United in complexity – that could be the motto of continuing development professionals in France. Reforms have been carried out to make the system simpler, but the situation remains the same – high costs, low effectiveness, and old-fashioned methods. So what are the solutions?
The professional development sector needs to begin its digital transformation. It’s essential that the industry gets a good dose of digital technology, in terms of both its content and the tools used. And that’s what some open innovation stakeholders have begun to do, shaking up the sector by organizing hackathons. The revolution is under way.
€32 billion. That’s what continuing professional development (CPD) cost in France in 2012. Yes, you read that right, in 2012. As Le Figaro points out, to find the latest official figures on professional training in France, you need to step back in time and look at a report from the French Directorate for Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES) from February 2015. And there’s another surprise – the report discusses data from 2012. You’d think that decisions about training are made based on the old technique of a wet finger rather than data. Not to mention the issue of transparency. But we’re getting off track.
No big surprises here – it’s businesses who pay for the majority of CPD. 43%, to be precise, so around €13.7 billion. France’s regions (14%) and the French government (13%) account for some of the rest.
Overall, 61% of this funding is spent on working people: 42% on private sector employees, and 19% on civil servants. Young people and job-seekers only get 25% and 14% respectively. Which leads to another question – doesn’t training benefit the people who need it the least? Wouldn’t it be better to rethink the way this €32 billion is spent every year? But once again, we’re digressing.
Yes, and in the right direction, but it’s moving slowly. The last major reform dates back to 2014 and resulted in the creation of the personal training account (compte personnel de formation, or CPF). The intended aim of this reform was to simplify “the legal obligations and procedures linked to professional development” and to focus resources on those who needed them most. It’s true that it simplified a horrifically complicated system. But you wouldn’t exactly say that everything’s become crystal-clear now. It’s just become a little less obscure. Professional development is still a huge administrative tangle that’s continuing to cause problems for even the most zealous HR managers.
It’s fairly obvious that continuing professional development is an expensive, obscure and ineffective process.
The training offered to employees in today’s world is almost exclusively theoretical. It’s one of its biggest limits. Anyone who has ever attended a training course will tell you that it’s more like a lecture than a business game.
Here’s what your average training day might look like. It’s 8.55 on a Monday morning. You walk into a spartan room with tables arranged in a U shape and a few strangers gathered around a coffee machine. You wolf down a few biscuits (it’s free, so why not?) and go and say hello to your fellow coursemates for the day. The trainer arrives – generally, a former professional and an expert in their field. Everyone takes a seat, introduces themselves, and the day begins.
Then come several hours of analysis and advice on the best way to build a communication plan, be a better manager or become a more convincing public speaker. The theoretical explanations are interspersed with practical exercises, but they don’t necessarily have a direct link to your everyday requirements. The day comes to an end, you go home, and as you unlock your door, you’re struck by a realization – you’ve already forgotten the name of the woman who was sitting on your right and of the amazingly effective persuasion technique that you learned that same morning.
You learned things and met people. The day was enjoyable and rewarding. But the failure to put your new knowledge into practice means that the usefulness of your expensive training course is extremely limited.
After all, once you’ve left the training room, there’s very little in the way of follow-up. And if you don’t have the opportunity to put your new knowledge into practice soon, you’ll quickly forget it.
Training should be pragmatic, empirical. It should meet a specific need and allow your employees to acquire new skills that are linked to their current position or the one they want to hold. The aim is to give their career a boost, to help them flourish in your company, and to improve their engagement and performance.
And this means putting what they’ve learned into practice – without delay. Otherwise, that knowledge melts away, and more quickly than you might think. Just look at Hermann Ebbinghaus’s notorious ‘forgetting curve’, which demonstrates the “decline of memory retention over time”.
It’s clear that the more time passes, the more gets forgotten. Nothing new so far. But what is striking is the speed at which we forget. As the graph shows, one hour after learning something, the average person has already forgotten 56% of it. After six days, almost 75% of what was learned has been consigned to the dungeons of memory. Keep these figures in mind, then think of the typical training day – a huge mound of information passed on in an extremely short period of time with no real follow-up and no opportunity to put it into practice afterwards. There’s no way it’s going to end well.
That’s why traditional training sessions have a low ROI, and it’s why it’s important to move them into the digital age.
The traditional format for professional development courses (classroom-based, in groups, with a training provider) doesn’t encourage participants to engage with their training. They can ask questions and express their opinion, of course, but for most of the time, they’re passive.
As well as this lack of proactiveness, there’s also the fact that this sort of training isn’t very flexible. Participants have to adapt to the trainer’s pace and the content isn’t personalized (business sector, company, issues, etc.).
This flexibility is much more common with digital formats. But France still has a lot of progress to make in this area.
According to the 2016 survey by French training company Cegos, despite making significant progress, France is below par on essentially every digital training method compared to the 2016 European average:
– Although 93% of employees received classroom-based training from a trainer as part of a group,
– only 37% received training via e-learning modules, compared to an average of 52% in Europe
– and 33% in virtual classrooms, compared to an average of 43% in Europe.
– And as for MOOCs, SPOCs and other COOCs, just 25% received this kind of training compared to an average of 34% in Europe.
The traditional approach to training is stubbornly hanging on. But gradually, new technologies and new methods are arriving in a market that, slowly but surely, is beginning its digital transformation.
And among these new methods, collaborative innovation and hackathons are starting to make a name for themselves.
Hackathons and open innovation aren’t just a way of aligning theory and practice – they’re also ideal for getting employees used to the digital world. Here’s how it happens.
The company makes online training modules available to its employees via a dedicated platform. A range of formats are available – PowerPoint, PDF, video, etc. It’s even possible to organize live webinars. The content can be personalized to suit the company or even the department the employee works in, as well as the issues they come across.
Employees log on to the platform and take various modules at their own pace. They can contact a trainer at any time via a chat window if they have any questions or need clarification.
This is where open innovation – through hackathons – comes into play. Once the training is over, employees work on their own or in teams to address a key issue faced by their company using their new knowledge. As well as the activities they were able to carry out at the theoretical training, they put their know-how into practice by working on a real-life project that benefits the company.
The training then translates into a chance to put new skills directly into practice within the workplace. It’s a way for the company to increase its business activity while giving its employees a practical career boost.
The business also becomes open to new ideas. It allows its employees to suggest improvements (new processes or new products and services, for example) that might never have been put in place otherwise. It’s a sure bet – even if their ideas ultimately don’t take form, the employee feels like they’re being heard, which is a key factor in engagement.
An engaged employee is an employee who feels that they are important, proactive, and listened to. Using open innovation as a training tool allows you to achieve this goal. It’s an opportunity to let your employees build cross-department and multidisciplinary teams. This collaboration is not only a vector of innovation – it improves cohesion within your company, too.
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It’s also an opportunity to accelerate your digital transformation by identifying more up-to-date practices.
Using digital tools such as an online platform helps to get your employees used to the digital world. In a way, it acts as a gentle introduction – especially if the training you provide focuses on the new practices and technologies that have come from the digital revolution of recent years.
It also helps your employees to become more in tune with today’s consumers. And whatever business sector you work in, whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s an absolute essential if you don’t want to be left behind by the competition.
The whole face of the continuing professional development sector is changing. Whatever happens, the upcoming shift will be a radical one. It’s up to you whether it’ll be abrupt or smooth, and the direction it leads in is your choice.
It isn’t about choosing between the status quo or transformation, though – it’s a question of deciding when and how the transformation will take place. The first to adopt these new methods – whether they’re training providers or companies – will be one step ahead. Everything’s changing, and fast. Universities and colleges are already starting to use open innovation and hackathons to train their students and create.
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