Justifying Training and Development in These Troubled Times (ITTT)

Even when times are good and budgets are flush, it can be easy for managers to view training and development as a cost rather than an investment towards bottom-line returns. When the economy is tight, and your boss has ordered you to cut your 2009 budget by 15 percent, and across-the-board spending freezes are the order of the day, justifying programs can feel like an uphill battle.

When done right, people development pays long-term dividends for your organization: morale is better, turnover drops, your ability to recruit qualified employees improves—and that’s all above and beyond the resulting skills enhancement and performance efficiency improvements (that result). Even in lean times, workforce development remains a “must-do” for forward-thinking organizations.

The question then becomes prioritizing possible initiatives and stretching the most that you can out of your training and development budget. Some practical suggestions for maximizing your resources include:

Identify high-reward programs that result in near-term bottom line impacts: Project Management, Six Sigma/LEAN, Sales and Negotiations, Finance for Non-Financial Managers, Time Management—each of these topics has a direct, immediate, tangible effect on employee skills impacting your organization’s bottom line.

Put your internal subject matter experts to work: Many topics (especially those related to your internal systems and processes) can be well-suited for training by existing employees. Identify subject matter experts and put them to work! Although topic expertise does not necessarily translate into training experience, you can utilize peer mentoring, coaching, and brown-bag sessions to make the most of internal resources.

Utilize technology in a variety of creative ways: E-learning courses and webinars remain popular and low-cost means of sharing knowledge, but today’s technology allows for many additional uses as well. Training can be conducted in Second Life™ or other virtual environment. Your intranet can function as a medium for asking questions and connecting employees with critical information. Social networking sites can be put to work for research and learning purposes. Opportunities abound for innovative and cost-effective knowledge transfer.

With some determination, creativity, and a willingness to explore new avenues of people development, you’ll make it through the budget crunch without giving up your training initiatives.