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Insight: CIPD - L&D impact too rarely measured against business outcomes

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6th May 2015
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Just 7% of L&D professionals evaluate the impact of their initiatives on the wider business or society, with most limiting their focus to learner and manager feedback, according to new research.
 
The annual L&D Survey from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, highlights that a lack of effective evaluation can contribute to skills gaps being undetected, particularly in the use of innovative approaches such as new learning technologies. In response, the CIPD is urging L&D professionals to look beyond trainee satisfaction and measure initiatives in terms of how they add value to the organisation as a whole, and society in general.
 
The need for L&D professionals to link more directly to overall business strategy and outcomes is a key theme that is being discussed next week at the CIPD’s annual Learning and Development Show (13-14 May 2015) which will bring together thousands of L&D professionals at London Olympia to discuss the latest trends and developments in L&D. Ahead of this, the CIPD’s annual L&D survey reveals that 1 in 3 organisations (37%) only measure the satisfaction of those that take part in L&D initiatives, rather than their wider impact on the business. 
 
Ruth Stuart, L&D Research Adviser at the CIPD, said: “It’s difficult to predict the ways in which L&D will evolve over the next few years, but there are a number of key tools we have which can help shape the future, and evaluation is one of them. It allows organisations to understand which L&D initiatives are working and which aren’t, so they can tailor activities accordingly and engineer people development to add the most value to individuals and the overall business.
 
“Although most organisations are evaluating the majority of their L&D initiatives, they’re not going far enough and crucial measurements, such as whether L&D is affecting organisational productivity, remain unknown. With more and more L&D professionals reporting increased workloads and external pressures, we need to work smarter, not harder. We need to invest in our own analytical capability and use evaluation to identify skills gaps earlier on, so we can ultimately deploy effective L&D practice and encourage long-term, sustainable organisational growth.”
The survey identified some of the skills gaps already existing in L&D departments, such as in analytical and technological capabilities. Despite the fact that three quarters of organisations use learning technologies in their L&D initiatives, and 57% of respondents expect developments in mobile learning technologies to have the greatest impact on the L&D profession over the next five years, the survey found that many lack confidence in their ability to use them. 
 
Ruth continues: “Although face-to-face delivery methods will continue to play an important role in L&D, learning technologies are on the rise and organisations are investing much more in them as a resource. And it’s obvious why – technological initiatives can play a critical role in enabling flexibility and helping to advance a learning culture through facilitating knowledge sharing and social learning."
 
Other highlights from the L&D survey include:
  • L&D is ‘broadly’ aligned with business strategy in 42% of organisations, and ‘extremely’ aligned in a further quarter (25%) of organisations. Just 6% report no alignment at all.
  • The most common organisational changes that will affect L&D over the next two years are closer alignment with the business strategy (40%) and greater emphasis on monitoring and evaluation (35%).
  • Organisations in the private sector are twice as likely to report that L&D headcount has increased than decreased. In contrast, public sector organisations are twice as likely to have reduced their headcount than increased them.
  • On average, respondents said that around half of their L&D content is developed from scratch
  • A quarter (25%) integrate findings from social / behavioural neuroscience into practice, but over a third (36%) say they are aware of it but don’t fully understand it. 

Ruth Stuart will be discussing the key findings of the L&D survey at the CIPD’s annual L&D Show, 13 – 14 May 2015 at London Olympia. For more information on the speakers, seminars and exhibition visit cipd.co.uk/LDshow 

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