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