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Better evaluation of L&D needed

Just 7% of L&D professionals evaluate the impact of their initiatives on the wider business or society, CIPD’s annual L&D Survey has found.

It reveals that one in three organisations (37%) only measure the satisfaction of those that take part in L&D initiatives, rather than their wider impact.

According to 45% of respondents, the most common barrier to evaluating L&D is ‘other business priorities’, but barriers within L&D and HR itself, such as the quality of analytical data (32%), and the capability of L&D and HR to conduct evaluation (25%), were also common obstacles.

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The survey drew a link between lack of effective L&D evaluation and L&D professional skills gaps going undetected, particularly in the use of innovative approaches such as new learning technologies.

Less than a quarter of respondents (24%) feel ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ confident in their ability to harness technology to increase the effectiveness of their L&D interventions. When asked how confidence might be increased, several called for ‘simple terminology’, ‘bite-sized introductions to what is currently available’ and ‘more basic courses, guides or articles’. 

Ruth Stuart, L&D research adviser at the CIPD, said: “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.”

She added: “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.

“However, investment in learning technologies is completely wasted if L&D teams cannot use them, so more needs to be done to understand capability gaps in the profession, and ensure L&D initiatives are used effectively.”

Encouragingly the CIPD survey found that L&D is ‘broadly’ aligned with business strategy in 42% of organisations, and ‘extremely’ aligned in a further quarter (25%) of organisations, with just 6% reporting no alignment at all.

Other highlights from the L&D survey included:

  •  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 it.
  •  On average, respondents said that around half of L&D content is developed from scratch.
  •  A quarter (25%) integrate findings from social / behavioural neuroscience into practice, but over a third (36%) said they were aware of it but don’t fully understand it. 

Ruth Stuart will be discussing the L&D Survey’s key findings at the CIPD’s annual L&D Show, 13-14 May 2015, held at London Olympia. For more information visit cipd.co.uk/LDshow