e-learning professionals “the cobbler’s children with no shoes”

by Viv Cole on December 24, 2014

At a recent Professional Services e-learning Forum, L&D teams were likened to “cobbler’s children with no shoes”. This allegory describes the phenomenon where professionals are so busy with work for their clients and their teams that they neglect using their professional skills to help themselves or those closest to them. A beautiful metaphor, but is it true to life?

The Professional Services e-learning Forum draws it members from the UK’s largest accountancy and legal firms. A straw poll of members included the question: “What’s included in your firm’s approach to enhancing the professional development of its e-learning people?” In descending order the most commonly used channels were:

  1. Conferences (e.g. Learning Technologies)
  2. Formal e-learning
  3. Informal learning
  4. Formal face to face learning
  5. Professional memberships (e.g. eLN)
  6. Coaching or mentoring.

Conference organisers will be buoyed by this result, but there is a concern that the messages that e-learning people get at a conference are more marketing than learning. It is also striking how low formal face to face learning is down the list. At first blush it feels like an L&D department with expertise in training should be doing more training. However, this is less surprising when you consider the small number of e-learning people in firms (hence diseconomies of scale) and the increasing focus on the 70 and 20 in 70:20:10 models of learning.

Fewer than 20% firms reported using all six of these channels, so the “cobbler’s children” label seems fair. I would be shocked if not did not apply across more sectors than professional services. There is a clear sense that firms could be doing more to develop, retain and inspire their e-learning people.

If that’s something you’re serious about changing, don’t rely on Santa Claus, talk to me in the New Year.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: