What was going to be my first post

So one of the things that prompted me to actually jump in and start this blog – and what was going to be the subject of my first post before Jamiroquai hijacked it – was the recent HRD event.  Run at London’s Olympia by the CIPD, this is an annual event and one which I’ve either exhibited at or attended for a number of years.

HRD positions itself as the CIPD’s conference and exhibition on ‘Learning and Organisation Development’.  Having been at REDTRAY for seven months before this event, I could have taken us along to exhibit as I did with the Learning Technologies show in January.  But I preferred to go along as a visitor this year to evaluate how the event is progressing and if it’s a good fit for us.  My perception of HRD has consistently been of an event that is predominantly HR focused, but which has evolved over the years to include more e-learning, blended learning and learning technologies as these solutions have become more prevalent and impossible to ignore.  Which is great!  There are some first-class organisations that exhibit there like Eden Tree and QA and a whole raft of free seminars as well as the associated conference sessions.

However, this post isn’t designed to be a review of the event itself, more the thoughts it provoked when I attended.  The CIPD is a paid for membership organisation and whilst I was there I met up with a representative from BILD too, which is also a paid-for membership organisation.  In the very middle of the HRD exhibition floor is a large CIPD stand promoting the different certifications and learning programmes on offer and reaches out for the attendees to become CIPD members if they are not already.

It really got me thinking about the future of the CIPD and other paid for organisations. In this post Web 2.0 collaborative world that we now live in, unless you’re studying for some sort of professional certification, how much value is there in your membership fees? Having always worked on fairly tight budgets, I haven’t had the luxury of joining a professional body so have always worked hard to find additional resources where I can.  And over the years, these have happily become much more plentiful. Twitter alone is obviously an endless resource of information, and complemented by the excellent resources and networking opportunities in communities like TrainingZone and the Learning and Skills Group.  And within the L&D community in the UK there is a huge amount of valuable information created and shared across our community by thought leaders and vendors alike.  So do we really need to pay for these extra resources?

The argument for the fees is that organisations like the Institute of IT Training and eLearning Network (where you can attend on an event-by-event basis if you like) do deliver excellent resources, often with more structure than some of the free communities.  Also, membership of these bodies and gaining professional certifications are great additions to any CV, which in the current climate can be no bad thing.

For the future, I believe effective targeting and knowing their audience is the key to the future success of these organisations.  The Institute of IT Training is a great example of how to move with the times.  They no longer just talk about ‘IT training’ – instead their certifications now include virtual classroom training and their resources cover topics like e-learning – they know their audience has evolved and they have done so with them. 

I think the quality and wealth of freely available resources and networking opportunities out there has probably helped prompt some membership organisations to raise their game.  They can’t rest on the laurels of their membership fees any more in an environment where there are hundreds of other organisations trying to get the attention of their members for free.  I’d be really keen to hear the thoughts of others on the future of membership organisations and also about the quality of the resources, networking, learning and certifications that are out there and how they compare with the ‘free’ content that is available.   



About kategraham23

Start-up founder, writer, connector, librarian's daughter. Interested in learning, HR, technology, online, media, marketing, fashion and cricket. Not always in that order. The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect the thoughts and opinions of the company I work for currently, or those I've worked for in the past.
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10 Responses to What was going to be my first post

  1. Colin Steed says:

    Great post Kate. I agree the days of the old prossional bodies are gone. As you say we (IITT) are moving with the times and it’s now about giving access to and providing information, networking events, providing help, advice and guidance and being a hub for its members. I believe that IITT and ELN are great examples of this and will be more so soon – announcement soon!


  2. Niall gavin says:

    Kate, I couldn’t agree more. I have the ‘distinction’ of having three (could be four) sets of letters after my name – I’m a Fellow of the IITT (which makes me FITT, apparently), a Member of the BILD (MBILD), a Member of the Chatered management Institute (MCMI) and an Associate Member of the CIPD (which I don’t shout about). Essentially, these letters tell others that I have achieved some kind of professional accreditation or relevant qualification and, if I’m being honest, I keep those memberships up mostly for the ‘priviledge’ of displaying those designations on my signature lines and business card. But what benefits am I getting otherwise?

    I was a very early member of the IITT (Mem No 321) and founding Chair of the SE Regional Group, long before Web2 came along, and we had regular meetings, with guest speakers (like Clive Shepherd), and it was a real benefit to be sponsored by the IITT management and assisted in making the contact with local members. The IITT really got me focussed on reviving my own and my team’s professional development and service delivery – resulting in all sorts of IITT awards for several years. The IITT has definitely moved with the times and I remain a loyal and engaged member, and regard their annual conference as my must-do professional development event of the year.

    As regards the BILD, CMI and CIPD, I tend not to attend the paid events. I’m already paying three out of the four Memberships myself (my employer pays the other one, coincidentally the most expensive of the four!). But ff they’re laying on something for free, or at a substantially-reduced Members’ Rate, I’m there.

    And now we have Web2 and the appearance of membership-focussed, professional networks such as Don Taylor’s excellent Learning & Skills Group. Not only does the L&SG provide extensive web-based opportunities to collaborate and learn, it runs a major annual conference and exhibition AND a subsequent FREE mini-conference for members! I have last year’s L&SG free conference to thank for opening my awareness to and subsequent enthusaistic use of Social Media like Twitter, and introduced me to a whole new personal learning network.

    I regard the L&SG and the IITT as models that many organisations could and should follow. And at least one of my four current memberships will not be renewed in the next 12 months – any guesses which one?


  3. judithels says:

    I agree Kate with both Colin and Niall. Membership organisations need to wise-up in this very competitive age. The IITT has certainly shifted its stance of late, which is all to the good IMO, and I am a strong supporter of both the BILD and ELN. As a member (well Fellow actually!) of the BILD I do try and attend their events (free to members) and their annual conference (at a reduced rate for members) and I am increasingly pleased to see the BILD offering members free online events and discussions. Although I don’t usually attend ELN meetings, I do take part in some of their online events. As for the CIPD, even though I am a Chartered Fellow, well the least said the better on that front!


  4. kategraham23 says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, really great to get insights from you all who have so much experience in this area. It’s good to see the diversity across the different bodies that you’re involved in – Judith much more involved with BILD and Niall with IITT for example. BILD is certainly one I will be looking into a bit more as it’s the industry body I’m least familiar with.

    Niall – I couldn’t possibly comment on which membership you might not be renewing 😉

    And Colin, we look forward to an update soon on your exciting news!


  5. Craig Taylor says:

    Hi Kate,

    I got into bed with the CIPD as I undertook the CTP programme upon leaving the Army in order to gain recognition for the L&D experience I had gained whilst serving, but which held little or no sway in civvy street.

    I started to look at my local branch meetings and discovered that unless I wanted to immerse myself in coaching buzzwords or prepare for an industrial tribunal there was very little of practical use. Once I started to step away from traditional L&D and into the technologies aspect, there was even less reason to stay as I found that the magazine, website and branch meetings did not meet my development needs in the slightest.

    I cancelled my membership (or as I call it, Jackie Orme’s pension fund) last Autumn. The membership person on the other end of the phone asked why, to which I provided the above response. She then went on to explain that she thought the reason that there was so little learning technology orientated content was that mainstream L&D didn’t see it as being the way to go….. and you know what?………. given my current experiences, she may be right!


  6. kategraham23 says:

    Hi Craig, thanks for contributing your experiences – even though they’re potentially a bit depressing as far as with wider L&D audience is concerned… I wonder if the lack of interest/coverage of learning technologies is down to fear or lack of understanding? I feel quite strongly (although I would say this) that the time will come when the technology aspect of learning simply can’t be ignored. In fact, I thought that time had already come!


  7. I thought it already come too, Kate, but then I think we forget that we are fortunate enough to work for employers that not only allow us access to learning technology but positively encourage it. I was talking at a social media conference yesterday, and speaking to some of the delegates afterwards it was real down-to-earth stuff. “No, that’s banned. Nope, so is that. That too!”

    Anyway, back on track, I prefer the smaller bodies because they a) have a better sense of community, b) have a better sense of their members’ needs and that is reflected in their offerings, and c) don’t have the sense of entitlement that some of the larger bodies have (and I’m not just talking about L&D here).


  8. Burrough says:

    I’d agree with everything said above, to me it seems like if you add “Chartered” to anything it goes to your head and your focus slips from engaging and serving your members to milking them and providing sound bites to the media. I’m not just looking at you CIPD – CII are at least as bad!

    Like Craig I only joined CIPD to do my CTP and I declined to renew my membership last summer, even though work would have paid for it. Now I only belong to the eLearning Network.

    Like James suggests, as a smaller group they are in tune with their members, not only that, they are run by their members and even though I’ve only attended a handful of events I feel a part of the community and that’s a good feeling.

    It’s important to have communities like the ELN because we are essentially still outsiders in the L&D world (see the general distaste for the CIPD above). We need these groups to validate what we are doing and inspire us onwards. Everytime I attend an event I come back wishing there were more people like that where I work.

    Back to your original question of do they need to be paid for. Well ,essentially you get what you pay for (unless it begins with a C). Yes the LSG is largely free, but that’s because the main conference isn’t.


  9. Judith Christian-Carter says:

    I know we are going off message here but, like both Kate and James, my L&D world is a technology-based one and it has been so since the late 1980s. The CIPD has never been that much interested in the use of technology in L&D because it threatens their HRD-members’ base (which, of course, is a lot smaller than their HRM one). It (the CIPD) pays lip-service to the use of technology in L&D but that’s about all, as it doesn’t want to lose its face-to-face/classroom-based trainer members by upsetting them with the prospective of such a thing.


  10. kategraham23 says:

    So my conclusions from this post and the comments are:

    * There is still value to be had from membership based organisation, but much depends on the nature of the organisation itself and how it treats its members
    * There is however much value to be had from free resources, online networking and one’s personal learning network
    * In parallel with my own experience, the CIPD has got a bit of work to do to fully understand our arena of learning technologies…

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and comments – who knows, maybe HRD will look a bit different next year if the CIPD is listening?!


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