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Garry Platt


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An independent survey paints a very grim picture of L&D in some top UK companies.


An independent survey of decision makers at 100 of the UKs top 500 companies (by turnover) has produced some depressing results about the state of some L&D departments in the UK, just look at these dire figures:

70% see inadequate staff skills as barrier to growth
40% see employee skills risk being obsolete
55% claim L&D failing to deliver necessary training
46% doubt L&D can deliver
less than 18% agree that L&D aligned with business
(Coleman Parkes 2010)

Is anyone actually surprised by these figures or is it what you would expect?

12 Responses

  1. Interesting
    If “70% see inadequate staff skills as barrier to growth” yet “46% doubt L&D can deliver” how will the skills be developed? Are they blaming L&D for the lack of business development, yet not considering L&D as worthy to sit at the table?

    The statistics make interesting reading on their own but I’d like to see more context in how they were collected.

  2. Don’t know

    I don’t know is the honest answer. But I could propose an alternative view; that these organisations see a skills shortage as a serious problem but don’t think the L&D departments are up to dealing with it.

    And I suspect that if the departments in questions have a  ‘menu driven’ approach to respond to the learning, training & development needs, they’re probably right.


  3. where does this data come from?

    Hi Garry

    Where did you find this survey? Coleman Parkes website makes no mention of it whatsoever!


  4. Donald Clark

    The source was Donald Clark, (Plan B) Blog, who when asked this same question stated: ‘I looked into this myself. Commissioned by Capita, but not online. I was sent the Exec Summary. Some would say an interested party, as an outsourcer, but it was done independently. Quantitative interviews by Coleman Parkes, with questionnaire designed by Man Bites Dog, only with organisations that had a dedicated L&D function. Research in accordance with MRS Code of Conduct by trained interviewers to IQCS standards.’

  5. Survey – no surprise

    Hi Garry, another excellent contrubution to get the brain cells going.  This information seems to be reflecting what is out there. 

    Many L&D people still seem fixed to a menu of training activity and rising numbers of attendees as their indicators of success rather than

    what people achieve and do with learning.

    There also seems to be far too much emphasis on attending courses, face to face or any other format. 





  6. Is it the L&D team… or is it the people obsessed with measurab

    In many organisations, particularly in the public sector there’s a renewed vigour for all things measurable… everybody working in L&D knows that some programmes are much more difficult to properly evaluate than others.

    In a previous job I was put under pressure to set staff training days targets (which I refused to do on the basis that if somebody only needs one day, that’s what they get, if somebody needs 20 [sack em…. erm] then that’s what they get).

    Measuring things is of course important, but can you REALLY say that running a customer care course programme impacts on customer experience… or was it simply that Grouchy Gretta was on holiday, or a manager was being pressured to closely monitor the customer ineractions of their staff.  I’m sure you get the drift. (Gets off soapbox).

    One key problem is that managers and senior people can’t verbalise what they want or need and on occasions both L&D and Senior people speak a very different language.  Surely the people at the top need to take responsibility for the learning of their people – after all learning and improvements resulting are when it is done WITH people, not TO!

  7. Problem: fads, status quu and evaluation

    1. L&D has been drifting for some time towards faddish techniques that offer no benefits to organisations. Recent activity on TrainingZone reflects this, with barely disguised ‘articles as ads’ on NLP, coaching etc. As long as L&D accepts this raft of new age nonsense as ‘learning’ it will remain a low-level activity with little respect from senior management.

    2. L&D managers lack the business skills to recognise, diagnose, design and deliver relevant 21st century solutions. They’re largely (not all) locked into repeating their status quo, embedded classroom, workshop, chalk and talk culture and make far too little use of scalable technology.

    3. Training is locked into irrelevant ‘happy sheet’ evaluation as it can’t see past the 50 year old Kirkpatrick system, a non-evidence based, over-engineered, upside-down system designed to avoid the truth, rather than face up to real evaluation.

    I’d add one more – that L&D has no real leadership and that folding training into the CIPD was catastrophic. It has resulted in a fossilised profession with no real vision or innovation.

  8. As always, an interesting reply Donald
    1. L&D has been drifting for some time towards faddish techniques that offer no benefits to organisations.
    Is this an issue over the desire to be ‘creative’? To want to offer a unique selling point? To have a system/model/process that is guaranteed to improve your interaction with…? Is it that traditional methods haven’t worked, managers and leaders want ‘something new’, yet don’t know what ‘it’ is to make the difference?

    2. L&D managers lack the business skills to recognise, diagnose, design and deliver relevant 21st century solutions.
    Can I add the word ‘Some’ to the start of this. Many of us will have managed at the coalface and have the appropriate business focus from our experiences of being on the other side of the fence. Is the issue over the perception of L&D that is fostered both within (and without) the L&D arena?

    3. Training is locked into irrelevant ‘happy sheet’ evaluation as it can’t see past the 50 year old Kirkpatrick system.
    Again, I’d add a word at the start…that word being ‘Most’. With the business focus (from 2. above) it isn’t difficult to tip the Kirkpatrick system on its head and engage with managers at the needs stage to prove that sometimes it’s not going to be the training that will have the impact they expect.

    4. That L&D has no real leadership and that folding training into the CIPD was catastrophic.
    Agree 100%.

  9. Interesting .. but surely this same debate has been going on for

    I have been a knowledge worker (but not regulated knowledge worker such as finance etc) all of my career – 24+ years – and employed by SME s where regulation, induction etc is not core to keep staff aligned and informed .. so I have never seen how L&D and especially elearning can help me. Instead, the benefits to me would be from top-level mentoring and performance support tools – and this is not training or learning but real business tools to support my decision-making.

    Why do your results ring true? Most employees in corporations are now knowledge workers – and of course L&D can’t really help with inventiveness, creative thinking, complex decision-making etc. I’m not sure even computer games can.

    Set me a case study and problem and I’ll solve it or learn from it as I’m doing it. Link it to a decent identifiable career-enhancing programme and I’ll do it. Use it in mentoring or team feedback on decision-support systems (my backgroudn if you hadn’t guessed) then I’ll do it. Just don’t send me on a course or some boring elearning which does nothing at any level for me.

    Oh, and please don’t try to capture self-directed learning and knowledge acquisition as training or we will be really peeed off – its not measurable … self-directed and inventive people don’t need that or we will die. We need the freedom to go about our business and be measured on our outcomes – asking for mentoring or extra on the job support when we need it.

    I appreciate my experiences are not the same as those in corporations where there is less freedom and perhaps less ability to just get on with things – but so-called informal learning is part of every dynamic intelligent peoples’ make-up and you just can’t teach that.

  10. Good points

    I think you’re largely right for certain types of jobs (knowledge workers especially) in that the creation of the right learning ecosystem allows self starters to just get on with it. However, I do think that structured, scenario-led, case-led simulations, or ‘First Person Thinkers’ do work, as I’ve seen them work in soft skills, business skills, healthcare and the military.

    The main problem for me is the infection of formal learning by faddish, new-age theories that are contradictory and have no supporting evidence, whether scientific or evaluative. Trainers are largely stuck in ‘classrooms’ with formal timetabled ‘courses’ and feel, as was said, this need to be ‘entertaining’, so ‘performance’ overrides the teaching of competences. Or they default into a Carl Rogers driven ‘coaching’ role, where anything goes. Just sit back and listen and you’re a professional ‘coach’. Senior managers are right, therefore, to be sceptical of L&D, as it contains too many wanabee witches and wizards.

  11. Realising potential
    “…the creation of the right learning ecosystem allows self starters to just get on with it.”

    What about non-self starters? The individuals who do what’s expected, who jog along at the pace the manager determines because the manager can’t spot the potential and either can’t or won’t challenge the person to raise their game? For this much larger group (in my experience) there is an expectation by them and their management that they need a third party input to develop the potential they they have but aren’t using.

    A while ago I worked in retail sales in an L&D role and was disappointed that senior managers wanted training for their staff. I undertook a comprehensive business review that worked as training needs analysis of the business and identified training and management gaps that needed to be addressed. The response? I was made redundant as the management wouldn’t accept that the business needed management change as much as training. This is why I queried the context of the report; using the statements in Gary’s original post:
    They saw inadequate staff skills as barrier to growth – completely. But they didn’t recognise that strategic decision making was also a barrier to growth.
    They saw employee skills risk being obsolete – agreed.
    They claimed L&D failing to deliver necessary training – agreed. But they didn’t recognise the management training and process overhaul that was required.
    They doubted L&D can deliver – they supported me to the point when they disagreed that review was needed from the top down.
    They didn’t agree that L&D aligned with business – and when I tried to align it they dismissed it since, I was told, they knew best.

    I didn’t do classroom training, I didn’t use any faddish activities or theories, I focused on competencies, and they were disappointed that I didn’t do the ‘traditional’. Is it any wonder that traditional still sells?

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Garry Platt

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