With inflation rearing its ugly head, organizations all around the world are casting an extra watchful eye on their overall spend, and we’re rightfully seeing a heightened focus on training value. The question for those leading organizations or those in talent management, learning and development, or good old-fashioned training departments is this: How can you ensure that you’re getting maximum effectiveness out of your allocated training budget?
Here are a few hard-hitting, easy-to-implement steps you can take to get all you can out of your training budget.
Challenge the Ask
One of the big themes when working with clients to help develop a learning transformation is that it’s very easy not to think holistically, not to see the big picture.
Many companies have perceived gaps—maybe it’s a safety concern, lack of resources, or outdated processes or materials—and most often, clients come to the table thinking that they know what they need and what to fix to really change for the future. They’re ready to hit the ground running and dive head-first into whatever solution they believe they need. When clients approach me this way, I always ask, “Why?” Why this specific solution, this program? Challenging the ask this way can uncover what created your perceived training gap and what the business driver of any solution you implement should be.
It’s also critical to get buy-in from key players. If the training is being driven by an L&D team, or someone who’s more on the corporate side, does that also translate to the field? Do the field supervisors feel like this proposed solution will actually help to improve their workforce and improve proficiency? Or is it just training for training’s sake?
Identifying realistic, achievable outcomes and goals require conversations with everyone involved. Empathy interviews are a great way to carry this out. Talk to the teams who are often disconnected from big decision-making conversations, and keep asking, “Why?”
Develop a Roadmap
Instead of jumping right into development, take a step back and invest some time to truly uncover what’s needed. It’s important to develop a governance model or roadmap and to go through a learning assessment to understand what your current state is, so that you’re not just creating content and putting money into solutions that might not fit the way you think they will.
This is really where agility comes into play. If you take pause at first to understand what the business drivers are, what your frontline supervisors need, and how that all connects to what the business objectives are for the organization, you can tailor what you’re building to fit your needs.
This is more important than ever in our multigenerational workforce. In the scramble for more modern solutions, moving away from the more structured, traditional approaches to learning that have been in effect for decades is not always the answer for your specific organizational needs and culture.
It’s imperative we balance needs and culture when developing or implementing a solution, but if you jump right into development and content creation without designing a governance model or roadmap up front to inform decision-making, you tend to overspend and not get the results that you’re looking for.
Have Practical Expectations
People often like to chase the new modern element of training and implement new technologies simply because they exist. That’s also not always the right journey.
Some companies may still be paper based and need to get started just by getting an LMS (learning management system) but are already considering virtual reality (VR) as the solution to their problems. But would VR training really solve the true problem? Probably not. You always have to go back to these questions: What are the skills we’re trying to develop? What are the positions we need to train? And, of course, will this be a good culture fit?
It never makes sense to introduce some expensive new piece of technology—even something that’s very immersive and interactive—if it’s not going to ensure the knowledge retention you’re looking for, and if it’s not going to meet your goals. You certainly shouldn’t dismiss solutions because they are high tech or expensive, but you should balance elements of modern learning that will contribute to future stability with your current capabilities and budget.
And then there’s the time factor. Being excited and motivated to make big changes is also great, but important, influential changes take time. Sometimes clients are so excited to build things from the ground up and want to implement entire programs immediately, in the next week, when our expectation at GP Strategies is to make changes in the next year.
With major changes, we really need to be thoughtful and try to foresee challenges that aren’t here today. We want to understand how to develop skill sets for particular job positions and not be afraid of introducing some more modern learning elements, but we need to be realistic about our expectations of when and how it’s appropriate to launch and stage a new learning solution. Taking a blended approach to your learning solutions means not being scared of introducing new solutions or modalities but still being mindful of existing learning structures and accessibility.
Keep an Eye Out for Scalability
Because of our multigenerational workforce, we are facing the challenge of training employees with a wide range of needs.
We’re seeing a lot of people entering the job market with no experience, perhaps directly out of high school. For these individuals, training needs should really be focused on the fundamentals, the foundations of how to craft the skills they need so that from day one, they know the right protocols and procedures. On the other hand, you likely also have employees who have been doing their job for a long time and don’t necessarily have to rely on a regimented procedure to complete a task because they’ve done it repeatedly, and they are sometimes a bit too comfortable skipping a step here and there. They know the ins and outs of the industry, and perhaps even your organization.
How can you implement training solutions that cover both your greenest employees and your most experienced employees? You need solutions that can scale up and down. It’s also critical to make sure that any foundational training elements you adopt now will be able to attract future talent, even 10 years from now.
So, before hopping on board with the newest, shiniest technology, have an eye toward training program elements and technologies that can grow with you and have some future resilience. You’ll likely save money in the long run.
Realize That You Might Not Need More Training
If you’ve taken the time to create that governance model, you understand there are other elements outside of training that could be affecting the problem you’re trying to solve. If there’s a safety issue, there may be something happening culturally that needs attention, or maybe it’s a lack of adequate leadership that needs to be addressed before adding more training hours. Or, perhaps your employees don’t feel like they’re being given the tools for success.
Beginning with a proper design-thinking session where you’re taking a step back with stakeholders, leaders, and subject matter experts means acknowledging that one size does not fit all. Once key players have bought into that reality, it becomes possible to consider that your issue may not be a training problem. Workforce transformation is not always about training. Taking a more holistic approach to transforming your workforce means taking a magnifying glass to all facets of your organization, from your onboarding efforts to the progression path you have in place for employees long term.
It is sometimes absolutely necessary to design and launch or rework existing training to solve a problem, but take that step back and look at the other elements that could be affecting the training budget, growth, and development of your talent before rushing into a new initiative.