Training firms & tackling recessionary blues


What are the top five things you’re doing right now to ready your training organisation for a troubled economy? With the recession now a reality, the training industry may be one of the hardest hit. While some companies are decreasing their spending on training, far more are at a status quo or have even increased their spending slightly. So, what do these somewhat conflicting statistics mean?

Like everyone else, the learning development industry is standing on rather tenuous ground, and faces the growing pressure of doing more with either the same amount of money as last year or less. Learning executives are finding the need to come up with some new and innovative ways to keep their training programmes alive and well-and at the same time prove their business value.

Expertus, a provider of strategic training outsourcing, sat down with handful of thought leaders in the learning management industry to get the straight-talk about what’s happening in their training departments and learn how they’re weathering the economic storm.

Much of the discussion underscored the need for training departments to take a closer look at their operational efficiency. At first glance, you may think this means cutting the budget-but not necessarily. The discussion showed that creative and strategic approach can make training department more lean and mean:

Informal learning

Building low-cost programmes around informal learning and /or encourage the tactics that are already working. Managers provide practical application requirements training and then have participants “practice” their new skills and provide feedback. Not only does this extend the learning opportunity to outside the traditional learning event, it provides a forum for team members to comment on what’s working and what’s not.
There is a need to develop a teaching culture, where they’re taking advantage of internal talent to extend their knowledge and expertise. Blogs, webinars, white papers and other informal learning situations are ways that internal experts are extending the learning beyond the classroom. Focus should also be given to skill development-narrowing the skill development to those that are most critical to the department and /or organisation. In this instance the training may last up to 9 months, with more formal training occurring frequently at the beginning; and then informal training continuing on a regular, but less frequent basis, between the manager and employee. 

Re-alignment

Organisations need to take a second look at whether their training programmes are properly aligned with the goals of the company. Most of the experts agree that there is an increasing focus on showing how investment in training impacts ROI. If training is not aligned with company goals, then those programmes are cut or they need to realign the training so that it positively impacts the enterprise’s investment. Organisation should also focus on de-vesting whereby everyone is going through efficiency reviews to find out which programmes are the weakest or least valuable. This is to ensure that the right “fat” is trimmed from the budget.

Consolidation

Training operations are heading for major consolidation around job functions or content overlap. There’s likely to be dual reporting or overlap in training content between departments; therefore, training needs to be integrated into a single reporting structure for greater efficiency.

Increased e-learning

Continuing to move away from higher-cost instructor-led training programmes. There seems to be an increased reliance on e-learning among experts. Organisations witness 98 per cent compliance with their e-learning programme. Employees appreciate the convenience and are enjoying the content. Companies are actively looking to create context or video coaching to add value to the e-learning. The incremental cost is zero with the exception of a license. 

Executive management is reducing jobs regardless of how efficient the training operation is. It’s a sad reality of the times-companies are cutting employees to add to the bottom line. Companies should go in for lay off in a planned way so that it adds to the efficiency of the organisation. Improving the general efficiency of training operations and programmes should be a precursor to cutting employees.

The reality is that there is likely to be cuts within the organisation-but the question is: what is the “optimal” organisation you can afford.

The writer is Vice-President, Client Services at Expertus.

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