Sunday, July 23, 2017

Skills, training and the language we use - the big divide?

Rachel Burnham writes: I feel incredibly privileged because I love my work - both the paid work I do as an L&D Consultant, working for myself and the work I do as a volunteer, whether for L&D Connect or CIPD Manchester, as a member of the branch committee and their Public Policy Adviser.  I get to do some really interesting things for CIPD Manchester that I wouldn’t get to do otherwise, such as contributing to organising the recent ‘Shape the Future’ event for CIPD.  As Public Policy Adviser I have got involved in facilitating focus groups and meetings around a very diverse range of topics from dispute resolution,  the National Living Wage, the Northern Powerhouse, to new Psychoactive Substances and EU Migration policy – and look out for exciting news in the early autumn on a new venture ‘The Big Conversation on Families, Parents and the Workplace’.

It is fascinating to be working and making things happen both in the L&D field and also in the wider HR Public Policy field.  I get to work on some different topics and also on some areas that are common to both fields.  It has broadened my perspective on the HR field – it helps me to understand more practically the connections between L&D and other aspects of HR – this has been particularly true of the recent work on EU migration policy that has impacts across many aspects of HR from recruitment, to talent management, skills development, job design & use of automation.    I get to work in different sorts of ways and with different networks of people.   And I notice some interesting differences between the L&D agenda and the Public Policy agenda and also the language that is used, even when we are discussing topics we have in common. 

For example, in the L&D world there is a lot of focus on modern workplace learning with emphasis on how we can make effective use of digital technologies and also social learning, so that learning can be much more responsive to the needs of organisations and individuals, with individuals being able to access learning as and when they need it.  And often that learning may be through access to resources, so actually may be more about performance support.  

Of course, in very many organisations face to face learning still plays a huge and important part, whether that is on its own or as part of wider blended learning programmes.   Amongst these programmes will be ones leading to qualifications – some of these qualifications may be quite sector specific eg medical qualifications, qualifications for the financial services sector or job specific eg health and safety qualifications. However, in many organisations, much learning will be uncertified particularly informal learning – without that in any way that limiting its value or effectiveness.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine how much of our learning can be certified given the rate of learning needed to be effective in some roles or the degree of organisation and job-specificity often required.

Yet in the public policy area, when skills are being discussed then the focus is largely on qualifications and the language is mostly that of training.   This feels more limited, dated and also rather confusing – I find myself wondering when a report refers to the amount spent on training or the amount of training being ‘received’ by employees – just what is being included within those figures – qualifications almost certainly, all face to face training probably, e-learning possibly, informal & social learning - it really isn’t clear, but I suspect it isn’t, learner led development – probably not.  

I was delighted to see that the recent CIPD report on skills, which I have previously blogged about, was consciously moving away from just looking at qualifications. Informal learning is mentioned (briefly), but the focus is still on this formal end of learning and the language is still largely that of training.  So there is a gap between what is happening, at least in some organisations, around L&D and the way this is being examined at a national policy level.

But I think that L&D also needs to get more engaged with the whole skills agenda and public policy area too.   It is interesting what is happening with the introduction this year of the Apprenticeship Levy, as this is impacting on so many organisations, some of whom have already got experience of apprenticeships, but there are also many organisations that haven’t previously had experience in this area.  Some people in L&D have been getting their heads around the Levy and have thrown themselves into working with it for the benefit of their organisations.  In many organisations, responsibility for apprenticeships is a niche L&D role or part of talent management role or part of a wider HR responsibility.  It feels like there hasn’t been as much discussion of the Apprenticeship Levy and its implications within the wider L&D community as might have been expected for such a broad initiative with such potentially huge impact.   The recent round of CIPD Leaders in Learning events which focused on the Apprenticeship Levy had a lower turnout than previous sessions.  In previous years I have noticed a very different mix of participants at events with a skills agenda focus, to those events with a broader L&D focus. 

So there are different groups of people engaged in discussion and action in relation to ‘Adult Training’ or the Skills Agenda field to those focusing on L&D within organisations and some different conversations taking place, with different focuses and different language.  Diversity of views can be a source of strength and bring new ideas to the fore, but if there is a lack of dialogue, if there is an absence of challenge around the differences in focus between the fields, if different language grows up and goes unexplored, then there are also big risks.

For example, are we focusing on the right things in our national statistics in this area; to what extent does it matter if the overall amount spent on workforce development is decreasing if we are spending it more effectively (if we are?); if only some aspects of workforce development are being measured, will these be focused on in policy discussions to the neglect of possibly more fruitful areas; and so on.  I worry that we aren’t talking enough together and as a result the national policy agenda is missing out on more recent thinking and practice from L&D. 

But what do you think?

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

Image from Pixabay

Monday, July 3, 2017

Supporting Emotional Wellbeing in the Workplace Sketchnote

Rachel Burnham writes:  This Sketchnote is based on Jon Bartlett’s session at the CIPD NAP Conference in June 2017.  It contains great advice for supporting emotional wellbeing in the workplace and life.  

If you would like to find out more about Jon Bartlett’s work, why not take a look at his website.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.