May 2013
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TD Magazine

The Learning Shift

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Learning and development's footprint continues to shrink while social learning expenditures are on the rise.

Overall spending on training rose 12 percent in 2012 and many organizations added training staff, according to Bersin by Deloitte. However, the firm's Corporate Learning Factbook 2013: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market reveals that a greater increase in learner populations outpaced this growth.

The subsequent decline in the training staff-to-learner ratio is a result of a new learning landscape. "This decline is fueled by a move to social learning as, more than ever, learners are receiving training and support from co-workers, managers, and subject matter experts inside the company," says Karen O'Leonard, lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte.

In fact, social learning expenditures increased 39 percent last year. Learner use of blogs, wikis, and communities of practice—defined as a group of people who share an interest in a common topic, and who deepen their knowledge in this area through ongoing interactions within the group—tripled from 2007 to 2012. Blogs jumped from 6 percent to 22 percent use, wikis from 7 percent to 24 percent, and communities of practice from 11 percent to 33 percent.


O'Leonard recommends that training and development (T&D) professionals work to integrate these social tools within a continuous learning environment to make them most effective. "It's not about committing to a stand-alone tool, but redesigning how learning and development teams structure their programs," she says. "For example, combine a formal course with a formal coaching program and a learner discussion forum or community of practice."

The report's findings have specific implications for the T&D industry and its individual contributors. O'Leonard suggests hiring or developing T&D staff to be proficient in performance consulting and social learning tools. These strengths will enable learning teams to accurately recommend training versus nontraining solutions and effectively connect learners within their natural networks.

Most important is that T&D managers must understand the overall shift that is occurring within the function. "Learning and development is no longer 'the place' for learning," O'Leonard adds. "Learning happens everywhere. The function should be the facilitator and enabler of learning, and managers need to create the structure that allows this shift to occur."

About the Author

Ann Parker is Associate Director, Talent Leader Consortiums at ATD. In this role she drives strategy, product development, and content acquisition for ATD’s senior leader and executive audience. She also oversees business development and program management for ATD's senior leader consortiums, CTDO Next and ATD Forum.

Ann began her tenure at ATD in an editorial capacity, primarily writing for TD magazine as Senior Writer/Editor. In this role she had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession's content. She then became a Senior Content Manager for Senior Leaders & Executives, focusing on content and product development for the talent executive audience, before moving into her current role.

Ann is a native Pennsylvanian where she currently resides, marathoner, avid writer, baker and eater of sweets, wife to an Ironman, and mother of two.

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