Holding the bottom line on L&D

by 17 Mar 2009

Q Our learning & development budget has been cut significantly as a result of organisation-wide cost reduction initiatives. How can we still train staff and maintain our L&D line despite this?

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

Your arguments to hold onto 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 organisation realise this point, however, is a long-term project, something to work at over time no matter what the economic climate.

But if your organisation needs to cut, there are some reasons why L&D should be main tained even in hard times.

Three reasons

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 confi dent that your organisation will weather a cri sis if it demonstrates a longer term perspec tive by keeping up training that will help peo ple 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 will be using downtime or shifts in resources to pre pare for recovery and the longer term. Training is the way to develop people who already have valuable information and back ground experience in the organisation and help them into new roles, or give them the next generation of skills they will need to help the organisation 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 uncer tainty may be looking for other opportunities that appear more secure. Paying lip service to training instead of really committing to train ing 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 behaviour adds cynicism to the workplace atmosphere.

Cost effectiveness

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 learn ing department but still deliver high quality for specific skill topics. And 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 pro grams, 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 to the road to recovery. Good luck in your negotiations!

By Francis Handy, The Trillium Group. Contact: 1800 636 869. enquiries@thetrillium.group.com.au. thetrilliumgroup.com.au