Are Your Training Methods Outdated? Survey Says: Yes

Written by Jessica Stillman | May 4, 2012 2:58:14 PM

Like a carton of milk that's past its sell date, the concept of something being "out-dated" means it's been superseded by something better, and can safely be discarded. But according to a new survey, many training managers in the U.K. may have missed this very basic point.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Cornerstone OnDemand Learning and Talent Development Survey 2012 (yeah, that's a mouthful) asked British training professionals about what techniques they view as effective and which ones they actually use. You'd think the two responses would line up pretty neatly, but you'd be wrong. The UK's HR Magazine reports:

"When asked to choose the most effective ways of delivering training, 16 percent of learning and talent development professionals opted for formal education courses, and the same number for coaching by external practitioners. Only 11 percent pointed to e-learning. But despite doubts about its effectiveness, less than a fifth (17 percent) of the report's respondents plan to reduce their reliance on classroom and trainer-led instruction over the next two years.

"When asked what methods are most likely to work, most learning and development professionals pointed towards training that is integrated into the normal course of their jobs. Half of respondents (52 percent) responded that in-house development programs were amongst the most effective ways of delivering training, while almost as many (46 percent) cited coaching by line managers. Two-fifths (39 percent) pointed towards on-the-job training."

Legacy issues hold companies back

Of course, British L&D pros aren't actually in need of a vocabulary lesson. So what, then, is holding them back from implementing newer and more effective training techniques that integrate training and practice and deliver learning on the job? In short: institutional inertia.

"Many of the learning approaches used by organizations are legacies of a learning environment where the classroom, courses and 'sheep-dip' learning were the order of the day. However in today's environment, the skills of continuous collaborative and connective learning are paramount," John McGurk, learning and talent development adviser at CIPD, explained to HR Magazine.

"We need to lift our awareness of the emerging science on learning and in some cases we need to slaughter some of the sacred cows which have informed practice," he concludes. Or as Vincent Belliveau, general manager of EMEA, Cornerstone OnDemand, put it: " It's vital that organizations don't take a 'training for training's sake' attitude but instead adopt approaches which are known to be effective."

Away from the classroom

So is this ticking-the-training-box, results-be-damned approach as prevalent in the U.S.? Some research suggests that might be the case. When the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board (BIB) analyzed survey findings last year, for instance, it found that "65 percent of learning executives indicated they continue to use classroom training as the primary learning delivery method for developing soft skills." Asynchronous e-learning was a distant second at 18 percent.

But just because, as Chief Learning Officer puts it, "classroom is still king," doesn't mean things aren't changing. Companies, especially large ones, are investing in newer types of training, according to Bersin's Corporate Learning Factbook 2012. "In 2011, 25 percent of U.S. companies invested in informal learning tools or services. Large companies are making the heaviest expenditures, spending approximately $40,000 on average — more than twice what they spent in 2010," the report concludes.

So what's your experience – are training pros on this side of the pond also sticking with less effective training techniques simply because they're the status quo?

More: A Look Behind the Training Magazine Top 125

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

Image via FutureLooks.com.