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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

If We're Lucky, Nobody's Listening . . .

training has been cut . . . does that make everyone else feel sorry for you?

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

A lot of people in the training business are making lots of noise about how the current economic turmoil is affecting training. If you took an informal poll of what these people are saying, to colleagues, at association meetings, in online discussion boards, on blogs, which of the follow statements would be closer to the majority of the comments you collected?

  1. "Training is always the first to take a hit when times get tough. Don't they realize that training is even more important now? What can we do to make sure training doesn't suffer too much when the company starts cutting back? It's doesn't make sense, and it's really not fair."
  2. "Everybody in the company is facing difficult choices. Some other departments will whine, or try everything they can to minimize budget adjustments. But we're determined to do our best with whatever resources are available. Proving our commitment to the organization through hard work and creativity in tough times can only make us more valuable to the company when conditions improve."

If you're honest, I think you know that #1 is much more typical of the current chatter than #2.

Now, I personally believe that training can contribute even more to an organization when resources are scarce, people are lost, and change is frequent or dramatic. I do feel that the best-run companies rely on good training functions to help them get through the downturns. But my personal beliefs are not what's important.

If managers from other departments in your company were plugged into exchanges about how training "suffers" in these times, would they adjust the value they place on the training function? Would they see you as a partner who helps them through tough situations? Would they be impressed by the commitment to the larger organization reflected in these statements?

Surprise! Many other departments feel the same way, that they are "always the first ones to take a cut" when fortunes decline. They don't have any sympathy to spare for your situation.

We are not different, we are not special.

Sure, it is distressing. You may even be right, that it is unfair, or unreasonable, or just plain stupid. But there's no Return On Investment for you from all these complaints. As these sentiments are expressed again and again within your training function, employee energy and focus are diverted away from getting the main job done.

Worse, the feeling that "our situation is different" and "we're not getting a fair shake" starts to show itself in the way your staff interact with others. Employees and colleagues elsewhere in the company pick up your attitude, and that doesn't endear training to anyone. In the end, other departments have a hard time seeing training as helping them achieve their own goals, and view training and employee communications staff as rivals for resources and executive attention.

By all means, lobby for resources, point out where cuts will make things worse rather than better, give it your best shot. But at the same time, be professional and business-like about it.

Your story is not automatically better than the story every other function or department head has to tell.

Above all, insist that all of your staff give their full effort to make the most of the resources you have, with no sign of resentment, with no suggestion that it isn't fair to cut training activities by whatever amount is in question.

In other words, act at all times and in all places as if employees in all those other departments can hear you, can see your posts and comments. Because even if they aren't eavesdropping on training staff directly, they are picking up your feelings related to budget cuts, and they are making their own judgments about whether you are there for the organization, or just for your own department.

© 2009 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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