A recent survey has reported that 87% of learning managers believe that they can meet the learning needs of their organisation effectively – against a backdrop of shrinking resources, with 44% of respondents reporting either moderate or substantial cuts to resource provision. Some 37% of respondents also predicted reductions in staff during the coming six months.

The UK Learning Trends Index, published by leadership and management content provider GoodPractice and The Learning Sanctuary reveals that leadership development is the key issue for 23% of the learning managers surveyed. Other important issues were delivering professional/technical skills (11%), along with change management and talent management (10%).

The survey found some 76% of respondents predicting a shift to using technologies such as e-learning or virtual delivery, with 50% set to increase their use of web 2.0 technologies such as social networking. Some 64% of respondents believe they will be more reliant on using informal learning approaches.

With budgets being tight, one in four respondents said they are looking to cut their use of external coaches and 39% are set to cut outsourced delivery partners. A mixed picture emerges for in-house trainers and instructors, with 27% looking to increase and 20% to decrease usage.

The survey found that learning and development (L&D) managers are still confident about their own impact and status within their organisations. Fifty six per cent respondents even predicted increasing their impact on corporate performance and 52% believe they will increase their status as a key strategic contributor to their organisation.

Comment: Of course, there’s nothing like egocentric optimism to not only feed our need for feeling self-important but also to give us a more ‘rosy’ picture of the real world – especially during an economic downturn. However, as Havelock Ellis once said: “The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.”

Confidence levels apart, the Learning Trends Index shows resources and staff provision for L&D departments continuing to tighten. Importantly, the survey results also reveal the growing role of e-learning and web technologies as an enabler to help managers work more effectively with limited resources.

It is also interesting to see the continued focus on leadership development. Could this be L&D’s conscious, or even unconscious, attempt to compensate for perceived weaknesses among the UK’s current corporate leaders?