Less than a third (29%) of organisations have implemented clear learning and development (L&D) plans for their staff, according to a new report from CIPD and Accenture – and many are lagging behind on the adoption of novel digital learning solutions.
Based on a poll of 1,200 employers, Learning and Skills at Work 2020 reveals that 21% of respondents do not use any technology at all to support staff learning, while many others lean primarily on classroom experiences. (CIPD/Accenture, 8 June 2020)
Although 79% of respondents use learning technologies to some degree, the adoption of exciting, emerging technologies is sluggish: mobile applications (12%), virtual reality (4%) and augmented reality (2%) are used for L&D only in a minority of cases – yet in firms where they are being used, they are proving highly effective and uptake is growing.
The survey also found that: many employers lack the roles and skills required to deliver digital learning; in-house L&D roles are still dominated by face-to-face trainers, and digital asset creators or curator researchers are rare, appearing in fewer than one in ten employers.
The research also suggests a link between learning and productivity: among companies with above-average productivity, 84% said their learning strategy is linked to business needs, compared to just 43% of firms with below-average productivity. Similarly, 41% of high-productivity firms have boosted their investment in learning technologies, compared to 22% of firms with below-average productivity.
CIPD CEO Peter Cheese said: “Learning has never been more important for business, the UK and working lives – we needed it before Covid-19 and we need it even more now. Yet this report highlights the gap between companies who know this – following through with strategic investment, professional practice, new technologies and time to learn – versus those who know the importance, but allow it to be the first thing cut from the budget.”
He added: “Within the report, there are some incredibly innovative examples of learning, which are developing new skills, behaviours and performance. At times like these we need these examples to be more commonplace.” (CIPD, 8 June 2020)
How should employers ensure that they take full advantage of L&D technologies in a structured way that will be of maximum appeal and benefit to their staff?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Based on CIPD’s information, this poll was conducted at the beginning of the year, pre-Covid, and does indeed highlight very low rates of uptake for digital learning – in parallel with a much heavier emphasis on face-to-face, classroom-style methods.
“And it’s understandable why classroom training is so popular: firstly, everyone is familiar with it and knows the ropes; secondly, it can be cost-effective from a travel perspective to get everyone in a room at the same time – and thirdly, participants are always grateful for the opportunity to speak to each other. How often do we hear from people who’ve come back from training days that it was the breaks when they learned the most?
“However,” she notes, “with people now working remotely on such a large scale, classroom experiences are in many ways no longer cost effective, or even practical. Going by feedback we received for our 22 May virtual conference on online learning, employees are being forced to adopt these novel learning solutions to work around the constraints of social distancing. As a result, they are becoming increasingly familiar with how these tools work and are building up relevant competencies.
“At the same time, the aspects of classroom learning that weren’t quite working before we were forced to adapt could migrate into the digital realm if we don’t start changing how we encourage people to learn. One helpful set of resources that employees can take advantage of is the plethora of informal learning opportunities that are available in the digital space. In our May conference, Jane Hart – a world leading expert in informal and online learning – challenged employers with the notion that an overt emphasis on didactics, or being taught, is failing to deliver the results that organisations need.”
Cooper explains: “Jane runs a series of different surveys on these topics every year, and has consistently found that online learning is very unpopular. So, the challenges for trainers are: what are you going to do to make it interesting? And how are you going to engage learners in different ways? Learners have now upskilled their capabilities through using the tools during lockdown – so now it’s up to trainers and L&D departments to respond in kind.”
She adds: “They have a lot of learning to do themselves – particularly in terms of how best to incorporate what Jane calls the Three Ds: Doing, Discourse and Discovery. A big part of that is giving people the time and space they need in which to learn. Another is recognising that learning is always beneficial, without leaders and management trying to exert too much control over it.”