During times of recession the old adage was that you dispense with non-core activities which can easily be switched off. For this reason often marketing and training (learning) were the first to go, there was no clear link to business performance and it was spend that could easily be saved. Not all organisations advocated this approach and some organisations cited investing in their people as part of the strategy which helped them to grow through these potentially difficult times.
The link to business performance is critical, during a recession, the nice to have activities must go and the focus should be on supporting those activities including relevant learning which are key to business operation, employee retention and post-recession growth.
So what is different this time?
The challenges facing business during and post the current crisis are unique for a number of reasons:
· This is a truly global challenge not driven by economic but by other factors, something we have not seen since the second world war. The impacts are already thought to be greater than the recession of the late noughties. Therefore as a truly worldwide issue even global companies cannot yet adjust their focus to markets in which there is a lesser impact
· As whole operations are paused for some businesses during periods of lockdown, it does not allow businesses to cut their cloth and down-size in quite the same way as they would otherwise
· The changes people are undertaking during the covid-19 crisis are fundamentally challenging or questioning the way we conduct our modern lives and business. As we discussed in a previous article the post-covid world may be a very different place
The cost of training
In the way that covid-19 has forced home working into many organisations it also has the potential to drive through the much needed and long-awaited changes to learning which many organisations have failed to deliver.
So rather than look to relaunch your previous training or learning and development offer, use this time to really work out what your offer should look like and ensure that it is an investment that drives the business. Below are some areas you might want to consider:
What are you trying to achieve?
Have a clear outcome, purpose and objectives will help you ensure that what you are doing is not just there because you have always done it. What is the purpose of the annual conference, the talent development programme, the corporate induction programme? Often over time companies end up with cyclical programmes or events which are tied to budgets, HR cycles and even people’s roles. These are often a combination of engagement, reward, communication and learning wrapped into one. Ask yourself if you were to start again with a blank sheet of paper is that what you would do again or is there a more effective way of achieving the same outcome? Could the allocated time and budget be put to better use?
Face to Face Training
Face to face was the norm at one point, in fact it was the only option. Face to face is also one of the most costly forms of learning. Over time learning has gradually developed other alternatives. My question would be are you using the best method for the best outcome or is your approach driven by available tools, preference of a trainer or some other factor? Social distancing will reinforce to people the importance of time together but in a work context that time is precious and should be used with thought and consideration. The current situation is forcing creativity and experimentation and you may find that the things that can only be or are best done “face to face” dwindles.
Content Control and Learning Agility
Content and quality control has often been the remit of training teams and/or subject matter experts but during rapidly changing times best practice and expertise can emerge from across the organisation. Think about how you have dealt with problem solving, collaboration, communication and cross company learning during the last few weeks. Changes which would normally take years have happened overnight. Content which can take weeks to author has been produced in hours. How do you build this agility and collaborative learning into your strategy going forward?
Leadership and Talent Development above all else
The backlash in the UK to the undervaluing of roles such as carers and the NHS also raises a question for organisations and where and how they distribute their learning budget and effort. How much do you invest in a few leaders or selected future potential leaders? Is this investment worth it? Could this investment have a broader or more substantial impact? What does investment look like for those in the roles which are the heartbeat of your organisation? Are they allowed time to learn? Are they given access to anything other than induction and compliance learning?
Systems and Content Libraries
Most organisations spend a substantial amount of money on systems and accompanying content. The current situation should highlight the role that these systems play. Which are essential, which are clunky and hard to use and where are the gaps? Alongside systems many organisations will invest in externally authored content or purchase access to external content libraries e.g. LinkedIn Learning. Your ongoing content strategy should ensure that you develop a mixed approach to internally developed, generic content and free to the world content. Your budget should not be tied up in content which is not used or useful
Skillset for Future Learning
The make up and structure of your team should also be reviewed. If you are fundamentally reviewing your approach to learning you should also ensure you have the skillset and resource available to deliver it. Your resource and skillset review should focus not just on your learning team but on the wider skills you have access to in your organisation and the external partners you work with or access when you need. If you are split into functional roles aligned to delivery mechanisms this should also change. In our next article we will look at the skills needed in forward thinking learning teams.
Build Your Own Future
In the past legacy systems, “we have always done it that way”, inertia and fear of the unknown may have blocked your ability to transform and build the learning culture your business needs. Don’t lose this opportunity to reinvent the best future for your business.