Archive for August, 2009

A mandate for training is a mandate for survival

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Governments and businesses are under enormous pressure due to the financial challenges we are experiencing internationally.  A besieged mentality is all too common and many organisations are responding with drastic monetary and staffing cuts.  For many in Human Resources, they see their training budgets disappearing.  The question arises, as to how can we keep our competitive edge while not offering training and development opportunities to staff?  The answer is not complicated - we cannot.

I would argue that significant cuts in our training and development (T & D) budgets are a very short term and, in fact, short sighted reaction to the economic pressures we are facing.  In fact, I suggest that a mandate for training is a mandate for survival.

As we attempt to ride out this international economic crisis, we should be focusing more and more on human resource development.  How successful an organisation will be in surviving these times will depend on increasing efficiency.  That will depend on how successful an organisation is at making best use of its key resource, its employees.

Enhancing, not reducing, training and development opportunities for employees is the most significant contributor to efficiency and survival.  In order to achieve the competitive edge, organisations, and this includes both businesses and governments, must commit to enhancing the quality of their employees by investing in effective and relevant training programs.  As the Chief Executive Officer of the Cave Hill School of Business, Dr. Jeannine Comma, stated, “The successful companies are the ones that recognise that an organisation is only as great as its people and the only true source of competitive advantage is in its human capital”.

If your T & D department budget has been cut significantly, and more significantly than other departments, chances are your organisation hasn’t fully recognised the value of training.  Your work as manager of Human Resources is not done until the organisation sees training and development as an investment rather than as a cost, and recognises that its health, durability, and success depends as much or more on well developed staff than anything else.

But if your organisation needs to reduce costs, arguments should be made as to why the T & D budget should be maintained even in these challenging times.  The arguments will generally focus on the need for your best resource, that is your staff, to be efficient, effective and willing and able to deal with change.  There are numerous sound arguments for maintaining a healthy T & D budget, some of which are as follows.

First, with cutbacks and uncertainty, morale is low.  Unlike cosmetic spending that can been seen as a waste, effective training spending indicates commitment to those who remain, and can raise morale.  Staff members feel more confident that your organisation will weather a crisis if it demonstrates a longer-term perspective by maintaining training and development opportunities that will help people do their work better.  Training shows that the organisation thinks there is a future, and that staff will be part of it.

Second, an effective organisation may well use 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 organisation 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 organisation, 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 organisations 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 organisation 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, do not forget that there are ways now to deliver learning 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.  Training organisations 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.

Remember that embracing the concept of continual training and development is an investment in the future of your organisation and contribution on the road to recovery.  I wish you the very best in your T & D budget negotiations!

Peter Dreyer
Senior Associate
Stitt Feld Handy Group / ADR Chambers