Productivity is the elephant in the room – what can L&D do about it?

24 November 2017 by Paul McElvaney

It’s budget week and there’s plenty of talk about the economy, Brexit, housing and unemployment. All really important matters but underlying all of this is something fundamental – productivity.

UK productivity has grown by just 0.2% in the last quarter which follows a tedious trend over recent years. This seems like a disappointingly low number given the massive growth in technology over that time and when you consider that the OBR has been forecasting productivity increases of 2%+ for a few years now, it becomes clearer that there’s something wrong with the picture. Productivity essentially measures how efficiently a country (or company) can transform resources into goods or services that have value. It’s really important because producing more from less will drive economic growth, improving the economy and the lives of the people who live in it… us!

Earlier this year the Chancellor raised the fact that it takes a UK worker 5 days to produce the same car that can be produced in 4 days in Germany as a key challenge for the UK.

So why, with all of the investment we hear about in terms of new tech, innovation and modern working is productivity so stubbornly low? Paris-based think tank the OECD recently reiterated that lifelong learning should be encouraged among adults and more should be done to promote skills and they link this directly to the productivity challenge.

If this is right then there’s a golden opportunity for L&D to stake a claim for being the agents of change and improved productivity in their organisations.

But what can corporate L&D really do to make any of this happen? We think there are 6 things you can do right now:

Invest in apprenticeships

The apprenticeship levy is now in force for most UK employers but the effects of it will only really be seen from 2018. Vocational education and training is on the rise across the UK but only 1 in 4 students undertake an apprenticeship in the UK compared to 59 percent in Switzerland according to the BBC.

The Government is committed to the apprenticeship route into work and is targeting 3 million apprenticeship starts between 2015 and 2020. Business response has been fairly positive and we think the fact that new apprentice starts are down by 59% in the last 3 is more timing related than anything.

New standards are being created in everything from golf green-keeping to cyber security analysts, teaching assistants, and business administrators and it seems certain that this initiative will gather momentum, not least because employers are already paying for it. For employers it is a win-win: skilled employees, part-funded by your own corporate taxes.

Stay tuned for some announcements coming from Learning Pool about how we can help your apprenticeship programmes early in the new year.

Personalise the learning experience

We’ve seen a lot of progress recently across our customer community of organisations personalising the learning experience for various reasons.

Whether it’s to limit the amount of mandatory training required by job role, or linking training requirements to performance milestones, personalisation need not be a huge investment nor a strategic move.

Done well though personalising the learning experience can save time for your learners and let them get back to being more, productive!

Perhaps the best example of this we’ve seen is the use of assisted revision in Adapt to measure the learner’s knowledge and trim the learning content accordingly… it’s available now if you want to check it out.

Build learning into the workflow

We all obsess a bit about engagement, usage and metrics like completion. But the real barrier to all of these is the friction we create by burying content in the LMS behind a login and several clicks.

Your users are, whether you know it or not, adopting new workflows in tools like Slack, Facebook Workplace and even good old email.

By surfacing content in those workflows, you can save time in delivering e-learning, reduce the time it takes to achieve maximum coverage (crucial for compliance programmes) and deliver value to your learners right when they need it.

Make learning part of internal comms

We increasingly see customers being successful in rolling out learning programmes when they are aligned closely with internal comms teams. Use their channels, get them to promote, build learning programmes around their agenda.

Aligning with a separate, but key part of the business brings you closer to the strategy and makes your activities more relevant. Your learners will thank you but your business will reap the biggest benefits.

Make more out of your learning

We recently asked a group of around 100 customers if they’d ever used the same e-learning content for more than 3 purposes. Almost none had which wasn’t surprising but is frustrating.

Reusing content built for your induction in your recruitment process or compliance content back into your induction is quick, easy and costs almost nothing. You could do this one in the next hour and save your business money while delivering real value.

Make learning micro and memorable

Productivity is basically about time – the time it takes your learners to gain the knowledge they need to do their job and the time it takes you to build, curate or assemble that content.

So we think you should focus on 3 things – making your learning as micro as possible to meet the business need, make it as easy as possible for users to find that content when they need it and make it as memorable as possible so they can apply the knowledge without further intervention.

Sounds great but how can I do this

There are loads of tools to help do this – Adapt is a really easy to use authoring tool that delivers fantastic content regardless of the device your user chooses, Wildfire is a new service that creates e-learning that changes the pedagogic game and Encore delivers spaced reminder content to reinforce.

So the tools of productivity are all available and improving all the time – it’s just a question of how you use them.   

The truth is that none of us can do much to influence the big picture performance of the UK all that much. But every little helps and taking a performance and productivity based view of L&D might be the thing that starts the ball moving in the right direction.

If nothing else I’d be willing to bet that this approach will help your organisation and the relevance of L&D within it. Let me know how you get on and get in touch through the form below if you need some help!

Paul McElvaney
Chief Executive Officer
Paul is Learning Pool’s founder and CEO. Since 2006, he has grown the business from a modest team of 5, to the success story it is today, with 7 sites and almost 200 employees. Paul’s ambitions centre on providing world-class customer care to our 750+ global clients, driving continuous innovation through Learning Pool’s product set and nurturing the talent within his team.
Paul was awarded ‘Director of the Year’, from the Institute of Directors in 2016.
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