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Francis Marshall

Cegos (UK) Ltd

Managing Director

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The UK: Top of the class for training practices


If you're feeling down about the state of this country's L&D industry. Francis Marshall analyses a few survey results that might surprise you.

There is little doubt that L&D has continued to face tremendous challenges during the past year. But despite tight budgets, and a sense of hope that better times lie ahead, our 2013 annual survey into learning trends across Europe paints an encouraging picture of how L&D is continuing to innovate and do 'more with less'.

The 2013 survey, which was carried out this spring among 2,470 employees and 600 HR directors/training managers in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, shows that once again the UK is leading the way in training practices.

Encouragingly, corporate UK offers the most variety in training methods used in the workplace with a greater percentage of trained employees undertaking classroom (95%), elearning (65%), coaching/mentoring (53%) and blended learning (53%) compared with the other countries surveyed. And the good news is that UK employees are the most satisfied with the training methods they use, too.

While the classroom remains the most popular training mode across Europe, elearning has seen a significant increase in popularity this year, up from 53% in the UK in 2012 to 65% this year. Last year we saw a spike in organisations using coaching and mentoring, propelling these techniques ahead of elearning. However this year coaching/mentoring has returned to being the third most popular training tool (down from 57% to 52%) with organisations perhaps being more selective in how they use these techniques. It’s clear though, that the ‘human’ touch will always be an essential component of training, both today and in the long-term future, despite the rise of technology.

Within the elearning domain itself, organisations are increasingly experimenting with a broad spectrum of innovative training tools to better engage with today’s rising population of tech-savvy learners.

When we asked those employees across Europe who had used elearning courses (61%) to tell us which training methods they had used online this year, we found that 35% had used smartphones or tablets for mobile learning (up from 8% in 2010) and an astonishing 40% serious games (up from 15% in 2010). These figures are higher than what I’ve seen happening in the corporate sphere and it will be interesting to see what our figures reveal next year.

"Learners are taking more initiative for driving their training forwards and this is particularly apparent in the UK, with 63% of employees revealing they took the initiative for selecting training."

So how is Europe shaping up in terms of other learning technologies? The survey found that social learning tools such as wikis, blogs, communities of practice and podcasts are still at an experimental phase across all companies surveyed in Europe. Nearly a quarter (22%) of HR/Training managers said they have yet to enable or encourage their employees to use any collaborative or social learning tools.

Looking specifically at the UK, 17% of trained employees have used collaborative tools such as intranets, forums and communities of practice for workplace learning in the past three years; 17% have used podcasts and videos; and 10% have used wikis and 8% blogs.

Over the past few years, it’s fair to say that there has been relatively little growth in the use of social media tools in learning. So do employers need to wake up to the social media revolution? Personally, I think so. When social media tools are integrated into the fabric of an organisation they can help enable greater collaboration and knowledge sharing across all levels of an enterprise. Isn’t this how new ideas and innovation prosper, not just in workplace learning, but in other areas of the business too?

Finally, another key trend we can take away from this year’s survey is that training remains increasingly learner-driven. Learners are taking more initiative for driving their training forwards and this is particularly apparent in the UK, with 63% of employees revealing they took the initiative for selecting training. Also, despite already having a good degree of autonomy, UK employees were among those who would like even more choice in the courses they take and the methods they use for learning.

Managers continue to play a key role in training, more so in the UK than anyway else in Europe. For 60% of employees in the UK they are still the prime source of information about training. Meanwhile, the survey found that UK employees are amongst those receiving the greatest support from their managers, before training to ensure clear objectives are set, and after the training to implement course content.

All of the survey findings indicate that professional training is in a healthy state in the UK with employees benefiting from a combination of three key factors: employees have a lot of freedom when it comes to training, their managers are very involved, and they use a wide variety of different tools to create the perfect blend of learning.

And what does the future hold? In conjunction with the survey, we asked 12 learning experts from academia and neuroscience research to industry and commerce for their views on the future of learning. Echoing the survey, common themes that came through in the 12 video interviews were the rise of learning technologies, the changing role of tutors and the shift to learner-driven training with employees taking greater control over their learning. 

The way we learn is clearly changing and employers must continue to explore how they can help enhance both personal and collective learning experiences.

Francis Marshall is managing director of Cegos UK, part of Cegos Group, a world leader in learning and development. To find out more about the future of learning and to see the 12 video interviews with industry experts - ‘12 Takes on the Future of Learning’ – follow @CegosUK on Twitter

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Francis Marshall

Managing Director

Read more from Francis Marshall

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