UK training budgets hit by recession says survey

The volatile economic environment is having a huge impact on learning and development, with funds decreasing in more than half of UK organisations

And only one in 10 employers expect training spend to increase in the year to come, with two thirds stating that their economic circumstances have declined in the past year, compared to nearly half in 2009, when the recession had already begun.

Despite this, learning and training development departments’ headcounts have largely remained the same in the last year, as UK organisations have stepped up to manage costs more efficiently. The main changes over the last year include a move to be more business focused (38%) and a reduction in external suppliers and a move to in-house provision (31%).

With the UK’s private sector now emerging from recession, the skills employers say they need to focus on in order to meet their business objectives in two years’ time are mainly leadership skills (65%), front line people management skills (55%) and business awareness (51%).

Looking more closely at leadership skills, the main gaps identified by employers are performance management and leading and managing change, with the main focus of leadership development activities in the next 12 months being improving the skills of leaders to think in a more strategic and future-focused way (42%) and enabling the achievement of strategic goals (39%).

John McGurk, learning and talent adviser, CIPD, said: "Our annual survey demonstrates that learning and development professionals across the country are rising to the challenge of implementing core training to ensure business success and innovating to ensure long term survival. A skilled and motivated workforce will be essential to ensure organisations are well placed to take advantage of the recovery when it comes.

“It’s particularly good to see that learning and development professionals are focusing on leadership and people management skills as key to support business growth during the tough times. Ensuring front-line managers are well trained to deliver on their people management responsibilities can have a direct and valuable impact on the performance of their staff and their organisation’s success.”

For the first time, the survey has also asked specific questions of those working for international organisations, with almost two-thirds (64%) seeing learning and development as a key driver. Once again, leadership skills feature prominently. In order to meet business objectives in two years’ time, international organisations consider that their expatriate staff needs to develop management and leadership skills (42%) as a top priority.

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