Consultant Skills Journey Ltd
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Transforming learning and development pt2

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19th Sep 2012
Consultant Skills Journey Ltd
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Clive Shepherd concludes his advice for those struggling with budget cuts and the ever changing world of L&D.

Responding to the pressures

Unfortunately, from my discussions it appears that some learning providers are struggling in their response to these pressures. Sometimes that's because they have very limited awareness of what new learning technologies have to offer, sometimes much less than their customers do. And given that there is no shortage of information about learning technologies available, in some cases this could be put down to 'burying your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away'.
For many providers, their only experience is in delivering classroom courses, typically from a catalogue of off-the-shelf options. Often they sub-contract much of the delivery of these courses, typically to trainers who are used to being block-booked by the day and having no responsibility to their trainees once the classroom event is completed. It's not easy to shift to a blended model in which parts of the programme may be delivered in short chunks online using a virtual classroom, or in which trainers have to support learners as they apply their new skills back on the job.
If a learning provider moves to a blended delivery model then they are in a very different business. Within the team they need a much better understanding of the design of blended learning interventions as well as the ability to develop materials that are a lot more engaging than the usual hand-outs and PowerPoints. On top of this they need the development tools and delivery platforms, and the people who are willing and able to use them.
This is not an insignificant change. It takes some time and, like all change, it can be painful. For those classroom trainers well established in their careers it may almost be necessary for them to go through a process not unlike grief as they leave behind their familiar way of working. But the alternative is a slow and inevitable decline in volumes that will be much more damaging in the long term for both the individuals and the companies involved.
As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, famously warned us, “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.”

What are the options?

Any learning provider faced with these pressures and looking to respond positively has essentially three options:
Option one, if you are a commercial provider, is to continue with the same business model but fight for a larger share of a smaller market. This clearly is an option and one that involves very little change. The problem, of course, is that only a limited number of businesses can succeed in this endeavour; and some might say that this is just postponing the inevitable.
Option two is to maintain a focus on classroom training but to establish partnerships with specialist elearning developers, as and when you are called upon to respond to requirements that take you outside your comfort zone. This could work as a short term fix, but poses several difficulties. Can two organisations so far apart culturally really work together to create the integrated solutions your customers want? Do you really want to lose control over the shape of the finished learning solution? And if you are a commercial provider, will you be able to compete against those companies who have all the skills under one roof?
Option three is to transform your organisation from the inside out to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Equip yourself to provide the innovative and highly-responsive solutions that others, whether they currently specialise in classroom delivery or in developing standalone elearning solutions, so often fail to offer. It is this third option that provides you with the most secure grounding from which to both respond to current pressures and prepare for leadership as the economy recovers.
Clive Shepherd is a Director of Onlignment, a consultancy that helps l&d providers, both in-company and external to transform their offering 
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