Alex Blyth advises on the best ways to avoid the training budget crunch.
“Training? Are you crazy - Haven’t you heard there’s a recession on?!” This is something I’m hearing more and more frequently. Ok, so people are generally a little more polite than that, but the general thrust of these conversations is that in a recession the last thing a sensible company should be doing is spending money on training its staff.
You won’t be too surprised to learn that, as a training provider, I strongly disagree. If previous recessions have taught business leaders one thing it is to remember that when recessions end - as they always do - you need staff who are skilled, informed and motivated.
The history of business is littered with examples of companies that failed to invest during a recession – such as the Access credit card in the late 1980s – and so lost a fatal amount of market share to rivals, as well as with examples of companies that built their names and fortunes on the back of far-sighted investments during the dark days. Kelloggs in the 1930s recession is a great example of this.
It’s encouraging to see that many business leaders seem to have learnt this lesson, and that, by and large, we’re not seeing the mass redundancies that characterised the last great correction of the early 1990s.
"Classroom training is only ever a starting point for someone’s learning and development. It is too easy for all the knowledge and the good intentions to evaporate as soon as the session is over."
However, keeping your staff is not enough. You also need to keep developing them, so that they are able to help you survive the bad times and then really push the business forward in the forthcoming boom. And that means training.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you should carry on as before. Without doubt, this is the right time to review your training strategy. In fact the smart businesses are working very hard right now to ensure they get the most out of every penny they spend on training. In my recently published book 'How to Grow Your Business For Entrepreneurs
' – I offer detailed advice on how businesses can do just that. Here, for now though, are five steps you can take to maximise the bang you’re getting for your training buck.
1. Share existing knowledge
Rather than paying people to come in and train your staff, why not get your staff to train each other on their specialisations? If someone is an expert on social media encourage them to hold a lunchtime training session on the topic. If someone else knows Excel inside out then make sure everyone goes to him or her for advice on that. There will still be areas where you need to bring in external expertise, but don’t miss out on this sort of free training.
2. Focus on what matters
Identify your business priorities and ensure that all training is geared towards that. So, if you need to keep customers in these difficult times ensure that you’re training is focussed on customer service. If it is on ensuring you get paid then increase the amount of credit control training you provide.
3. Pick the right providers
In a recession everyone wants to be sure they are getting the best possible return on their investment. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, but it does mean that supplier loyalty goes out the window. You might be finding that your clients are reviewing their contracts with you - so shouldn’t you be doing the same with your training providers?
4. Get maximum value for money
Every supplier knows that times are tough, and so they should be willing to offer you a good price. If they don’t then look elsewhere. However, remember that the cheapest provider rarely offers the best value.
5. Reinforce with coaching
Classroom training is only ever a starting point for someone’s learning and development. It is too easy for all the knowledge and the good intentions to evaporate as soon as the session is over. Training needs to be reinforced with ongoing coaching. You can provide this yourself, or ideally you should find a training provider who incorporates an element of ongoing coaching into their training courses.
Those are five reasonable steps that are straightforward to implement. The smart companies are doing exactly that now - look out for them in the coming months and years. They’ll be the ones you read about in the media, hiring the pick of the staff, and winning all the big contracts.
Crazy to be spending on training now? I really don’t think so.
Alex Blyth is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed 'How to Grow Your Business For Entrepreneurs.'
Alex also runs a series of training courses on subjects such as writing effective copy and getting positive media coverage. You can find out more about these courses at www.alex-blyth.co.uk.