Now that the world’s economy is in the worst shape it’s been in for many years, organizations are looking at every program, project, department, and even every employee. With this kind of uncertainty, the training organization must adapt to new conditions and keep providing great service. But what exactly can your learning organization do in order to stay competitive – and stay safe from cuts?
First, and possibly most important, is that the training organization must prove its worth better and more times than ever before. It is a sad but true fact that budget cuts often go to the training area first. After all, associates can be trained informally, on the job, and as a “bare-bones” function, right? We know this is somewhat true, but as organizations grow larger and become more complex, who has time to ensure that training occurs except the training department? Proving worth can be done in various ways at various times during training and development. Start out with a detailed but quick analysis of the problem when you’re asked to create new or improved courses. Put anticipated training results into numbers, preferably dollar or productivity numbers. It may take some detailed mathematics, but you can do it. Another way to prove value is to position the training organization as a problem solver. When a department comes to you and requests training, your analysis can lead to solutions. You could discover streamlined processes, gaps, and inefficiencies during the analysis and you should capitalize on this to show your value.Next, you must become accustomed to acting quickly. Some training departments are able to move quickly, but some have never been in the habit. This means that you may have to examine your processes to ensure that they are not time-wasters. And you may have to forego some of the things training departments have done in the past. To act quickly, get the facts, get the final and desired outcome, and make decisions to get from the facts to that outcome. In training and development circles, “reactive” has been branded a bad word – but you can react quickly as long as it’s a thoughtful and careful reaction. Be sure to pass this difference on down to your staff, as well.
When it comes to delivery, the new training department will have to focus on efficient delivery at all times. This means that you have to look at your existing tools and use them however you can. If you have empty classrooms, offer more classes. If you’re using a Learning Management System, make sure it is being utilized to take learning out to the field in the clearest and most efficient way possible. Keep in mind that you have to be cost-effective, but also examine what your cost measures were before the global economic breakdown. If your class minimum was 10 people, determine if you can lower that minimum. If you have online courses that are not being used, discontinue them and turn the space over to something else.
Another action you should take is to examine your staff – or in some cases what is left of your staff. Analyze how each person is deployed and make sure each person is utilized as much as possible. If you have instructional designers who can also deliver training, consider having them do both. If your instructors can take on new courses or serve as online moderators, move them into those positions as quickly as possible. “Old” training departments sometimes have people who serve only one or two functions, and this is no longer possible in the new economy.
While you’re examining staff and delivery, remember to discover new norms. Get outside of the traditional training “box”. As we discussed earlier, try to reposition training as “learning services”, as a business partner who can help other areas solve their problems going forward. And as learning services moves forward in the new economy, one thing you can never do is assume you’re safe from the next round of budget or staff cuts. It’s easy to settle into a false sense of security, so keep the learning services organization on its toes, always looking for solutions, and always proving its worth in dollars and sense.
When the economy emerges from the slump, you’ll find that your learning services organization is streamlined, efficient, and truly modern.
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