What are the priorities for L&D in the modern workplace? Our survey says …

I recently ran a short survey about the role of L&D in the modern workplace.  In this article I want to share the results and describe what I think it shows for the priorities for L&D in the modern workplace.

In Part 1 of the survey, I asked 5 quick questions that I had previously asked in 2011. In 2011 there were 61 responses and in 2018 there were 173 responses Here are the compared results:

1 – Do you think that formal learning (ie training, courses, e-learning) is the only valid way for people to learn how to do their jobs?

Yes No Don’t know
2011  98%  2%
2018  1% 99%

This was a very similar result to 2011, and continues to show that the vast majority recognise that valid learning happens at work through a much wider range of activities than just formally organised learning initiatives.

2 – Do you think that a business or performance problem can only be solved through some form of learning initiative?

Yes No Don’t know
2011  10%  86%  4%
2018  12%  88%

Again a similar result to 2011, but it seems that there is still a small number of people who do not recognise that performance problems can be solved by non-training initiatives. When in fact non-training initiatives should be the first to be considered (e.g. removing obstacles, changing processes, improving communications). Designing and delivering training is an expensive (and often unnecessary) activity to solve a performance problem.

3 – Do you think that L&D should manage social learning in the workplace?

Yes No Don’t know
2011  39%  59%  2%
2018  33%  57%  10%

An interesting set of results. Although a similar number of respondents think that social learning is something that doesn’t needs to be managed by L&D, fewer believe that it should be, whilst a larger number don’t know. This is probably due to the fact that “social learning” is a confusing concept. Whilst some believe it is about learning from others in an educational/training environment, the wider definition is about learning from peers and colleagues in everyday work life. In the latter case, of course, social learning is not something that needs to be managed by L&D – but can be enabled and supported by them.

4 – Do you think the only people who should decide what and how individuals should learn are L&D professionals?

Yes No Don’t know
2011  96%  4%
2018  3%  96%  1%

This clearly shows that a very high proportion believe that L&D is not solely responsible for workplace learning. In fact, it now seems to be much more widely recognised that EVERYONE has responsibility for this: the MANAGER for growing and developing his/her own team, and the INDIVIDUAL for his/her self-improvement and self-development. In fact, it is no longer realistic to expect the L&D department to provide everyone with everything they need to learn how to do their work or do it better.

5 – Do you think the primary purpose of the L&D department is to design, deliver and manage training/e-learning for the organisation?

Yes No Don’t know
2011  31%  65%  4%
2018  20%  78%  2%

For me, this was the most revealing question, since it shows that a larger number – but by no means all – of the respondents in this part of the survey think that designing, delivering and managing training is NOT the primary purpose of the L&D department. So in this case what is the purpose of their role now, and what might it be in the future? This was the topic for Part 2 of the survey.

In Part 2 of the survey I asked respondents to say how much time they currently spend on 10 different activities, and how much time they would like to spend on them in the future. There were 128 responses (to this part of the survey) from L&D professionals with roles that included Instructional Designer, Learning Partner, L&D Lead, L&D Consultant, Internal Trainer, and Performance Consultant.

Here are the results. The cells where the most responses were received are shaded so that you can see (and compare) the pattern of responses across the two main questions.

How much time do you CURRENTLY spend on the following activities? None
of
the time
Some
of
the time
A lot
of the time
All
the
time
Designing & delivering classroom training 27% 51% 20% 2%
Creating content and online courses 14%  46% 35%  5%
Running webinars and online training sessions  40% 47%  13%
Designing a range of learning experiences  8%  49% 34% 9%
Curating content and web opportunities 28% 41%  23% 7%
Helping managers develop their teams themselves  39% 32% 25%  4%
Supporting knowledge sharing in teams and organisation 30% 44% 24%  2%
Helping individuals learn from their daily work  38% 31% 28% 3%
Helping individuals become independent continuous learners  39% 41%   18% 2%
Keeping up to date with what’s new and what’s next  2% 43% 37% 18%

It was encouraging to see that for the respondents keeping up to date ranks as their number one activity, but as expected, the other top activities are still the traditional ones (of design and delivery). However,  when it comes to the activities that respondents that would like to spend their time on it is a different story, as shown in the table below.

How much time WOULD YOU LIKE to spend on the  following activities? None of
the time
Some of
the time
A lot
the time
All the time
Designing & delivering classroom training  29% 63%  6%  2%
Creating content and online courses 16% 47% 29%  8%
Running webinars and online training sessions 18% 60%  19%  3%
Designing a range of learning experiences  2% 18% 56%  24%
Curating content and web opportunities  10%  36% 43% 11%
Helping managers develop their teams themselves 6% 15% 51%  28%
Supporting knowledge sharing in teams and organisation  5% 13% 57% 25%
Helping individuals learn from their daily work 3% 13% 57% 27%
Helping individuals become independent continuous learners 11% 52% 37%
Keeping up to date with what’s new and what’s next  2% 11% 53% 34%

What Part 2 of this survey shows is that the respondents would like to spend:

  • LESS time on classroom training and online courses
  • some MORE time on running webinars, designing other types of learning experiences, curation as well as keeping up to date, and
  • much MORE time on helping managers develop their teams, and helping individuals learn from daily work and share their knowledge experience – with the most significant increase in work being aimed at helping individuals becoming independent continuous learners. 

Clearly, as many will be quick to point out, the results come from a small, self-selected group of respondents, but it is nevertheless interesting to see that there is now an increasing interest in non-traditional L&D activities.  Indeed, whenever I talk to L&D groups, most of them enthusiastically agree that they would like to have more influence in the business by supporting learning in the workplace more widely, but they simply don’t know how to, AND more significantly don’t know how to shift the organisational learning culture from one which focuses on training to one which focuses on continuous learning for, at and from the work  in many more ways. This, of course, is the purpose of my ONLINE WORKSHOPS which aim to help workplace learning professionals understand the new work for the modern workplace.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.