The role of technology is more than just completion of online courses
The CIPD/Cornerstone OnDemand learning and talent development survey was released at last week's HRD show and it delivered some valuable insights on the challenges and opportunities of developing talent and assessing impact.
It was great to see that the 15th CIPD Learning and Talent Development study consider, for the first time, social and collaborative learning, providing some useful insights into what is understood by the term social learning. For 70 per cent of participants, social learning meant group webinars, for 30 per cent it meant using online collaboration platforms such as Jive or Salesforce, and for others, it meant mentoring /peer-to-peer learning or just gathering around the 'water cooler'. The study also identified that three quarters of organisations are using e-learning (covering a wide variety of approaches such as mobile, social media, serious games, webinars, video, audio and online content libraries).
One of the key observations from the report is that UK businesses are failing to realise the potential of modern technology to develop their workforce. They found that while the perception of e-learning has improved (twice as many organisations rate it as one of their top three learning practices in 2013 than in 2009), compared to on-the-job training (ranked in the top three by 56 per cent) or in-house development programmes (ranked in the top three by 48 per cent,) e-learning falls way behind in popularity.
My concern is that isolating the technology-related learning may not reflect the full picture of adoption or impact. In fact, when it comes to really understanding the potential new learning landscape being forged by rapid business and technological change, the report left me with more questions than answers.
In the 2012 Towards Maturity Benchmark Study, we found that 25 per cent of formal learning programmes are now enabled (rising to 37 per cent in the top 25 per cent of companies). Technology is rarely isolated but embedded in the overall approach to in-house learning. For example, 50 per cent of organisations enable their technical, IT and industry-specific compliance programmes and more than 30 per cent of organisations are embedding learning technologies within their basic skills, leadership, induction and sales and marketing training. Organisations are also looking for new ways to use technology to support on-the-job training with 92 per cent looking to use technology to support the sharing of good practices and 66 per cent looking to technology to help them speed up and improve the application of learning in the workplace. I would agree with the CIPD study that we are yet to realise the full potential but I would also suggest that, used well, it is making more than a considerable contribution to the ongoing popularity of on-the-job training and in house programmes.
Despite defining e-learning as the use of technology to support, accelerate and develop learning, the CIPD report defined successful adoption in incredibly traditional ways, including completion rates with 31 per cent of organisations reporting that most employees complete the course. But for me, completion rates are not an indicator of success. For a long time in our own studies, we have deliberately not tracked completion due to the fact that so many organisations are using these tools to support just in time learning, providing the opportunity to for staff dip in and out as they need. Completion rates become more important when we are looking at compliance related programmes.
In the Towards Maturity 2012 study, we asked the question for the first time and found that organisations report a 64 per cent completion rate for compliance-related learning, rising to 74 per cent in top learning companies. Completion rates are not indicators of success, neither are the proportion of training time accounted for by e-learning, especially when one of the benefits of online learning, used well, is to reduce deliver time and time to competency. Surely we need to be looking at the impact of technology-enabled learning in terms of the value that the learning is adding back to business and the efficiencies that it brings to the process.
Our own studies concur with many of the CIPD results including the fact that the top challenge facing L&D professionals over the next two years is to integrate learning to support workplace change. But to achieve this, we have to consider the role of technology in enabling the wider learning and talent agenda, not just delivering completions on online courses. Learning and development professionals must consider how technology can support the wider talent, onboarding, apprenticeships, performance support and even learning evaluation challenges of today in order to prepare our businesses for change in the future.
Laura Overton is managing director of bencmarking company Towards Maturity.
The CIPD/Cornerstone report can be viewed here: http://www.trainingjournal.com/news/articles-news-e-learning-changing-little-in-organisations-research-reveals/
Bridging the gap - the 2012-13 Towards Maturity Benchmark can be downloaded at www.towardsmaturity.org/2012benchmark