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The future is bright – and blended


Up and upA new European training study by Cegos reveals that the UK is leading the way in making training practices more effective. Jeremy Blain shares the findings and explains the rise in blended and elearning.

During an economic downturn, training can be among the first functions to be put under the microscope. But the good news is that training practices in the UK have never been in better shape.

Photo of Jeremy Blain"The good news is that training practices in the UK have never been in better shape."

What we are seeing today is that UK organisations are leading the way in how they deliver and measure training. Training has become more accountable and more cost-effective as a result of a willingness among UK companies to embrace innovative training methods such as elearning, blended learning and mobile learning. In tough times, these findings are a shot in the arm for UK training functions.

The study was conducted among training managers from 1,000 companies across the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. We looked at three key areas – how are organisations prioritising their training efforts, how much are they spending and how are they measuring the effectiveness of training?

UK leads in innovation and accessibility

The survey shows that the UK trains a greater number of people. More than 60% of staff at organisations polled in the UK received training in 2007, compared to less than half in the other European countries studied.

Blended learning and elearning are continuing to gain popularity across Europe, with the UK and Spain taking the lead. More than half of UK employees now take part in both blended learning and elearning programmes. There is also a growing trend towards mobile learning in the UK, with 17% of employees using this method.

Face-to-face learning remains the number one method used by more than 90% of organisations across Europe. Coaching is particularly popular in the UK and Germany with 86% and 74% of companies respectively using coaching compared to less than half of companies in France, Italy and Spain.

The future is blended

In the UK, the biggest growth area is without doubt blended learning – combining face-to-face learning, elearning and on the job, line manager training.

Training managers today have recognised that technology can play a crucial role in driving down the cost of training, speeding up learning and making training more accessible to a wider audience – particularly important in the current economic climate. And increasingly, they are finding that elearning is even more effective when blended with face-to-face sessions.

Live learning is a key part of the mix, particularly for skills development. Training managers are demanding shorter, more practical face-to-face sessions that are designed to enable learners to acquire new skills that can be readily applied to upcoming challenges in the workplace. Role playing and other approaches that engage the learner are the focus of live learning, with elearning reinforcing the process of skills development and playing a lead role in knowledge development.

Learners too, are driving the trend – today's trainees are technology-savvy and want interactive learning delivered to their desktop, laptop, BlackBerry, MP3 player or mobile phone. Training today is about learning anywhere and anytime, with personalised content delivered on demand.

Time and budget pressures

While the UK is training more people than any other country, it is running shorter programmes and spending less on professional development than all its European counterparts, bar Italy. Why is this? The UK is clearly focused on how to make training more effective. Tight funding and the need to fit training in around day-to-day work are driving a trend towards shorter, bite-sized training programmes with the rise in elearning and blended learning playing a pivotal role in reducing costs.

"UK organisations are leading the way in how they deliver and measure training. Training has become more accountable and more cost-effective as a result of a willingness... to embrace innovative training methods."

Long gone are days on end spent off site on three-day plus training courses. Companies are under increasing pressure to reduce the time people spend away from their desks and the associated costs, and increase productivity. When they are away, they need more bang for the buck – and that means a more intensive and practical skills focus, condensed into shorter, live training sessions.

The survey found that the average European corporate spends Euros 580,000 on professional development. France spends the most - around three times more than UK corporations. The UK and Spain both spend 329,000 Euros - around 40% less than the average European budget, reflecting in part their greater use of blended learning and elearning, driven by tighter controls and constraints on training budgets.
More than 40% of all training in the UK is one day or less in duration, with the average training lasting two days, in comparison with three days in German and four in Italy. The key areas of focus for training across all the countries surveyed are, in order of investment: professional development; quality, safety and the environment; IT, and management.

Training is more accountable among UK plc

UK corporations are more focused on providing direct feedback to the balance sheet in the effectiveness of training than their European counterparts. Almost half (47%) of UK companies measure return on investment (ROI) and 65% have measures in place to assess the impact of training on their people. The UK is 20% better than any other surveyed country in measuring ROI with France second, where only 26% of companies measure ROI.

Much of this training in the UK is carried out in-house – more than any other country. Around half of all training in the UK is carried out in-house by the company itself, a quarter is provided in house with support from an outside supplier, and just a fifth is conducted off-site – around half the amount used in France and Germany.

So what does the future hold for training managers in these fragile economic times? Trainers need to demonstrate that training is a competitive business tool. As such they need to operate in a business environment where ROI is the key measure of success. For those who continue to focus on the effectiveness and ROI of training, the future is bright and the future is blended.

Jeremy Blain is the joint managing director of Cegos UK, part of the Cegos Group, Europe's largest training, learning and development company. For more information go to or <a href=""


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