Investment bankers have been pilloried for their actions and blamed for the financial crisis we are in today. For ‘Investment’, substitute ‘gambling’.
The mantra has become ‘save, reduce our deficit, cut our overheads, tighten our belts, don’t spend but make do and mend’.
So where does all this leave learning and development?
Is it Optional?
Money spent on L&D is often regarded as a wild gamble that may or may not show any returns; and it’s been a constant challenge for L&D providers to quantify the business benefit of their work, and how it impacts on the bottom line.
In times of austerity, some companies take the approach of cutting what they call ‘discretionary spend’, and sadly, for L&D, it is often regarded as just that. It’s something we could readily do without. Take it or leave it. “We’ll switch it on again when times are good”.
Whilst L&D is considered a ‘discretionary’ activity it will always fall prey to this kind of erratic approach. And whilst we equate investment with gambling, the concept of investing in people will inevitably have to take a hit.
But it isn’t only Training that takes the hit. Your company is ultimately the biggest loser!
But dismissing training as irrelevant, ‘nice to have’ or dispensable on the basis of making a poor decision in the past is as absurd as saying “We bought the wrong software once so from now on we’re going to get by without any IT”.
It’s far too convenient to blame ‘training’ as a concept, rather than address why the training might not have delivered.
The truth is that Training CAN work and training DOES work. Developing staff to be better, more engaged, more knowledgeable, less vulnerable, more creative, more resourceful, more focused and more confident, pays enormous dividends for them, for your business, for your reputation in the market, for your investors, and for your customers who subsequently get a better service.
The onus lies with you to be clear about what it is you are trying to achieve and who is best placed to help you deliver it. If you contract the wrong supplier, they’ll supply you the wrong solution. It’s as simple as that.
So we don’t need to shy away from tough questions when deciding whether or not to invest in training. It’s right that we should ask these questions:
How much bang will I get from my buck?
If I tie up some cash now on training, how will this translate into something more valuable than my original spend?
Over time, will I gain something which is at least equal to what I put in?
What will I fail to achieve if I fail to invest?
Is this a wild gamble or is there a reasonable chance of a return?
What is the return I’m looking for?
If I choose not to spend, what are the consequences?
The dividends you get from professional and well-executed training and many and diverse. Here are a few of them to start with. Better trained staff:
Are more committed to the organisation that invested in them, and are more likely to stay with the company for the medium to long term
Feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organisation which shows itself in reduced periods of absence
Attuned to learning, and less fearful of taking on new things. This gives them a greater receptivity to change
Use their strengths more frequently , thereby bolstering the value they bring to their role
Have up-to-date skills which ensure they can operate in a competitive and ever-evolving market
Are able to operate without the need of constant supervision, freeing up managers to play a more valuable role
Some of these benefits will be easier to measure in numerical terms, but there can be no denying the positive impact training has on morale & skill levels when it is properly identified, resourced and delivered.
Choosing not to invest in training means that you are choosing to say ‘goodbye’ to the benefits listed above. Can you really do that? Can your business really afford to do without?
If you want to know what value is derived from training, skill development, management development and career development; just ask yourself this question:
“Would I want to work for a company that did none of this?”
But perhaps the more provocative question to ask is, “how long could a company survive if it did none of this?”