Review: The Value of Learning

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Garry Platt turns his attention to 'The Value of Learning', published by the CIPD. Although critical of the small sample size used for research (less than 1% of the target group) he gives the thumbs up to 'The Value of Learning', which, he says, is "fascinating, challenging and above all extremely interesting".

Title:The Value of Learning
Author: Dr Valeri Anderson
Publisher: CIPD
CIPD: www.cipd.co.uk

The thorny issue of the evaluation of training continues and in the second half of last year the CIPD published the findings of a research report it had sponsored Portsmouth Business School to undertake. This was led by Dr Valeria Anderson, a person for whom I have a great deal of respect because of her professional approach and her competent grasp of this area of research. I must also admit to being her CTP tutor back in the pre Cambrian. To quote Darth Vader: 'Wheeze ~ The student has now become the master ~ wheeze'.

I found this report fascinating, challenging and above all extremely interesting. I think there are anomalies present in the findings, which are probably indicative that further research might be fruitful. And I certainly don't agree with all the conclusions that have been reached - but anyone working in the field of training should get hold of a copy of this publication.

"Learning is now a strategic issue for organisations, and a strategic approach to evaluation is required."

Dr Valeri Anderson

Derek Bok is often quoted as saying: 'If you think education is expensive try ignorance'. The irony is that in the world of training I would maintain there is quite a significant amount of training which is actually more expensive than just plain ignorance. The ideas and concepts outlined in this report (if followed) would appreciably reduce this - that's quite an achievement in less than 60 pages.

The research approach was based on a model piloted by the ASTD in the USA. It essentially consisted of interviewing on a semi structured basis a learning, training or development (LTD) representative from within a host organisation and then comparing and contrasting their responses with that of a senior management representative in the same organisation. Two additional polls were held on the CIPD web site where members could respond to a number of additional questions. The sample size for the 12 organisations used is by my estimation 0.03% of the target population and I would question whether national trends and the demands of most 'senior decision makers' could be identified from a sample of this size?

The report suggests that LTD professionals should use 'an appropriate bundle of metrics that will enable them to assess and communicate to stakeholders the extent to which their value expectations are being met'. This is, I think, sound advice and appendix C of the report contains a range of suggestions and examples from which practitioners might choose suitable metrics. I know from my own experience of teaching ROI master classes for Fenman that LTD professionals struggle in identifying metrics and can sometimes fail to 'see the wood for the trees', so any help to remove this myopia is extremely beneficial. I shall be drawing from this work myself in future.

"Evaluating the strategic contribution of learning at an organisational level is an ongoing process rather than a singular outcome."

Kirkpatrick's or traditional approaches to evaluation are seen as having some problems and in my view are inappropriately downplayed. For example, you might identify a range of suitable metrics to measure workplace impact. A negative return at this level will not however show you where the breakage in transfer has occurred: Kirkpatrick can make a significant contribution here. The two approaches should not be promoted as mutually exclusive.

The report can be read in an hour and compared to many great tomes on this subject it probably supplies some of the concentrated advice to be found anywhere, and although the report proposes that few organisations view ROI as a strategic measure (an extrapolation too far for me from 12 companies and two internet polls!) I think the ROI on the purchase of the full report would be more than worth it for any LTD professional.

Originality ****
Ease of Understanding *****
Practicality ****
Overall Rating *****

* = Sucks ** = Poor *** = OK **** = Good ***** = Excellent

Garry Platt is a senior consultant at Woodland Grange specialising in management development and trainer training. He can be contacted on 01926 336621 or e mail: [email protected]

Read his last review: 'It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be'

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