By Marcus Leach

The CIPD annual Learning and Talent Development survey has revealed that learning and development agenda in UK organisations is firmly focused on driving organisational change.

The most commonly anticipated major change affecting learning and development (L&D) over the next two years is predicted to be a greater integration between coaching, organisational development and performance management to drive organisational change. Nearly half (47%) state this as the major L&D development in this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Learning and Talent Development Survey of 600 organisations. The next most common changes anticipated are greater responsibility devolved to line managers (38%) and more emphasis on monitoring, measuring and evaluating training effectiveness (36%).

Organisational development/change management activities will be high up on the agenda for the next 12 months too, with 43% of respondents stating it is set to be one of the top three activities L&D specialists will spend most of their time on. The other two are more operational, with 46% expecting to spend time on management/planning of L&D efforts and 44% on delivering courses/time in a training facility.

The real stand out finding is the focus on organisational development/change management, which is increasing as an integral part of an L&D specialists’ role. Last year it was in the top three activities for 36% and in 2009, just 22%. This focus is clearly influenced by the current economic volatility and the cuts to the public sector, but also by gaps in leadership skills in the area of ‘leading and managing change’. Over half of respondents (55%) identified it as a gap, second only to performance management (59%).

As such, the most common focus of leadership development activities in the next 12 months will be enabling the achievement of the organisation’s strategic goals (43%), improving the skills of leaders to think in a more strategic and future-focused way (39%) and developing high-potential individuals valued by the organisation (37%). Coaching is most commonly rated as one of the most effective talent management activities (49%), with in-house development programmes second (28%) and high-potential development schemes third (25%).

“Learning and development specialists across the country will be judged over the next two years on how well they support organisations as they aim to gain competitive advantage through their employees. It’s for this reason that practitioners should welcome the findings of this survey, which show a move towards greater integration between the disciplines of coaching, organisational development and performance management to drive organisational change," Dr John McGurk, learning and talent planning adviser, CIPD, said.

“We are currently operating in a unique environment of public sector cuts and restructure and a private sector looking to re-emerge from the worst recession in a decade. Both of these challenges will require workforces that are change-ready and future-focused, and equipped with the necessary skills to drive change in the long term. The current gaps in leadership skills in the area of leading and managing change and performance management, highlighted by the survey, should be effectively targeted by the increasing focus on organisational development and change management as an integral part of the learning and development specialists’ role.”

The survey also highlights the need for practitioners to prove the impact of learning and development through comprehensive evaluation. Currently the results show that this is an area for improvement:

One in six organisations report that they do not fully evaluate learning
Post-course evaluations or ‘happy sheets’ are by far the most commonly used method of evaluating learning and development (93%), followed by the use of stories and testimonies of individuals to evaluate learning (56%)
Half of organisations (49%) frequently assess the likelihood that individuals or teams will benefit from learning interventions before embarking on them
Half of organisations (50%) frequently discuss the progress of individual learning interventions at appraisal and performance reviews