Doing More With Less

As various countries’ economies continue to work toward previous levels of prosperity and stability, doing more with less has almost become the standard operating procedure for Learning and Development (L&D) organizations around the world.

But with expectations on the rise and funding decreasing, how do we as training professionals provide educational opportunities and resources to staff and clients while still remaining relevant and competitive?

Be Creative

Pete Blank, training manager with the Personnel Board of Jefferson County, Alabama, knows how to make an L&D program run on a shoestring budget. With 9,000 government employees and an annual budget of only $16,000 for training, he has to provide sessions and materials at a rate of less than $2.00 per employee per training per year. “You learn to be very, very creative,” he says, “and find new ways of doing business.”

These new ways include cross training, using free, comparable products available on the Internet, and using internal subject matter experts to deliver training. He suggests that conferences and councils can be excellent opportunities to gather ideas and learn about available products that could help make the most of limited financial resources.

Leverage Internal Resources

As director of sales capability with Broadridge Financial Solutions, Christine Allers uses internal resources and subject matter experts to coordinate and even facilitate training seminars.

With a focus primarily on educating salespeople, she often has encounters staff people who feel stressed or anxious about their current positions in this challenging economic landscape. Although these individuals may not be performing roles that they have in the past, Allers uses this opportunity for them to share areas of strengths and expertise in a classroom setting with a program called “Leaders as Teachers.”

She also works with senior staff that has experienced previous economic downturns to provide mentoring to those who have never worked through such challenges.

Allers suggests maintaining a catalog of competency profiles and areas of expertise on staff that can be drawn upon for future needs.

Peer-to-peer training is key to providing more with less in the L&D program at Northern Trust, according to Jill Mack. As global training team leader and strategic rollouts manager, Mack works to provide formal, self- identifying mentoring programs. She also coordinates meetings where managers discuss critical issues and share challenges, such as conflict resolution and engagement. These meetings, often led by a moderator, allow managers to learn from each other instead of bringing in an outside presenter and that extra expense to the company.

At Saint-Gobain, an international organization that offers solutions to challenges of growth, energy, and the environment within the construction industry, Amy Dinning, manager of leadership and talent development, formed a group called The Development Network. This group comprises human resources and L&D professionals from the businesses with which Saint-Gobain works. Together they share best practices, and sub-teams are formed to specifically address various issues such as culture surveys, training needs, assessment, and on-boarding.

Embrace Technology

With smaller budgets come smaller teams with less time and fewer resources available to attend training. Being a global company, Mack has noticed this situation in particular at Northern Trust. With tighter travel budgets and trainers mostly located in bigger markets, using technology has become a necessity.

Mack tries to create a balance between eLearning and the classroom experience in order to include engaging discussion. “Have a basic platform,” she suggests, “but with room to customize it.” With staff in various geographic locations around the world, cultural and learning differences still need to be taken into consideration when using technology.

Northern Trust is looking to do more eLearning in the future that incorporates more interaction with employees. But Mack encourages L&D professionals to remember that eLearning may not be the best vehicle for everything.

However, it does provide ease-of-use for busy employees who can access it on-demand, around the clock. She and her team are also researching the use of SharePoint, mobile apps, and blogs as more interactive electronic platforms.

Motivate and Engage

With the changing landscape and possible insecurity, Allers encourages L&D professionals to keep spirits and morale high to avoid frustration.

“People like to get involved,” she shares, “and everybody has something to give.” By involving staff in the training process, their affinity and connection to the success of the organization increase, and they feel part of the bigger picture.

Allers suggests that L&D professionals not be afraid to ask internal staff for help. Individuals currently within organizations may be subject matter experts or have certifications that would position them well for training other staff. Not only does this decrease cost, but it engages the most valuable resource: exemplary employees.

Companies also have to realize that the culture of an organization has to be in line with the training people are receiving.

“We have a saying,” Blank says. “‘You can’t send a changed person back to an unchanged environment.’”

Working in a government setting can cultivate situations where customers and employees automatically have negative expectations of their experience. Blank works to provide training to teach employees how to put themselves in the customers’ shoes, but if the corporate culture doesn’t foster that viewpoint once staff return to the office, the training is ineffective.

“Everybody has disengaged employees,” he says, “but we have to stay engaged and keep ourselves inspired to go above and beyond on a daily basis.”

Mack believes that L&D opportunities should feel less like a burden to staff and more like an opportunity. The internal attitude that training is a waste of time or not a permanent part of the company’s business model can change by engaging the audience.

“Staff members are more apt to agree with conclusions they draw themselves,” she says. Engaging professional development programs will help staff reach those conclusions. Once employees are engaged, training becomes mutually beneficial, improving productivity and quality of work for the company and creating an asset for employees in their current positions or future professional roles.

“Training,” she states, “is one way for companies to show that they are investing back in the staff.” That investment, she continues, gets more buy-in because employees feel as though they are a part of the overall business strategy.

Providing more with less is definitely not an easy task. But if L&D professionals understand trends, stay ahead of the changing technological landscape and all that it offers, and always look within for already available resources, organizations, and staff alike can adjust to the new normal and deliver cost-effective training solutions that engage learners and deliver value to the company.

Thanks to contributors who shared their time and insight for this article:
Christine Allers, Director of Sales Capability, Broadridge Financial Solutions
Pete Blank, Training Manager, Personnel Board of Jefferson County, Alabama
Amy Dinning, Manager, Leadership & Development, Saint Gobain
Jill Mack, Global Training Team Leader & Strategic Roll Outs Manager, Northern Trust

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