The U.S. is emerging from a training drought that occurred during the worst economic period since the Great Depression. At least, that’s what’s indicated by organizations that do this kind of
research. ASTD reports an increase in spending on L&D in 2010 (latest year for which data is available); they estimate companies spent about $171.5 billion. Bersin & Associates reports that corporate spending on training increased 9.5% in 2011 – the largest gain in three years. And Training magazine’s research found a 13% increase in spending on L&D in 2011. Each of these studies uses a different method for calculating spending. However, the trend is undeniable: spending on employee training is increasing.
With this increase in spending comes a great opportunity to do things right. In our book, The 5As Framework, Sean Murray and I wrote that most training programs significantly impact only 10% to 20% of their participants. This represents a huge waste that no organization can afford any longer. As the worldwide recession comes to an end, organizations must use every dollar very wisely. Garry Marsh, director of the U.K. company THM Business Simulations, gives us some thoughts about best ways to use those dollars. Here are those seven ideas with my spin on each one:
- Get it right first time – Think in terms of what learners need, not the latest training fad (content or delivery). Only provide experiences that will help learners improve performance and contribute to achieving the strategic goals of the organization – no more and no less. Pay attention to the quality of content and quality of the learning intervention.
- Keep employee satisfaction high – Involving employees in opportunities to learn is an effective way to increase engagement. Many employees value learning more than a pay increase. To keep engagement high, make continuous learning part of the culture of the organization.
- Train your managers – Many managers did not reach that position because they were great managers of people. This is something that all managers need to keep learning. And if organizations want to prevent their top talent from leaving as the economy improves, they must give managers the opportunity to learn and grow.
- Focus on customer experience – All organizations should have the improvement of customer experience as one of their top strategic goals. To achieve this goal, they will have to train employees in how to create a better experience. Learning about the customer experience should be on every manager’s agenda.
- Spend less, get more – Organizations should not rely on the usual suspects and usual methods for delivery of training. It’s about learning; it’s not about glitzy programs. It doesn’t have to cost much to develop talent. Maybe a manager will become a more effective team leader with the help of a mentor. Maybe a manager will become more effective at giving performance feedback with the help of a coach. Maybe a manager will become better at financial management by attending the CEO’s “open-book” meetings.
- Be ready for the upturn – As the economy improves and companies start hiring again, the best talent will look elsewhere. They have stayed only because nobody else was growing and hiring. Unless managers continue to see opportunities in their current organizations and they feel respect from their leadership, they will be gone. Organizations should do something about these conditions now.
- Look after yourself – Many resources are available to help any organization be successful while keeping costs low. Look for help internally and externally. Use what the organization already owns when that makes sense and then go outside to peers, consultants, and training organizations when they can help you improve performance and achieve your business goals.