Majority of organisations to boost investment in training next year, as 99 per cent have seen initiatives fail, study finds

More than nine in 10 plan to increase learning budgets next year, but experts say management are afraid of losing staff with ‘shiny certificates’

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The vast majority (96 per cent) of HR and learning and development (L&D) professionals predict a surge in staff training budgets next year, new research has found.

The research by City & Guilds, which surveyed 600 L&D and HR professionals at large employers in August, revealed that the expectations followed almost all participants experiencing the “failure” of an in-house training programme in the last five years.

It found that L&D has become an increasing business priority, with two in five (43 per cent) suggesting that the rise in demand in organisations has been driven by a need to attract new talent, and become more competitive (41 per cent).

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A similar proportion (39 per cent) said the rise was to cater to employee demands for training and progression, and just over a third (37 per cent) said it was to resolve skills shortages.

Michelle Parry-Slater, L&D director at Kairos Modern Learning, said businesses that do not value learning often cut the training budget in times of austerity, but warned that those that do not invest in their people are “standing still”. 

She added that business buy-in was vital to the success of L&D: “Employers need to ensure any learning has strong stakeholder and strategic connections – this is not just the job of the L&D team, all managers need to be involved,” she said, adding that “the development investment, however, does have to be relevant, effective, supported, accessible and sustainable, as poor training and learning initiatives may as well be canned, as they are doing nobody any favours in or out of economic recession”. 

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Rachael Knappier, director of service at Croner, said businesses shouldn’t struggle to train if they don’t have the resources to do so. “Where there aren’t the internal resources to facilitate such training, businesses should consider liaising with external providers, who can develop expert programmes to contribute to a boost in retention and overall performance levels,” she said.

The research also found that more than half (57 per cent) of large employers offered internal certification for their programmes, while less than a third (29 per cent) offered it externally. This is despite just over a third (37 per cent) citing talent retention as a value added by using certification. 

Liz Sebag-Montefiore, founder and director at 10Eighty, explained that, to retain talent, employers must facilitate learning, skills building and training, and warned against employers being scared of losing their talent once they became trained. “The problem for management, of course, is that they are afraid those trained workers will take their shiny certificate elsewhere,” said Sebag-Montefiore, adding: “Encouraging curiosity and continuous learning, and building a learning culture for all employees, is something that offers an organisation tangible, long-term benefits for employees and employers in preparing them to meet future challenges.”

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of the professionals surveyed said they offered tailored training as opposed to ‘off the shelf’ programmes, but just over half (54 per cent) said three or more in-house training programmes did not meet their objectives in the last three years.

However, Dr Rebecca Jones, associate professor in coaching at Henley Business School, said the failure of training programmes was “not a new topic”, and referenced “widespread evidence” that training often fails to impact sustained behaviour change. 

“Training continues to account for the majority of most organisations’ L&D budgets,” said Jones. “This is why more and more organisations are realising that the way to address challenges such as attracting and retaining talent, and providing a competitive proposition to prospective employees with adequate opportunities for career progression, is through coaching rather than training.”