CIPD Podcast 7 - Learning and development

Date: 01/05/07 Duration: 00:16:24

In this podcast practitioners talk about the role of line managers in the learning and development (L&D) field and about the importance of L&D at a strategic level. It includes interviews with Victoria Winkler, Training, Learning and Development Adviser at the CIPD, Charles Jennings, Global Head of Learning and Development at Reuters, the news agency, Maxine Clark, Consultant and Design Manager for ‘Learning to Learn’ at the Department for Work and Pensions, Marcelo Borges, Learning and Development Manager at Nandos, Tim Kendall, a communications Training Specialist, working with pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, in Japan and Syd Farley, working with Coca-Cola HBC, in the field of Targeted Development of Senior Management. They also discuss the conclusions of the latest CIPD survey


Philippa Lamb: Welcome to our podcast on learning and development. I’m Philippa Lamb and in this podcast we’ll be offering insights into key topics for learning and development professionals. Following the launch of the CIPD’s latest annual Learning and Development survey, we’re going to focus on two of the issues addressed in our study; the role of line managers in development and the importance of integrating learning and development at a strategic level. Now we’ve interviewed a range of practitioners who’ve achieved impressive results in engaging both line and senior management. But first, let’s hear from our reporter, Adam Kirtley who asked Charles Jennings, the Global Head of Learning and Development at Reuters, what he thought of the survey’s findings. 

AK: What lessons can people take away from this survey do you think? 

CJ: I think there are a couple of very clear lessons that come out of the survey. One is that the L and D function needs to work very hard to earn a place at the top table. It’s not going to be given a place at the top table, as a matter of course, it needs to work very hard. To do that the L and D function needs to build its own capability in order to be able to sit across the table and have those business discussions with senior managers – absolutely that. On the other hand, there’s a lesson that line managers need to understand, that they have accountability for developing their people. And need to work very closely with L and D, and they can’t pass that responsibility across to the L and D function. It really comes down to a matter of trust – and as in any trust relationship, both sides have to work at it. 

Philippa: Engaging effectively at the top table is one of the toughest challenges facing Learning and Development professionals. But so too is ensuring line managers play their part. Adam talked to Victoria Winkler, the CIPD’s Learning, Training and Development Adviser who authored the survey. 

VW: There was an increasing recognition that line managers were important. There was increasing recognition that they were taking on bigger roles. But what people were less sure of, was whether actually line managers were effective in doing this. And certainly when you look at the findings of the Learning and Development survey, which show that very few organisations, relatively speaking, are offering learning and development for their line managers to actually support them in these day-to-day activities then that’s quite a worrying finding. 

Philippa: One organisation that does recognise the role of line managers is Whitehall’s largest employer, the Department for Work and Pensions. Maxine Clark, is the department’s ‘Learning to Learn’ Design Manager and she talked to us about how they’re increasing line management engagement. 

AK: How does your experience tie in with the key survey findings that although line managers are expected to do more learning and development, they feel they’re not trained enough themselves, they have huge time and money pressures. So, in other words, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t necessarily make it drink. 

MC: That ties in with some research that we’ve done in our own department which we’ve just completed, looking at how people are using our websites, and those findings are identical. I think it’s about acknowledging that being a line manager in today’s businesses and today’s organisations is hard. There’s the business objectives, there’s the people management, there’s everything else that line managers need to do. Learning and Development, historically, has always fallen off the scale. 

AK: What would you say are the main challenges for your organisation, the DWP, and the public sector in general, when it comes to Learning and Development? 

MC: It’s actually about getting people to take responsibility for their own learning, moving away from an organisation that dictates what learning people need and getting adults to actually recognise that they know what they want, they just need some help on how to get there. 

Philippa: One way that the Department for Work and Pensions has encouraged individuals to take responsibility for their own learning is by setting up an online portal. But of course careful and considered implementation is critical to its success. 

MC: What we’ve done in the department is quite a large marketing campaign. But we’ve also, through the research we’ve done – we’ve been using some action research methods – so we’ve actually been going out and working with people to help them use some services we offer in a way that doesn’t take time, in fact saves time, and the latest results show that where we’ve worked with people very closely, they’re actually now using the site, and using the learning because it’s quicker than finding somebody to talk to. 

Philippa: Time is undoubtedly a precious commodity for all of us and perhaps no more so than in the restaurant business. With a strong and growing high street presence, Nandos understands learning and development’s contribution to bucking industry trends. Marcelo Borges, Learning and Development Manager at Nandos, told us just how big a difference it’s making. 

AK: Explain to me, first of all, why learning and development is so important to Nandos? 

MB: In Nandos we believe, the philosophy we follow is a very simple one. We believe that happy staff equal happy customers, equal happy bank manager. If you look after your people, your people are going to look after your customers and everything else is going to take care of itself. And we do believe that learning and development is a massive part of looking after your people. You know, if you want them to feel motivated and happy in their jobs, you’ve got to provide them with appropriate skills and development so that they can do their job brilliantly. 

Interlude: ‘The CIPD podcast series’ 

Philippa: So we’ve heard that while it may be difficult for line managers to take on more responsibility for learning and development, it’s clear that with the right support, great improvements can be achieved. But such efforts mustn’t be made in isolation. Learning and development has to integrated at a strategic level within an organisation if it’s true value is to be realised. Adam asked Charles Jennings if this is happening. 

AK: Can we explore the link between learning and development and overall corporate strategy? Do you think the two are as closely integrated as they should be? 

CJ: Well I don’t and I think that the survey results show that they’re not. 8 out 10 of us,… 8 out of 10 of the L and D professionals believe that L and D is considered whilst the organisation is planning its strategy. But only 30% of us are involved in those early stages of organisational strategy planning. To me that says that the level of trust that senior business managers expect and need to have of L and D managers may not be there, and that’s something that we, as L and D managers, need to work on. 

Philippa: The message is clear. Without a learning and development strategy, you can’t be part of the strategic planning process. So how can learning and development professional ensure that they are included and trusted. CIPD’s Victoria Winkler sums up the survey findings on this issue. 

VW: It’s interesting because we asked questions along the lines of… whether learning and development is heavily formulated within organisations, so whether there’s an L and D strategy, whether there’s an allocated training funds, whether organisations have gone for things like investors in people. And certainly there seems to be evidence that where organisations are able to demonstrate that their own learning and development strategy was well formulated, well thought-through, they were more likely to be involved in the business planning process. 

Philippa: You can find links to the CIPD’s Annual Learning and Development Survey as well as other relavant resources in the show notes that accompany this podcast at 
Meanwhile Marcelo Borges at Nandos told us how their learning and development strategy is making all the difference to performance. 

MB: We have some fantastic figures in terms of our management retention. Last year alone, just below 22% of our managers, a turnover of just 22%... and that compared to the rest of the industry. The industry seemed to have probably 40 to 50%. So, something’s telling me that people want to stay with Nandos because there’s something different there, about the way that we do things. 

AK: You started off with just 8 restaurants, you were small, you exude passion, you sound just like a family, but as you get bigger and bigger, how are you going to keep that passionate family feel to your staff ethos and to you learning and development programmes? 

MB: That’s a great question, and I think that’s a fantastic challenge to have. What’s interesting about Nandos is that year after year is we keep asking ourselves that question, ‘how can we, going forward, become a big organisation, but with the intimacy of a small organisation?’ And for us it’s about looking after each and every restaurant and getting the patrons in each and every restaurant to look after their people as if they were part of their family. So, we’re really trying to get the structure of the organisation to keep the culture of the organisation and going forward we’re going to, you know, do that. 

Philippa: While Nandos are justifiably proud of their achievements they’re also acutely aware that as they grow, the main challenge will be how to retain their family orientated culture in a competitive and crowded commercial market. Whereas, the Department of Work and Pensions with a 100,000 staff to manage, faces very different challenges. The public sector is under constant pressure to justify its spend and Maxine Clark talked to us how new technology is being used to drive forward a more effective learning and development strategy which also saves on cost. 

MC: I think, with the restrictions on the money, you’re absolutely right, that does exist, and it has to, it’s tax payers money, this coincides very nicely with the use of IT. And it’s in the last 5 years that we’ve moved away from training courses being the only way to learn. So there’s huge savings on people not having to go to class rooms, not having to be away from the office. There’s all the old costs about people not actually doing a day’s work but they can actually get their learning as and when they need it, at their desk. And I think that like a lot of other organisations, the way technology has moved on to actually enable people to access learning when they need it has really been like a pivotal point, a tipping point for us. 

Philippa: Charles Jennings of Reuters agrees that learning as and when it is needed is the way forward. Adam asked him to explain further. 

AK: Do you think learning and development professionals have to get much more diverse in how they develop that learning? In other words, manager comes to you with problem, you say, “okay, I’ll invent a course for you”. Manager happy, box ticked. Is there still too much of that going on do you think? 

CJ: Absolutely, that’s the conspiracy of convenience where the learning manager sees their job as designing, delivering courses, line manager sees their problems as learning problems and passes them over the fence. Courses are delivered. No one measures it. Everyone’s happy. We certainly need to get away from that. In my own organisation, we have embedded in our learning strategy, in our learning approach, something called 70, 20, 10. And that is, research tells us that adult learning within organisations, about 70% of what people learn to do their jobs, they learn in the workplace on the job. 20%, they learn through their networks, through coaching and so on. And 10 %, they learn formally. And certainly within our organisation we make that very explicit, we talk to senior managers management groups all the time and explain that 70, 20, 10 is the way we should be going. 

Philippa: Understanding how and where people learn most effectively has to serve as a solid basis for developing your learning and development strategy. However, it’s equally important to understand what motivates people to engage with learning in the first place. Tim Kendall, English Communications Group Manager with Pfizer, Global Research and development explained how he managed to engage a group of highly qualified knowledge workers. 

TK: They are scientists, and they believe that their aim, in this case, is to create new medicines and that’s it. The main thing is that we’re trying to help them do a better job by changing their mindset so that they’re more open-minded. Now, in drug development, having an open mind is the key. 

Philippa: Part of Tim’s strategy was to better understand the scientists’ motivation. He used emotional intelligence testing which helped him identify the most appropriate way to engage this particular group. And he told us how a simple measure proved highly effective. 

TK: A lot of the colleagues there started to make diaries of their daily activities when they were having thoughts, So people were actually were becoming more aware of their own actions… and that eventually did lead to more ideas… And also maybe they were more inclined to share their ideas with other people around them. 

Philippa: A good reminder there of the importance of recognising different learning styles. 
Sharing ideas within a team based at the same location is one thing. But what if your challenge is to connect people globally. Coca-cola and HBC, already operating on a global scale, faced a challenge when they expanded into a country that was totally unfamiliar with its product. Learning and development proved instrumental in their success. Syd Farley, their Director of Targeted Development told us why. 

AK: What in practical terms does your learning and development strategy deliver for you? 
SF: Well, probably the best example we could give you is Romania. We started the business in Romania in 1992. Now people in Romania had heard about Coca-Cola because they’d seen it on satellite television but they’d never tasted it, they didn’t know how to buy it, they didn’t know how to sell it, they didn’t know how to drink it, they didn’t know what to drink it in. So we had a whole learning game there for the public as well as for the management. Management were developed through bringing them to developed countries, showing them how the business operated. And the thirst for learning in Romania was immense. After that we put in a general manager who was very people focused. He said that one of his objectives was to develop people for the rest of the group. And now if you go to any of the countries within our organisation there are at least 1 or 2 Romanians working there in a very senior management capacity. 

Interlude: ‘You’re listening to the CIPD podcast series’ 

Philippa: Everything we’ve heard highlights the potential for learning and development to influence and contribute at a strategic level. But perhaps the strongest message is that learning and development must be integrated within an organisation. And for that to happen, both line managers and learning and development professionals need to be sure they understand how their roles are changing. Charles Jenningssums up the implications. 

CJ: Some managers are interested in learning, most are not. However, they are and they absolutely should be passionate about performance. And I think as L and D professionals, we need to move our focus from learning to performance. And the change there is really one on inputs, a focus on inputs, to a focus on outputs. L and D is potentially a very powerful strategic business tool, the same way as finance, marketing, other functions are. 

Philippa: Learning and development has the potential to be a powerful strategic tool. Although each organisation has its individual learning and development needs all those succeeding with their learning and development strategy had two things in common. They focus on outputs and performance. 

If you’d like to know more about the learning and development themes covered in this podcast visit our website at You can also share any feedback you might have on our podcast via the website. Next time we’ll be focusing on diversity, featuring an exclusive interview with Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equalities Review Taskforce. Until then, goodbye.


Subscribe, download and more

You can stream each episode, download the podcasts to your computer or subscribe to the series free via iTunes.

Trouble listening to podcasts?

If you are having trouble listening to the podcasts, you can access them directly via Soundcloud.