An analysis, conducted by the Centre for Business Performance at Cranfield School of Management, and published in March, has found a clear link between good management and improved business performance – in spite of the challenging economic context and the wider impact of the recession on business success.
The study, which combined case studies, a survey of over 400 employers and an analysis of financial performance information from Companies House, found that working with Investors in People (IiP) increases profitability by enhancing managerial skills, knowledge and experience, improving the effectiveness of management development practices and increasing the performance of managers. It also inspires a high-performance management culture and an effective learning environment, both of which help to improve business performance.
Mike Bourne, Professor of Business Performance at Cranfield School of Management conducted the research and concluded that IiP has a positive impact on management performance at all levels, from senior executives through to middle managers, and supports the development of a learning culture within organisations.
Jane Jones, Acting Chief Executive of Investors in People UK, said: “This is compelling research.”
Comment: At first sight, the Cranfield study appears to state the obvious – that good management helps businesses to improve their performance. And – thinking of Ms Jones’ comment – to coin a cliché, she would say that wouldn’t she?
But, seriously though, we need academics to do just this: carry out research that confirms conventional wisdom and even states the obvious. The rest of us would think this too banal to study – and so we might overlook a key truth that is no less the truth for being screamingly obvious.
Learning Light has revised and re-launched the e-learning centre website, which attracts a worldwide audience and over 72,000 unique hits a month. The website (www.e-learningcentre.co.uk) now carries:
- e-learning related news and views
- reviews and resources – including book reviews, articles and papers, along with recommended e-learning related blogs and websites
- a directory of organisations providing e-learning related products and services
- up-coming events, along with conference and event reviews
- job vacancies
“The e-Learning Centre is a free information resource for learning and development professionals and e-learning developers,” commented David Patterson, of Learning Light.
“We’re encouraging e-learning developers to submit their profile, along with details of their products and services to be listed in our directory. Subject matter experts are encouraged to put their expertise forward with a view to work with e-learning developers and event organisers are encouraged to submit their event programmes and news.
“If you’re working in the field of e-learning, you should ensure that you, your organisation and its products and services are listed in the directory – and you should check out the directory to make that what we’re saying about you is correct,” he added.
Comment: That sounds like good advice.
Experts are warning that the benefits of economic recovery and growth will only be fully realised if there is continued investment in skills. (http://www.ukces.org.uk/press-release/investment-in-right-skills-key-to-economic-recovery,-warn-experts) The first National Strategic Skills Audit, commissioned by the Government and published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), claims that the last decade has seen unprecedented increases in the number of people with qualifications.
However, the report warns that if the economic recovery is to continue it is important that future skills development needs are correctly identified and prioritised. If this is not achieved then the country runs the risk of increased skills shortages and under-employment, it says.
It also finds that:
- The number of people reported as ‘not fully proficient’ at their jobs has increased by 400,000 from 1.3m in 2005 to 1.7m in 2009;
- Leadership and management skills and technical skills are in need of particular improvement;
- The UK’s growth in highly skilled jobs is one of the lowest in the OECD.
Comment: Having as many as 1.7m people in this country being ‘not fully proficient’ at their jobs is, perhaps, understandable to anyone with any degree of valid experience of the world of work. Yet it is a damning indictment of ‘UK plc’s’ training and development arrangements.
It is particularly worrying when this statistic is taken together with the fact that ‘Leadership and management skills … are in need of particular improvement’.
The UKCES is supposed to ‘provide vigorous and independent challenge, advising government at the highest levels across the UK on employment and skills strategy, targets, policies and progress towards challenging competitiveness goals’.
This report would suggest that those at the top of their industries and professions are deficient in leadership and management skills – and, frankly, are ‘not fully proficient’ at their jobs. The UKCES is to be congratulated on having the courage to point this out to those at the head of the political profession.
No doubt they, like everyone in any sector who has risen to the top, will consider themselves ‘special cases’ and immune from any criticism. After all, developing skills is always something that other people need to do.
Both the BBC and the Church Times have reported that the ecumenical Church Investors Group (CIG) – a Christian investment group – has produced a report which recommends that no executives should be paid more than 75 times the level of the lowest earners.
The CIG commissioned two theological professors to write ‘The Ethics of Executive Remuneration: A Guide for Christian Investors’, in response to public distaste for the high salaries and bonuses paid to bankers despite the economic crisis. The report advises that Christians should consider withdrawing their investment if the worst-offending companies don’t change their pay policy, and they should find out how much the lowest-paid workers earn before investing in any business.
Comment: While, from an egalitarian standpoint, that course of action has much to recommend it, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this report. For example, how many investors will be keen to go against ‘the logic of the markets’ and own up to being principled and ‘Christian’? Although this may yet happen, the weight of historical precedent is against it.
A survey of learning technologies in the voluntary sector – encompassing over 80 charities, representing more than 50,000 staff and volunteers – has found that:
- The top four benefits of adopting learning technologies are: improving flexibility of learning; improving access to learning; cutting costs and increasing reach.
- Over 66% of participants are looking for their investment in learning technologies to help increase staff retention; improve training quality; increase the number of qualified staff; enhance the induction process; reduce time spent learning; and improve administration efficiency.
- Improving learning delivery and its impact is more important than just finding a ‘cheaper option’ when it comes to employing learning technologies.
The survey, carried out by e-learning analysts Towards Maturity in partnership with the Charity Learning Consortium (CLC) is available at: http://www.charitylearning.org/benchmark
Comment: There’s nothing particularly ‘earth-shattering’ in these findings – although there would have been if the survey hadn’t revealed these things. However, it’s nice to see that the voluntary sector is beginning to wake up to the advantages of ‘learning technologies’ (otherwise known as e-learning systems and content) and so follow the leading of all the other sectors in the economy.
An article by Rhys Moult in the recently published first edition of Australia’s revamped Training Magazine – now known as ‘E-learning and Training Magazine’ – is entitled: ‘Embedding E-learning in Small Businesses – why they don’t, why they should and how they can’.
Comment: To those of us in Europe, there is nothing new in this idea: that the small and medium sized business should seize upon e-learning, as opposed to sending employees on face-to-face, classroom delivered courses. Despite the pleas of Government departments, along with those of e-learning content and systems’ vendors, for some 20 years, reality continues to demonstrate that it is out of line with the theory. Opinions vary as to why this is so but chief among them must be that, in a small business, there is less time available for formal learning – be it via face-to-face or e-learning.
The smaller the business, the greater the proportion of ‘corporate learning’ that will happen informally. At least, that’s ‘Little’s Law’.
It’s disappointing that – unarguably, for the highest of motives – even more trees must be sacrificed to produce more articles advocating something that will never happen.
While it has not been announced with a great fanfare of publicity there is, nonetheless, a strong rumour that National Learning at Work Day 2010 will take place on 20th May as part of Adult Learners’ Week. Apparently, the Day is about workplaces making a commitment to learning and skills by holding events and activities for their employees.
Held each May and now in its 19th year, Adult Learners’ Week aims to celebrate learning and learners in all their diversity, recognising the achievements of individuals, groups, families and projects through national and regional awards. Adult Learners’ Week is celebrated in over 50 countries across the world. Adult Learners’ Week was founded, and is coordinated, by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).
Comment: What is worrying about this is that designating a day – or even a week – as special to adult learning or learning at work is that it gives the distinct impression to those who are not ‘learning professionals’ that learning can – or, worse still, should -only take place at that time. Yet all of us need to learn something new every day – not only to develop our knowledge, skills and expertise but also to stop us from becoming bored and depressed with our function in life.
We don’t need an ‘Adult Learners’ Week’ and a ‘National Learning at Work Day’ because learning – at work or anywhere – is not something that we turn ‘on and ‘off’ but, rather, something we should be doing all the time.
Moreover, having these things sends completely the wrong message to the CEOs, FDs and other business worthies. These are the people whom the corporate learning world needs to convince that learning – both in the formal and informal sense – needs to be part and parcel of everyday business life; not something ‘special’ that is an added cost in terms of time and money for workers and their managers who are already under pressure to be ever more productive, doing more with less.