Are we sacrificing learning expertise for business focus?

By Ruth Stuart, Learning and Development Research Adviser, CIPD

The latest CIPD and Cornerstone OnDemand annual Learning and Development survey 2014 suggests that learning and development is increasingly becoming more business focused, with commercial awareness cited as the most valued skill. This is extremely encouraging and represents the growing awareness that L&D needs to be aligned with the business to be credible.

Other findings are more worrying!

Knowledge and understanding of the latest trends and technologies in L&D, and awareness and application of new learning insights are not prioritised. Fewer than ten percent of L&D and OD professionals consider these to be among the most important factors contributing to success in their roles.

We are, however, seeing traction in one key emerging field. Awareness of findings from neuroscience has increased significantly between 2012 and 2014, demonstrating that more L&D professionals are engaging with this fascinating topic. However, integration into practice is still relatively low. 

Additional findings in the survey show that we are yet to take advantage of new learning technologies. The proportion predicting the growth of e-learning is declining, and there is a widening gulf between the use of formal e-learning and its perceived effectiveness. Yet social and collaborative learning, virtual classrooms and MOOCs are not seeing widespread adoption. 

This has prompted me to consider why there is such a gulf between the plethora of information promoting new learning insights and technologies, and actual adoption in organisations. Perhaps we are too busy focusing on integrating learning with business needs, than developing our core knowledge base. It seems to me that there is a danger of L&D being too insular.

Of course building great relationships with internal business leaders is critical. But arguably staying aware of external developments is just as important. For how can you determine what's best for your organisation without having an appreciation of emerging insight and new techniques, which can help you get the best return from learning?

Perhaps it's time for us to start prioritising our own development to keep up to date and stay relevant. 

You can follow and contact Ruth on Twitter at: @RStuartCIPD

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