L&D practitioners need to bridge their own skills gap to drive organisational performance, study reveals

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 14 April 2015 in News
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The research shows that although the L&D community is more ambitious than ever before, many practitioners don’t have the capabilities in-house to drive the organisational change they’d like to. For example, 87 per cent think that business planning is a priority for L&D professionals but only 47 per cent think they currently have the skills in-house

To prepare organisations for technological growth, globalisation and an uncertain economic outlook, the L&D function needs a much broader blend of skills than ever before.

But new research reveals a significant gap between the skills and capabilities L&D practitioners know they need and what they actually have in-house.

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and Towards Maturity, provider of the latest benchmark research on effective practices for modern learning approaches, have today launched a new report, L&D: Evolving roles, enhancing skills. It follows CIPD research published at the end of 2014 which explored how changes in the external context are influencing the L&D profession. Now, through benchmarking data from 600 L&D leaders and organisational case studies, this new research identifies the extent to which the profession is evolving, what the developments mean practically for L&D practitioners, and considers those organisations successfully responding and adapting to key drivers of change in the external environment.

The research shows that although the L&D community is more ambitious than ever before, many practitioners don’t have the capabilities in-house to drive the organisational change they’d like to. For example, 87 per cent think that business planning is a priority for L&D professionals but only 47 per cent think they currently have the skills in-house. Similarly, 96 per cent see supporting learners online as important but just 36 per cent have the capabilities to offer these services.

However, these figures aren’t so surprising given that a high proportion of firms are not actively investing in building their L&D capability. More than 50 per cent of organisations surveyed said they are not planning on changing role focus towards instructional design, content development, technology, performance consulting and data analytics. This also filters down to the L&D function itself – despite 9 out of 10 L&D professionals looking to improve performance, productivity and sharing of good practice, only 53 per cent agree that there are more options than just ‘the course’ for building skills and performance.

Ruth Stuart, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “It’s very interesting how, as L&D professionals, we constantly champion the importance of staying ahead of the game in terms of skills and capabilities but don’t take our own advice. In this volatile work environment, we need to be agile, adaptive and ambidextrous to drive performance and stay relevant, aligning our work to the wider business.

“In order to do this, we need to ensure that the correct L&D resources, roles and capabilities are in place. Evaluating your team’s current skill base, starting to build on capability gaps and then making continuous professional development (CPD) an everyday reality are the first steps. We’ve seen that although practitioners seem to understand the importance of alignment between L&D activity and organisational performance, many are struggling to achieve this in practice. A clear line of sight is therefore key, as is being clear on vision and purpose and ensuring all resources are deployed innovatively and effectively.”

The research also highlights a noticeable shift in the L&D role from pure training delivery to a performance consulting model. This means L&D professionals must both diagnose and solve problems, partnering with the business to identify opportunities to enhance performance. The shift also moves L&D provision significantly beyond ‘the course’ and means that L&D professionals will increasingly need to be versatile experts. McDonald’s has already put measures in place to accommodate these broader roles, with the introduction of a new development programme designed to build performance consulting skills across the business.

Laura Overton, managing director of Towards Maturity, said: “It’s clear that L&D professionals have higher expectations than ever before, aligning themselves with wider business needs and accumulating more responsibility. However, this makes it imperative that we stop and reflect on our own L&D first if we are to adapt and evolve to the changing contexts of work, and the way we support individual and organisational performance.

“The challenge is how to focus our roles and shape our own professional development to make sure we are future-ready. We need to first identify all internal and external factors influencing L&D roles and consider what’s driving change. We then need to self-reflect and assess whether there is a healthy mix of roles in the L&D function, before deciding which changes we need to make to drive performance in our individual organisations.”

 

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