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

What Will It Cost To Do Nothing?

compare the costs of training to the costs of inaction

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Nearly the first question to arise when one of your internal clients comes to you for training help is, "What will it cost to do this?"

Let's skip over the fact, for now, that this question is almost always asked before you have enough information to know the scope of the training response required. (And let's definitely skip over the fact that some training departments will still give a cost estimate, or at least generate one for their internal budgeting, without knowing enough to accurately estimate those costs.)

Instead, let's put the magnitude and complexity of the response in the context of the magnitude and the complexity of the problem the training is supposed to solve. And a simple way to do that is to answer that question with another question:

"What will it cost to not do this?"

In other words, what are the costs of doing nothing about the perceived need or problem?

Thinking about just living with the problem, as is, helps you assess the value of any training (and additional solutions) you might apply. Under this kind of analysis, it becomes evident that some training, if effective, provides an excellent, justifiable return. If you work for a large hierarchical organization, for instance, it only takes a couple of sexual harassment lawsuits to run up significant costs, a scenario that might invite a significant sustained training investment to avoid.

Some problems are productivity issues, and the cost of doing nothing is lost opportunity, increased labor costs due to inefficiency and so on. For those situations, some situations may be worth living with, and others worth trying to fix.

It's important, in this analysis, to look at the total cost of not addressing the need over a period of time. Total cost includes those direct costs (workers' compensation costs and safety, legal costs, defective product/replacement costs, etc.), productivity costs at both front line and management levels, things like stress levels and the workplace environment (making it easier to recruit high-value employees, for instance), and more.

There are a lot of committees in a lot of companies trying to decide if a specific estimated training cost "is worth it", somehow evaluating an absolute number without the proper context.

The balancing question in regard to training is, "Can we afford not to?" Instead of assessing a solution and its costs in isolation, make a choice between inaction and, perhaps, several options for action. The cost of inaction ultimately sets the value of intervention, and without knowing what that cost is, you are merely making educated guesses about which problems to fix, and at what expense.

© 2013 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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