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.

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.

EduTech 2013 – Some comments and ideas

As  lot of you already know I spent the last two days at EduTech 2013 – Corporate and Government Learning Congress.

and already a couple of people who didn’t attend asked me ‘How was it?’  Well it was good, I enjoyed it, Day one was for me better than day (and I will explain why later) and again for those of you who know me I usually at these things spend a fair bit of time in the exhibition hall talking to vendors and seeing where things are going.  I often joke with people (though in truth it is not a joke) that I learn as much from the exhibition floor as I do from the presentations, that didn’t happen this time and I didn’t really spend all that much time in the exhibition area, why? Well I think because the focus of the entire event has traditionally been Formal Education k-12 and tertiary, and the corporate market is a very different one, there are different vendors and people like me are looking for very different things.

For example; wandering around I spoke with vendors who made an assumption that I worked for school, even though everyone had different coloured lanyards, (though to be completely fair I had a presenter one so I could have been anyone) and seemed confused when I said look sorry I don’t work for a school I work for a large organisation and seemed to continue to talk to me about something I was never going to be interested in, some of the stands even restricted entry into their competitions to people having a valid education institute email address it was little things like that, and that  I am not interest in hardware and servers I have an IT department for that, I am  not interested in school management software, i’m not a school.  I am interested in learning and training aids (and not just ones that involve ipads or technology) for adults, learning content and delivery, not curriculum, things that the corporate side of learning is interested in.

Now this might sound like a criticism, it is not meant to be, but I think there needs to be some work done in how the exhibition hall is set out, maybe segmenting it a little bit, perhaps as two people now have suggested, putting the ‘corporate’ venders in one section of the hall, rather than being spread out, something that makes it more engaging for me.

Now the exhibitors are one thing, the content is something else and it is the content on which a conference will ultimately thrive or fail.  As I said I liked day one much more than day two, why?, well that is simple, day one was much more practical with an array of outstanding  Learning talent, Charles Jennings is always great to listen too, and Natalie Goldman and Helen Blunden are outstanding practitioners with solid practical, hands on experience and wonderful delivery styles that engage and provide the audience with solid outcomes and value.  Day two was very different however, not in the skill or expertise of the presenters, but in the content.  My pick of the day was Ewan Macintosh from NoTosh, who offered some truly interesting insights followed closely by John Stericker who was insightful funny, without a single powerpoint slide to help him along (it was an outstanding job in my opinion as it was his first time presenting at a major conference).  As for the rest of the day, the breakout sessions were solid, but not as engaging as they might have been, and while I like to think about the future of L&D and data and all of those things, but what interests me and I think I lot of us in the game of corporate L&D is how to solve todays problems, how to engage with our learners today and over the next 12-18 months.  Now I know that is short-term thinking  and we need to look to the future and I talk about where we need to be and how to get there constantly at an executive level, but and here is the big but, there are plenty of problems that need fixing now and over the next 3-6 months that are in real terms far more important for us.

So all in all I had a really good time, I want to think Fiona, and Charles and Tony from EduTech, for being so helpful and making the experience a great one.  I hope you decide to continue with the corporate congress in 2014.  I look forward to attending.

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.

Creating a Learning Culture

Creating an Organisational Learning Culture

or a framework that captures how an organisation thinks about learning can be quite challenging, if for no other reason than, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.  While creating or providing the strategic direction is clearly the role of executive and senior management, but how these members of articulate and reinforce that message, and what it means, needs to be as clear and as simple as possible.

So how do we create a culture in which learning is valued and promoted and seen as an integral part of the business, rather than just an add on that can be ignored, or not taken seriously.  You need to be able to show how learning functions sit with the organisation and what the purpose of creating this culture is.  As I have said before, I think that I have it a little easier than most when it comes to this as the organisation that I work for has ‘Leading through Learning’ as one of its central values, and as an L&D person that makes my job much easier when it is there in front of everyone’s face.  Having a model which explains how learning fits in and how the organisation view and seeks to create a learning culture to help immensely and serves as a way to articulating the vision for learning within and organisation;

Developing a Learning Culture

A model like this simply explains the various parts of the puzzle that lead to the development of a learning culture.  From here it then becomes an issue of expanding what each of the parts of the model mean within your particular organisation, who is responsible for them and how they are supported.

Why be an Enterprise RTO

Why are we an Enterprise RTO, what purpose does it serve?

This was a question I have asked of me recently by a number of people both inside and outside of the organisation, and in answering it I realised that while I and probably a handful of other people in the organisation could actually explain what purpose it served for us to be our own RTO, we did not as an organisation have this purpose articulated in any of our learning documents.

So what is the answer well here is what it now says in our Organisation Learning Framework:

4.0 RTO Training

4.1 Objectives

UCC operates as a Registered Training Organisation to instantiate the organisations learning objectives.  The prime purpose of the RTO is to provide accredited training outcomes for staff and volunteers and the staff and volunteers of other UCQ Service Groups and to support the Organisational Learning Model.  Operating as an RTO provides the organisation with the ability to control and contextualise the content and delivery of these outcomes in a way with meets both legislative requirements and organisational need to ensure the best possible outcomes for both staff and volunteers and the organisation as a whole.  Where appropriate and when capacity is available the organisation may choose to utilise the RTO to deliver accredited training to external parties.

As an RTO UCC seeks to:

  • Become a leading provider of Training and Organisational Development services across its core business areas to both internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensure that any training provided meets and exceeds the expectations of those individuals and organisations to which it is provided; and
  • Maintain the highest possible standards with respect to content, facilitation and the development of training.

I have underlined what I think are the two main reasons, the purpose for us having and maintaining our RTO status;

  1. To provide Nationally accredited training for our staff and volunteers; and
  2. control and contextualise the content and delivery to meet organisational need.

Now you might say, but you can achieve both of those outcomes without being an Enterprise RTO, you just need good partnerships with good external RTO’s who are willing to do those things and to some extent you would be right, however, in my experience when the rubber hits the road on these sorts of things very very few external RTO’s are actually willing to do number two.  A lot will say that they are but very very few actually will.

There is another reason though, which I think is far more compelling and that is one of knowledge and experience.  We are one of the largest community services organisations in Australia and have a relatively diverse business across three main stream, Children and Families, People with Disabilities and Crisis support, and we have some of the best and most experienced people in the world working in the organisation.  I often joke with people that if I need to know something about one of the areas of our business I just have to walk out of my office and turn left.  I have experts with years of actual experience in their respective fields I can access in our Head Office alone, without looking into the actual services, programs and regions and most of them have training qualifications.  So why would we go to a TAFE or a private RTO to have our people trained, it is highly unlikely that the trainers have the same or better experience than the people we have within our own front garden and when you add to that an experienced and dedicated L&D team who can package the content provided by our own subject matter experts, there seems little reason to go outside.

When you think this way about why we have an Enterprise RTO it also does something else, it informs us of what our scope should be and when (and we do) we should partner with external RTO’s.  You wont (and probably never will) find Cert IV in FLM or TAE, or the Diploma of Business on our scope, despite the amount of staff who may ask for it.  Why, because it is not our core business, our core business is Community Services and to a smaller extent Health and that is where our scope sits.

And it is that idea of core business and doing what you are good at that really explains why we are an Enterprise RTO.

Government Funding, RTO’s and Organisational Learning

As some of you are aware I posted recently about how organisations fund their L&D;

from which I got a number of interesting responses.  One of the types of responses worried me however and points I think to what is a major issue within the training industry within Australia.

A number of responses revolved around using the traineeship and apprenticeship funding to basically fund organisational L&D, saying things like, ‘maximising these funding arrangements can offset the costs of training in other areas.’   Now while this is in essence not incorrect it seems to point to an attitude among a not insubstantial number of players in the L&D industry in Australia which is it seems to attempt to maximise the amount of government-funded training in order to create, and this is a term someone used in conversations recently, ‘a slush fund to provide other training.’  With attitudes like this is it any wonder the government has changed the way in which it deals with the trainee and apprenticeship funding.

Sure it is attractive for organisations when a RTO comes along and says we can do all of this training of your staff for you and it won’t cost you anything, in fact if we structure it right and you put enough people through than we can give you a discount and you will actually make money on the deal, but is it what the funding was designed for and is it actually going to train the staff with the skills they are going to know.  In a lot of cases it seems that the organisation would have got a far better result from choosing skills sets or non accredited training to put their staff through, rather than a qualification, simply because it was free or they would make some money out of it.

It has got to the point now that it a vendor/provider starts saying things like ‘well we specialise in finding ways to be able to fund the training at little or not cost to you,’ then I stop listening and it would take something substantial for me ever to consider them a vendor that I would deal with.  I am not interested in the funding, I am interested in the training.  I am interested in it being what we want both from an organisational and a staff point of view and provides us with the outcomes that we need.

We do ourselves a disservice as an industry when we focus on how, and how cheaply we can fund the training that we deliver to staff.  Lets stop talking about the funding and start talking about the training and the outcomes and what it is we actually need from a vocational training system in this country.

Effectively Funding Organisational Learning

How do organisations fund their learning?

I have spoken about this in other ways in previous posts, but I thought it was worthwhile raising the subject again both as a means of thinking through it for myself an hopefully to get some thoughts from everyone else about how they do it and what is most effective.

I guess from my thinking there seems to be a couple of models that seem to be the most prevalent in terms of funding L&D functions as follows;

  1. 100% Funded by Organisation –   0% charge to business units,
  2. ?% Funded by Organisation –   ?% charge to business units,
  3. 0% Funded by Organisation –   100% charge to business units.

Each of these structures have their own challenges, but I think by far the biggest challenge for all of them is around equity of delivery of service.  In the 100% funded model, some business units who have high need for the delivery of mandatory or compliance based training are going to take up a large proportion of the delivery hours.  In the 100% charge model there are issues around who has training budgets and the size of those budgets as well as the issue of regulatory need.  The problem of course with a mixed model is what should the mix be and how can it be made to be fair and equitable.

Some parts of the organisation will need low-cost training for a large number of people while other units will require only small numbers to be trained by the costs associated with the training may be much higher, then  when you add the management and procurement of  external specialist training for particular business areas the situation gets increasingly more complex.

I tend to lean towards the 100% funded model, simple because it is easer to manage a ‘cost centre’ delivery unit than one that relies on the business ‘buying’ internal training.  It also makes sense in terms of centralising of procurement and administration which is I think more difficult to fund and manage under a charge to business model.

I would be interested to hear what other people think on the subject.

The Structure of Learning and Development

How do you structure a learning and development unit for maximum organisational efficiency, 

seems to be a question with as many answers as there are organisations and organisational structures.  Some argue that it should be part of HR, some that it should stand alone and have its own seat at the big table and a lot just have no idea where it fits.  I am not going to get into that argument to, though a lot of you I suspect already know where I stand.  What interests me more at the moment is the actual structure of the unit itself rather than where it fits in an organisation.

Essentially there are three models for the structure of L&D

  1. Centralised – Where all learning and development activities are managed through a single central unit,k
  2. Decentralise – Where the responsibility for learning is spread across the various departments, units, divisions or regions of the organisation, and
  3. Matrix – Where there is both centralised and decentralised aspects.

So which structure works the best is there one that has a better chance of maximising organisational efficiency in terms of consistency and cost.  I tend to lean towards the Matrix model over the other two because it seems to offer the best opportunity of maximising efficiencies, there is however a caveat that needs to go along with this.  It is clearly the most difficult to both create and maintain.

A centralised approach works well in smaller or single site or single ‘product’ organisations but as organisations grow in size and product diversity the challenge for the centralised approached is to be able to ensure that the various parts of the business are getting the training they require and that a ‘head office gets everything attitude does not develop.

Decentralised structures are often found in conglomerate organisations, with very distinct business units or product lines or regions.  They often occur as a result of mergers or through the development of new business opportunities.  The real issue for decentralised structures is that often economies of scale are not well utilised and consistency of content and delivery becomes more difficult to maintain.

The Matrix model however enables various business units to have a level of autonomy over their training spend and a level of responsiveness which may be lacking in a purely centralised model.  It also allows for great levels of control over organisational wide learning activities and programs as well as being better able to respond to issues around consistency of training content and delivery.

Or maybe I just like it because it is the model we us.

I would be interested to hear what everyone thinks, particularly if some is operating in a model which doesn’t match the three I have mentioned above.

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