When corporations in America are completely finished with the necessary pruning to cut expenses and reduce spending on processes they can live without, if things don’t improve, they will often pick up the budget ax and start cutting things down. When this happens, most often training is the first tree to fall in the forest, and many times it is long over due.
The truth be told, every department and function within a company should be able to demonstrate a return on the investment the company makes in their purpose annually. When a CEO evaluates the training budget and looks at the total cost that is allocated to salaries, benefits, facilities and training materials that total dollar figure should not be written off as an expense. At the very least it should be a wash with the return, and at the very most it should turn a profit. Sadly, small and most mid-size training organizations never justify any money allocated to the training function, and they are shocked when training is cut to reduce expenses.
After 25+ years in the learning function, I get a lot of flack for being so blunt when it comes to the training function proving their worth. When I submitted a speaking proposal to a training conference last year, a representative asked me whose side I was on. Yet, I will not turn a blind eye to the fact that we have too many in the learning field that think their salary is justified simply on the basis that everyone knows that training is a good thing.
Training is an essential function to the health of any organization. Training brings people current, and prepares them for future company needs. Training if done correctly, produces skills employees need to perform their jobs, and makes companies competitive and successful. Yet when a training function is allowed to operate without an annual training plan, and never has to justify the money allotted to their work, why on earth should they be kept in the budget?
Over the past 10 years there has been a staggering decline in the competency levels of training managers, facilitators and instructional designers. New technologies for delivery and learning are under utilized or avoided in favor of the status quo. This decline is because training has failed to justify their existence in developing the employee base, and therefore is unable to justify their own learning needs. When these folks do attend a workshop or conference, management does not hold them accountable to the learning acquired.
I firmly believe that no company can be successful without a well-managed training function that partners with each line business to build the competencies needed to meet company goals. I am never an advocate of cutting the training department out of any company! However, I do advocate that the right people need to be in charge of training for it to function as it should. If the right people don’t exist in your training department, then they need to be either found, trained or reassigned.
If the training function reports to you, I suggest the following immediate course of action:
- Determine the total dollars budgeted to the training function, and ask the person in charge of training to justify this amount of money.
- Obtain a copy of the current training plan, and proposed plan for next year. Evaluate the proposed work against the developmental needs of the organization.
- Ask the training manager for a development plan for each person in training, with an explanation for why each skill deficiency needs attention.
- Develop a conclusion as to what degree the budget on training is being spent wisely, and your solution for a return on investment that at least is a wash, or better yet could show a profit.
- Have a meeting with the CEO with your recommendations for how to improve the training function in the coming year and thus improve the success of the company.
Before the training function is completely cut from the operations of your organization, it is vital that you do all that is necessary to maintain a healthy and functional learning organization. When training is unhealthy it becomes an internal virus that will eventually infect the entire company. Likewise, when training is healthy, it can be just as infectious in creating widespread success!