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

Realism About Resources

training directors need to manager resources like everyone else

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Look around your company (or the companies you work with, independent consultants), and think about how various functions and departments deploy resources to cope with change. After all, managers have to respond to changes in the marketplace, react to the competition, wrestle with labor issues and technological change, and work within the ups and downs of economic cycles.

Anticipating and managing change takes resources. If you have to change your marketing, tweak your products or develop new services, recruit and retain employees differently, or modify processes and workflow for better results, there are costs attached, whether those are counted in money, staff time, materials, or managerial energy.

Now, imagine a meeting of company executives devoted to discussing these challenges and how to allocate resources to respond to them effectively. Especially in light of the current poor state of the economy, would be the reaction when one of them claims to have a simple solution:

"Just give me more resources!"

Is that individual is headed for a big raise in pay? Would that response immediately generate enthusiastic support from all the other department heads?

Recently I worked with the participants, at a major training management conference, on how training functions respond to significant changes in their environments, such as broad demographic shifts or a significant economic downturn. The individuals attending the conference generally had titles like "chief learning officer" or "training director", and were all involved in, or interested in, corporate training functions and internal "universities".

As part of our time together, I surveyed them on their responses to these major change factors, and asked them, "Where will you find the resources to make needed changes?" (You can get the instructions and forms for this activity here.)

50% of the participants said they would "Get additional resources".

More power to them, if they can pull it off . . . but most of them can't. It is odd that, during the exercise, so many people believed additional resources were available, when during breaks, over lunch, and in panel discussions, participants frequently bemoaned the well-known tendency for training resources to be an early target of corporate cuts, in the face of hard economic times.

Even more worrisome is the reaction that that response would generate from one's colleagues and, hopefully, supporters from other functions within the organization. Most higher-level managers are constantly planning reallocation of resources, of paring some things back to strengthen their focus on activities that produce the largest return for the company. It is hard to imagine, if we polled the managers in your organization, that fully half of them would say they would respond to factors driving change in their organization by getting additional resources.

The assumption that more resources will be available, then, smacks of "entitlement", and can sound almost arrogant to other executives and managers competing for a portion of the finite staff, time, and money available to make things happen. And it appears naive, a simple solution, the easy way out . . . much easier than making the hard choices of what to cut, where to transfer resources.

You definitely should fight for additional resources, with clear and effective proposals, when it makes good business sense. But you won't earn respect and support with simplistic assumptions about resources. If you don't do the hard work of managing your resources, of allocating and reallocating what you have, whether or not you ask for more, top management is likely to rate you as an amateur, rather than a "real" business person -- and you can expect resources to become even scarcer, over time, as a result.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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