Did the CIPD ‘drop the ball on learning and development’? An exclusive interview with the CIPD’s Andy Lancaster

Andy Lancaster took over as the CIPD’s head of L&D at the start of the year. As well as heading up the institute’s £5m training arm, Lancaster has helped pioneer its Leaders in Learning network, is working with the Elearning Network and has just announced a strategic partnership with benchmarking organization Towards Maturity.

LearnPatch caught up with Lancaster at the CIPD’s L&D Show at London’s Olympia and asked him about the role, its remit and the CIPD’s renewed focus on learning and development.

Tell us about the role.

There are three components. The first is to run CIPD’s learning arm which delivers qualifications and short courses across a number of disciplines. As well as HR and L&D we provide training in areas such as management skills, psychology and neuroscience. I work with a brilliant in-house team and group of associates to deliver this.

The second is looking at supporting the senior team and CEO Peter Cheese with our strategy for L&D. That’s a really important part of what we’re doing. There are a number of initiatives I’m helping to lead which aim at increasing L&D engagement. I’ve been a practitioner for many years, so that practitioner’s perspective on how we can achieve wider engagement is important.

The third component is working with our internal HR department to provide brilliant training for CIPD staff. In the last couple of months we’ve looked at revamping our learning provision. For example, we’ve been working in partnership with Charity Learning Consortium to increase our own internal e-learning.

We are also designing a new talent development programme for CIPD colleagues and we’re about to launch an accredited coaching programme to train staff to be coaches internally.

What the relationship between your role and the CIPD’s L&D research?

The CIPD has created a position of L&D advisor and researcher, which Ruth Stuart holds. I think the L&D community should recognize the importance of that post – that there’s a dedicated resource working with external partners, myself and others within the Institute to focus on L&D research and practice.

Although the research team sits separately within the Institute there’s lots of cross-working. For example, I would help to inform the L&D research agenda.

I think it’s also worth noting that we’ve just begun a collaboration and strategic partnership with Towards Maturity to enhance the L&D research that is taking place.

Can you tell us more about that?

Collaboration is one of the Institute’s core values so we’ve been looking at how we can best collaborate with credible partners. Towards Maturity’s research works across a number of sectors and also a number of countries. The collaboration will be looking at how we can work in a complementary fashion and ways in which the research Towards Maturity produces complements our own research programmes and findings. We’re also looking at undertaking collaborative research that will support the profession. I think it’s a significant development.

Why has the CIPD expanded the remit of the head of L&D role?

The CIPD has been running a training delivery arm for many years. I think the expansion for me is the additional emphasis on the wider engagement with L&D. This role now has responsibilities for supporting the Institute in the new engagement agenda. Whilst we have always been in that space, I think the exciting change is that we’re looking at how now we can engage more with both L&D CIPD members and non-members.

Does that suggest that you dropped the ball a bit on L&D? The fact that you’re raising your game, does it mean that it’s not been the priority it should have been?

I believe the Institute has always been there for L&D professionals, but the world has changed so fast over the past few years; many organisations are having to look again at how they effectively engage with their staff or in our case members. I see the fresh focus as a positive thing; it’s about how we now move forward and engage even more.

If you talk to most L&D professionals about where the profession was five years ago, they recognize that we are in a totally different space. CIPD is the same; we’ve now got to move into new things, new technologies, new ways of collaborating, which none of us probably would have anticipated five years ago.

You launched Leaders in Learning soon after the LPI launched CLO Connect. Is this a kind of land grab by the institute?

My view of collaboration, and also CIPD’s view, is that the more networking that’s available, the better! For me, as an L&D professional, there are many communities which are complementary and have an important part to play in shaping L&D. We’re actually now undertaking some collaborative activities with the LPI – we will be offering their Certificate in Online Facilitation (COLF) as part of our product suite. I think it’s significant to know that behind the scenes there are lots of useful conversations going on.

In terms of our Leaders in Learning network, I think it’s important to acknowledge the CIPD is a membership organisation with a large number of L&D professionals. Our vision is to engage with our members and provide what our L&D members need. Leaders in Learning is also free, so it’s positioned in a different space to the LPI’s CLO Connect.

CIPD’s Leaders in Learning is open to non-members and members alike, which is a really encouraging development for me.

What are you hoping to achieve in this role?

In terms of CIPD training – and this relates to any of our portfolio themes – both our qualifications and professional development activities need to be up-to-date, research informed, and fully aligned what practitioners need. It is my responsibility to make sure this happens.

We have a number of external associates and subject matter specialists working with us to insure that we incorporate the very latest practice. My aspiration is to make sure that CIPD, across the board, is offering brilliant professional development.

In the L&D space, we are planning to create new products. For example, we are currently reviewing the level five and level three qualifications.

What does that involve?

It’s a refresh. The qualifications exist but have been around for a number of years. Our vision is to bring new content into these qualifications to align them with what’s happening in the L&D world. I think any qualification has to be reviewed at regular intervals. Our goal is that working, again, with a consultative not just an internal group – we’ll be looking to see what’s going in L&D which should be reflected in the qualifications. We are just beginning working with a view to launching the new qualifications in early in 2015.

What kind of areas are you looking to develop?

That’s pre-empting what the consultation group might suggest! I’d like to think I’ve got a relevant view, but I think it’s important that we allow a wider group of practitioners to shape the qualifications. However, if we look at social and collaborative learning, the research shows that it is now a pre-requisite for most organisations. This practice needs to be reflected in our qualifications. I think it’s an exciting step that there will be a group of people involved; collaboration is so important.

This group, who’s that made up of? Is it your members?

We have yet to decide. There’ll be some representatives from centres who are delivering qualifications because obviously, on the ground, they’re responsible for working with learners, and we need that direct feedback.

We are looking to include specialists in given fields to help us shape the learning outcomes and assessment criteria. We also gain feedback from learners and there are also obviously people within the Institute who are experienced in developing qualifications, so it will be a really diverse group.

Does that mean you see a skills gap around social and collaborative learning?

If you look at our own research, which is compelling, and research findings from Towards Maturity and Learning and Performance Institute, we all recognise that there has been a skills gap within our sector. The key for all of us is to now look at areas of priority as to how we can to make professional development available which can help improve L&D practice.

Finally, sage on the stage is not the best way of delivering content at events. Do you see new formats becoming available at future CIPD L&D conferences?

I think it’s important to note that at this conference we have three different formats running. We have some hands-on workshops and those have been incredibly popular. We’ve also got an open space, which, again, for a large conference, is a bold and exciting move. We’ve also have creative activities like speed networking taking place.

In terms of the concept of sage on the stage, I’d see these sessions as case studies delivered by practitioners. In the sessions I’ve been in, I’ve been impressed by practitioners talking about how they have addressed challenging issues, so I think that’s a different format from other conferences where there is less practitioner input. I hope that we can always have practitioners reporting on their best practice.

But, if you ask me do we want to be more creative in the future, the answer is absolutely yes. We’re thinking about how we can develop events which express the creativity seen in learning and development. I said earlier that the last five years have changed massively for all of us in L&D and I’d expect the Institute to be looking at how those trends apply to all types of events and programmes.

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