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.