HomeMay 2012Latest trends in learning and development

Latest trends in learning and development

If innovation and creativity are to be encouraged in any large scale way within the health services, perhaps a comprehensive innovation strategy is required that engages with people at all levels, writes Keith McCarthy.

Keith McCarthyEarlier this month the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) issued their Learning and Talent Development Annual Survey 2012. While reading this survey as a HR professional, it is interesting to examine trends, developments and areas of changing focus in different industries and sectors. Although a UK based report, the findings and areas of focus are akin to the Irish working environment. From a health service perspective, it reflects many of the areas currently under the spotlight, in terms of organisational development, performance management, leadership skills, development and the need for innovation. The report highlights interesting trends that should be shared with health service managers and that is the intention with this Health Manager article.

The 2012 survey provides data on the trends and issues in learning and talent development. It focuses on the following areas:

  • Talent management
  • Management and leadership skills
  • Leadership development
  • Development for managers with international responsibilities
  • Individual and team learning analysis and diagnostics
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Economic situation and training spend.

It is not intended to focus on all these areas, but a select few that are important to the development of management and leadership in the health services.  You can explore the full survey results yourself at www.cipd.co.uk.

Trends in learning and development

According to the survey, learning and talent development practices “have changed little over the past few years, with in-house development programmes and coaching by line managers still seen to be the most effective practices”. In addition, organisations reported on-the-job training to be among their most effective methods. This perhaps reflects an increased focus on lower-cost practices due to economic pressures.

It is encouraging to see a high value placed on in-house training and development within organisations. Consistent messages, through a structured and focused intervention ensure that learning and development gives good value both in learning terms and return on investment. The importance of the provision of coaching by line managers, suggests that the role of line managers is shifting to that of coach rather simply directing or supervising.

The survey also suggests that over the next two years the most anticipated major change is the greater integration of coaching, organisational development and performance management to drive organisational change. This proposes that organisations are beginning to integrate HR interventions in a more holistic sense. Aligning and integrating process will help organisations with the ever-increasing challenges they face.

Management and leadership skills

Management and leadership skills were reported on by almost 700 organisations in England. While nearly three-quarters of organisations in England reported a deficit of management and leadership skills almost two-thirds of organisations report senior managers are deficient. The vast majority also report that line managers and supervisors lack these skills.

This skills gap demonstrates a significant deficit in the skills required by managers in organisations. It highlights the need for continued investment in management development, particularly in this period of increased pressure on managers in terms of resource pressures and continued budget reduction.

Some other interesting insights within the sphere of management and leadership skills are highlighted below:

  • 60% of organisations reported management and leadership skills are very important when promoting individuals into positions that have people management responsibilities.
  • One in seven organisations, regardless of sector, do not make any attempt to evaluate individuals’ management and leadership skills.
  • 66% of organisations report that when an individual gets promoted into a management position they receive additional training.
  • When training is provided, development in people management skills is most common (91%).
  • Organisations that provide additional training were less likely to report that they have a management and leadership skills deficit when compared to organisations that don’t. However, the high proportion that provide training but still report a deficit suggests that the training provided is inadequate or does not cover all managers.
  • The public sector is least likely to respond to poor feedback for line managers and leaders. Nearly one quarter (24%) have taken no action at all (compared with 13% of the private sector and 17% of the non-profit sector). They are less likely to have responded by giving appropriate feedback and a learning and improvement plan or by penalising through performance reviews.

Leadership development

Linked very closely with this is the area of leadership development. As part of the survey, organisations were asked to identify a maximum of three leadership skills where they had identified a gap. According to the report…

just over half reported gaps in performance management skills (in particular setting standards for performance and dealing with underperformance). Skills for leading and managing change and leading people and people management were also commonly lacking in nearly half of organisations.”

The report highlighted that the public sector was particularly likely to report their leaders lacked skills for leading and managing change (64% compared with 34% of private organisations, 54% of non-profits).

The most common development activities for the year ahead will focus on improving the skills of leaders to think in a more strategic and future-focused way. Interestingly, the report identifies that…

“Despite the widespread deficit of leadership skills, just one in six organisations report their leadership development activities will focus on addressing the current underperformance of leaders.”

The need to develop leaders in the organisation, particularly in these challenging times, is imperative. What is interesting about this developmental aspect is the inability of many managers to deal with the most basic performance management principles. It is difficult to envisage how managers can progress to really driving organisational performance when many are lacking these fundamentals. Also, with many organisations not embracing this challenge, any significant change is unlikely.

Innovation and creativity

Innovation and creativity are being sought and actively encouraged in many organisations. With the challenge of reducing resources and budgets, the need to think differently and actively engage individuals in genuine idea generation is clear. The survey found the following:

“Overall, two-fifths of organisations report that innovation and creativity are critical to their organisation and that everyone is involved. This varied significantly across sectors however, with more than twice as many private sector organisations as public reporting this was the case. The public sector was more likely to report their business was quite slow moving and they operate in an environment where it’s not prioritised. Just under half (45%) of this sector did not have an innovation strategy compared with less than a quarter of the private sector.”

The focus of the innovation strategies was to ensure organisations can deliver faster and more efficient services to customers. When it comes to involving their staff in innovation projects/initiatives over half of manufacturing and production organisations have key project teams that focus on innovation and creativity. The other sectors are less likely to have specialist or project teams but tend to encourage managers to innovate through business as normal.

The study also found that…

over a third of organisations across all sectors use employee suggestion schemes to tap into the creativity and ideas of all employees. Over a fifth pull in ideas externally and use them to develop their own innovation.”

If we believe that manufacturing and production organisations are dependent and thrive on innovation and creativity, and do it very well, perhaps trying to promote innovation in a business as usual way, simply does not work. Can managers and their teams realistically be expected to be creative when locked in the daily grind of work? Within the health services if innovation and creativity are to be encouraged in any large scale way, perhaps a comprehensive innovation strategy is required that engages with people at all levels.


The report concludes, “we need to get used to an era of reduced resources and work with increased resourcefulness”.  Who can argue with this? This requires organisations to provide leadership and supports; for managers to think differently; staff members to engage; and interventions and processes that bring this all together. Are we ready for this challenge within the health services?

CIPD Annual Learning and Talent Development Survey 2012

Keith McCarthy
shrc limited