possibly hope to respond in Accountable, innovative and agile ways to the next challenge that comes along.

Chief Learning Officer – LearningElite 2013

Chief Learning Officer Magazine today released the final results of its LearningElite Awards for 2013

So today I want to congratulate my team and all of the people involved in our securing a spot as one of the 45 finalists this year for a field of more than 200 organisations.  Here is the press release from CLO Magazine;

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

­­­­

UnitingCare Community Recognized as a LearningElite Organization

Chief Learning Officer magazine’s LearningElite and Editor’s Choice Awards Presented at Gala

Austin, Texas — UnitingCare Community was presented with a 2013 LearningElite award from Chief Learning Officer magazine at a gala dinner held at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. UnitingCare Community was ranked No. 41 in the competition from a field of more than 200 companies.

Developed under the guidance of chief learning officers and senior workforce development practitioners, the CLO LearningElite is the only peer-based benchmarking initiative in the industry. This pioneering program utilizes best practices in evaluation to objectively assess both the scope and the value of the learning and development services that companies provide. It recognizes excellence in five key L&D performance indicators: learning strategy, learning impact, leadership commitment, learning execution and business performance results.

“In our third year of benchmarking workforce learning and development practices, competition was intense. The organizations that achieved LearningElite status stood out as true innovators in enterprise education — noteworthy for their unswerving commitment to deploying elite L&D practices that deliver measurable business value,” said Sarah Kimmel, director of research and advisory services for the Human Capital Media Advisory Group, a component of the magazine’s publisher, MediaTec Publishing.

“The LearningElite’s incisive analysis yields solid data that validates the impact these organizations’ learning initiatives have on productivity, engagement, innovation and, ultimately, business results.”

“Chief Learning Officer is proud to recognize organizations such as UnitingCare Community that make learning and development a key part of their business strategy as well as their culture,“ said Norm Kamikow, president and editor in chief of MediaTec and its Human Capital Media Group. “This level of commitment is what enables enterprises to build and maintain high-performing workforces with the competencies, capabilities and leadership skills to carry out the company’s mission and achieve its goals.”

For more information about the LearningElite, visit CLOmedia.com/elite.

So we came in number 41 out of the field, which I think is fantastic, why, well, 18 months ago the organisation didn’t have a formal learning and development unit and we would not have been even able to articulate a response to the questions which form the basis of the awards.

What the organisation did have was a vision and a commitment, and this is something I am truly grateful for, almost absolute and unwavering faith in myself and my team.  In the 18 months since I cam on board and the team was formed we have moved forward in leaps and bounds and come a long, long way.  There is still a heap of work to be done however as we are not there yet, but we have the organisational commitment to Learning and a team of people who really are set to shine into the future.

So again I want to congratulate my team and most of all say thank.

You all deserve it.

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