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

The Training Function in Tough Times: Part I
Embrace ROI or Become Irrelevant

is your function an expendible frill in a tough economy?

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Here and elsewhere, I have promoted awareness of Return On Investment (ROI), of identifying what benefit any given training or employee communication brings to an organization. Many training functions -- whether formalized in a separate department or run as just one aspect of some manager's broader job responsibilities -- will discover, as the economy weakens, the perils of relying on good will and "faith" to justify training/communication expenditures.

When times are flush, most people in a company believe that training and internal communications are good things. When times are bad, managers of various departments, who are all struggling to make do with diminished resources, can easily view much of training and employee communications as luxuries.

Now, it is certainly true that training often gets cut, in hard times, simply because it is easy to cut, because power lies elsewhere. Many companies do themselves great injury by giving their employees less support in best practices just when it is needed most . . . rather like someone who, in response to rising fuel prices, decides not to replace a flat tire to save money and boost efficiency.

And it is equally true that many other functions in employees' daily work life would be just as hard to justify, with close scrutiny.

But with all that said, training functions must bear some responsibility for becoming easy targets. Just delivering the message to employees is not enough. We must ensure that members of the organization, at multiple levels, recognize a real contribution. Without that recognition, tight budgets can quickly make training and employee communications, in part or in whole, irrelevant frills.

This is, of course, a big topic. But here are a few places to get started

  • Mindset: think about the benefit to the company in everything you do. If you don't think of your work that way, you can be sure that other units competing for the same dollars won't think of your work that way.
  • Creative Measurement: I'm not suggesting you always need an accounting-type hard figure to prove your value. Vocal support (the "silent majority" does little good) from managers whose employees improve their performance, simple testimonials and anecdotes, can be powerfully persuasive. Ask the right questions of the right people at the right time (see my Think Piece on this subject).
  • "Preventative" Training and Communications require extra effort, things like safety training, compliance with laws and regulations, and quality assurance. Develop a model for the costs related to, say, an employee injured on the job, so you can demonstrate the benefit best practices, achieved through your training, provide. Otherwise, a great safety record is boring, and the work that produced it easily undervalued.
  • Look for New Opportunities to Deliver Benefits: just because budgets are pulling back doesn't mean you can't keep looking for new ways to contribute. Perhaps just the right communications will actually save the company money, or boost revenues, at a crucial time.

One of the first places to start developing your ROI evidence is when you "pilot" training or employee communications. But most of the efforts I see, along these lines, are not true "pilots" at all.

I'll continue with that thought in the next edition of The Training Tipsheet.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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