Organisations focus too much on L&D platforms at the expense of content

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Companies need to examine how best to invest in training to ensure the business achieves its learning goals

A misplaced focus on learning platforms over content and the training need means L&D at many firms risks becoming ‘boxed in’ or too narrow in focus, according to research from the Corporate Research Forum (CRF).

The Learning – the foundation for agility and sustainable performance report, seen exclusively by HR magazine, suggests some firms are too focused on ‘individual/productive’ training. This is defined as learning that helps an individual improve performance in their existing role rather than helping them grow and innovate, and rather than supporting them to improve the performance of the organisation overall. This could be a video on how to manage a difficult conversation with a co-worker, for example.

“One factor causing firms to get boxed in is the rise of learning technology,” said Gillian Pillans, research director at the CRF and the report’s author. “With e-learning – for example, artificial intelligence, chat bots and gamification – gaining traction in corporate learning, we are seeing many firms focusing on delivering innovative platforms rather than focusing on actual learning.”

The report found that 35% of the 193 CRF members surveyed were using MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in their training, 69% were using mobile apps, and 63% were using computer simulations. More than eight in 10 (85%) said their use of mobile learning apps was increasing.

Terry Jones, VP talent and development for Europe, Eurasia and Africa at insurance firm Chubb, agreed that fixation on the method of delivery could be undermining quality of content. “Learning is made up of three components,” he said. “You need the right platform, the right content and an engaged audience. Just because a technology is new does not mean it is going to be right for your situation. We are quite time-poor so bite-sized learning is ideal for us. You need to consider what learning style is going to engage your audience.”

Jones added that many firms try to save money through buying learning packages, but this isn’t cost-effective. “They may buy a programme with 300 learning titles but find that only 10% of them ever get used,” he said. “It’s the wrong approach; organisations should be looking at how to invest in their learning, and not try to use a one-size-fits-all package.”

The key to an effective training programme is understanding why learning is being conducted in the first place, said Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at Queen Mary University of London.

“Often you see organisations fall into the trap of looking at what solutions are available, and then trying to find out what problem they have that these could solve,” he said. “Or they might think that having many options will be better, rather than considering what their business actually needs.”

But organisations must avoid a tick-box approach to L&D, urged Briner. “You might feel that, since you have a new platform in place, you can say you’ve ticked the learning and development box even though it might not be working for you,” he said.

“For an evidence-based answer learning managers should be going back to basics and asking why they are offering training to begin with. What are they hoping to achieve? Once they understand that they can start to design a programme that fits their needs.”

The CRF research revealed that while 96% of those polled thought that learning could be a competitive advantage, only 64% thought it could be considered as such at their own firm. More than a quarter (28%) thought learning was business-critical, and 90% ranked it as ‘important’ or higher.

“You can’t get a competitive advantage through your learning just by buying subscriptions to various learning programmes,” Pillans said. “It won’t help to build the culture at your firm.”

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