HR Leader Article by Frank Handy
Our learning & development budget has been cut significantly as a result of organization-wide cost-reduction initiatives. How can we still train staff and maintain our L&D line despite this?
If your department has been cut significantly, and more significantly than other departments, chances are your organization hasn’t fully recognized the value of training. Your work as manager of L&D is not done until the organization sees L&D as an investment rather than as a cost, and recognizes that its health, durability, and success depends as much or more on well developed staff than anything else.
Your arguments to hold on to your L&D budget, to reduce the scope of cuts, or to get funding for specific programs in tough times can focus on ROI, and a web search will give you many sources of information about the metrics for these calculations. Helping an organization realize this point, however, is a long term project, something to work at over time no matter what the economic climate.
But if your organization needs to cut, there are some reasons why L&D should be maintained even in hard times.
First, with cutbacks and uncertainty, morale is low. Unlike cosmetic spending that can been seen as a waste, training spending indicates commitment to those who remain, and can raise morale. Staff members feel more confident that your organization will weather a crisis if it demonstrates a longer-term perspective by keeping up training that will help people do their work better. Training shows that the organization thinks there is a future, and that staff will be part of it.
Second, an effective organization will be using downtime or shifts in resources to prepare for recovery and the longer term. Training is the way to develop people who already have valuable information and background experience in the organization and help them into new roles, or give them the next generation of skills they will need to help the organization recover and flourish. The cost of training or retraining existing staff is far less than the cost of recruiting and training people who have no experience in your organization, and you will be a step ahead of the competition and able to take advantage of opportunities more quickly than others.
Third, today’s successful organizations must reflect a commitment to learning if they are to retain people who remain mobile even in bad times, or those who because of uncertainty may be looking for other opportunities that appear more secure. Paying lip service to training instead of really committing to training damages the credibility of an organization in other areas as well. “Stay loyal to us while we cut our commitments to you” is not a recipe for success. In addition to damaging loyalty, such behavior adds cynicism to the workplace atmosphere.
Finally, don’t forget that there are ways to deliver learning now that are less costly than in the past. In house training departments can develop intranet or Internet tools for delivery with fewer travel or logistical concerns. External consultants for periodic programs can be less expensive than maintaining a full learning department but still deliver high quality for specific skill topics. And training organizations understand the pressures and challenges that exist today; they are often prepared to make special arrangements to accommodate cost concerns, such as adjusting the length of programs, the number of instructors, the timing of payments, and so forth.
So, remember that investing in training is an investment in the future and contribution on the road to recovery. Good luck in your negotiations!