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Feature: Driving a Change to More Responsive Training


Drawing on research on both sides of the Atlantic, Tim Drewitt, director of Balance Learning, examines what will be the key developments for training over the coming two years.

Over the next few years, the training landscape is predicted to alter as training departments respond to a number of driving forces that require them to change the way they deliver training solutions to meet the needs of their businesses. What will become more noticeable is the increase in the use of blended learning programmes to up-skill employees across the range of business training requirements.

Commentators have, for a while now, maintained that training departments need to be more responsive to the goals of their organisation and that existing practices will have to change if the training function is to retain its key role in organisational development. But for all their predictions, evidence has been limited as to the reality in the field.

However, in our Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey 2004, we have uncovered the major driving factors behind the move away from the current traditional training approaches to more flexible and responsive training solutions. In particular, the experience of training professionals in North America has provided valuable pointers for UK organisations on how best to adapt their training strategies.

Time Spent Learning
When 286 training professionals, primarily in the UK and US, were asked what the drivers were behind the new training solutions they were developing, 91% cited the time participants spent in training as the major driver.

The need to reduce this time was reported by 72% of these responders, by as much as 50% in some cases. The largest proportion (10%) were looking to reduce time away from the workplace by 11-20%, with 7% looking for reductions of 21-30%.

Transfer of Learning
The next most cited driver was how the learning was put into practice, with 85% of responders recording this option. Here the responsibility of the HR & training department, line manager and participant in ensuring the transfer of learning were examined, with the overwhelming opinion that the line manager and participants would take on greater responsibility for this going forward.

Currently, 72% of responders felt the HR & training department had that responsibility at the moment, with 62% recording that line managers did play a role and 51% that the participant took on this task. Going forward, 86% of responders wanted the line manager to be responsible for learning transfer, 76% wished to see more involvement from the participant themselves, with the HR & training department taking less of a role (58% of responders).

Participant Costs
As participant time was an issue, so were direct participant costs, with 64% of responders reporting this as a major driver. Currently, on average, for those for whom it was a factor, the average daily cost for a participant in the UK is £221.

From this group of UK responders, 53.3% were looking to reduce this cost, with 18% seeking reductions of between 11 and 20% and a further 13% wanting to see falls of up to 10%, with 14% looking for more substantial savings beyond 31%.

Effectiveness and Efficiency
In light of these and the other drivers, the responders considered the effectiveness and efficiency of the different training delivery approaches.

Looking at the effectiveness of the different training methods, instructor-led training was regarded overall as the most effective method by 78% of responders, followed by on-the-job training (72%) and then blended learning (71%), with coaching in fourth place (64%), learning from peers next (49%) and e-learning down in sixth place (32%).

Although that was the overall picture, in North America, blended learning was regarded by the survey responders there as the most effective method (79%), marginally ahead of instructor-led training (78%) and on-the-job training (72%). E-learning remained at sixth place (34%).

In the UK, instructor-led training was regarded still as the most effective method (76%), followed by on-the-job training (70%), coaching (67%) and then blended learning (57%), but e-learning was demoted here down to seventh place (26%).

Turning to the efficiency of the different training methods, overall, blended learning was recorded as the most efficient method by 63% of responders, followed by e-learning (57%) and then coaching (54%). Instructor-led training was in sixth place, with just 34% of responders believing this to be an efficient method.

In the UK, on-the-job training was regarded as the most efficient method by 62%, followed by coaching (60%), with blended learning in third place (57%). Instructor-led training was in fourth place (52%), with e-learning down in seventh place (47%).

North America trainers regarded blended learning as the most efficient method (65%), with e-learning in second place (63%), with instructor-led training down in sixth place (35%).

Adoption of Different Training Methods
To help better understand some of the differing opinions of UK responders, compared to the overall picture and North America in particular, we need to look at what proportion of training output is delivered using the different methods.

In the UK instructor-led training, on average, currently accounts for 48% of training outputs, with a similar picture in North America (50%). But whereas blended learning programmes account for 9% of training outputs in the UK, in North America they account for 16%. Similarly, North American companies are making greater use of e-learning (15%), compared to in the UK (9%).

The Changing Landscape
Given this evidence and the driving forces behind the need to change the way organisations train their people, the survey looked at how the face of training will change over the next two years.

By 2006, it is predicted that, overall, instructor-led training will account for 38% of all training outputs, down from a current overall position of 50%. Blended learning will be increasingly used to deliver training, rising to 24% of outputs (up from 13% now), whilst e-learning will see a similar rise, up to 24% in 2006 from a current position of 13%. Coaching too will benefit from the move away from instructor-led training, accounting for 14% of training in 2006 (11% at present).

* Get a copy of The Transatlantic Blended Learning Survey 2004 free until 22 December (normal price £25) from


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