Survey Captures Pulse of Company Strategies

June 9, 2017

Survey Captures Pulse of Company Strategies

By Ian Stewart

In October and November 2016, Kaplan surveyed more than 280 UK-based human resources and leadership and professional development professionals to determine the role that learning and development would play within their organization in 2017. With Brexit, commercial uncertainty and globalization of the workforce swirling about, we collected and analyzed our respondents’ feedback. 

We found that 40 percent of the respondents work in the accountancy or finance sectors, 7 percent in education, 6 percent in IT and 5 percent in construction. With regard to company size, 35 percent were from large organizations with over 1,000 employees and 26 percent were from mid-sized companies employing between 49 and 500 people.

The central skill that underpins and informs all professional effectiveness is problem solving and decision-making.

It’s no surprise that measuring ROI is the top issue for these HR and training professionals, as 73 percent said it was important or very important. Of course, it is obvious that the scale of the spend on training needs to be justified in times when many businesses have found their margins narrowed and have responded with continual improvement and restructuring initiatives. But the challenge for HR and training professionals goes further: how sure are that what they are spending the firm’s money on actually works? It appears many training providers are unable to re-assure their clients that the training they provide is aligned to the firm’s strategic objectives, delivers purposeful professional development for individuals and, most importantly, improves organizational performance.

A large majority (80 percent) believe that learning and professional development will be “important” or “very important” to their company strategy in 2017. The consensus around business that are “agile” and “adaptable”—able to anticipate, as well as respond, to the demands of their clients and customers—is driving a new generation of intelligent “learning organizations.” These businesses need highly developed and engaged staff who enjoy broad skill and knowledge sets and for whom collaboration and co-creation come easily.

Over 50 percent of our respondents are expecting their learning and development budget to decrease or stay the same in 2017, so investing in pertinent development areas remains crucial. The ability to target spend is becoming ever more important. Those providers who can demonstrate an ability to identify where training is required and, importantly, how the training can be tailored to individuals, are likely to thrive in this climate.

Most respondents said that the top learning and development priorities in 2017 will be: 1) developing the skills of their employees; 2) engaging employees; and 3) retaining employees. With many firms operating with lower headcounts and the cost of finding and recruiting talent growing, the need to unlock the hidden talent that exists within the organization has never made better commercial sense.

It is self-evident that the success of a firm is ultimately determined by the ability of its people. In the complex and shifting world of work, the skills and knowledge required have to be continually assessed and developed to ensure that they are commercially relevant. At the same time, key issues around behavioral development—engagement, personal growth, interpersonal skills, etc.—must be attended to. But the central skill that underpins and informs all professional effectiveness is problem solving and decision-making—at the level of the individual, the team, and the organization. To develop these core enabling skills should be the ultimate aim of any professional development program.

The Authors: 

Ian Stewart, Ph.D., is global head of Kaplan’s Leadership and Organisational Practice. Before joining Kaplan, he spent more than 20 years lecturing in leadership and related subjects at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, as well as teaching at the Open University.

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