These are challenging times for organizations as they try to navigate the turbulent seas of the current economy. With pressure from every side and with every penny under scrutiny, it’s not surprising that learning and training budgets are coming under fire. As companies struggle to manage costs, it’s tempting to toss learning and training overboard – at least until the storm subsides.

The easy solution is to batten down the hatches and wait out the storm. But if businesses are going to survive, they need their best thinkers in top form, armed with the tools and knowledge necessary to win. Thus, learning and training programs are more important now than before. And while nearly 50% of training leaders have had their budgets cut, experts know that learning experiences are especially essential to the operation and growth of businesses when times are toughest. The trick is to figure out how to deliver it more effectively and with less cost. This requires out-of-the box thinking from the people charged with delivering learning and training. At Root Learning, we have been innovating with clients for nearly 20 years in building solutions that work in any type of environment – even unsettling ones such as today’s.

Cutting Costs Without Cutting Quality

Traditional training budgets fall into the categories of content development, delivery, administration, and technology. There are opportunities to manage your costs in most of these areas while continuing to deliver quality learning. Our clients tell us that some interesting shifts are occurring – notably a reduction in travel for learners and instructors and movement away from classroom-type delivery and off-sites to internal and online training. Current trends show a clear shift toward more informal ways of training and the use of electronic learning – with big savings in classroom rental space, materials production, and travel.

One of these opportunities is using managers as coaches and mentors – after all, who knows more about your front-line employees’ needs than managers? Tapping into this resource is cost-effective and also strategic in terms of engaging leaders of the business as more than just “bosses.”

Electronic delivery or e-learning is gaining steam in many business settings. Learning electronically now accounts for nearly 20% of all corporate learning hours. Consider the benefits: You can minimize travel and still bring together geographically dispersed employees.

Some companies use a cascaded approach for training delivery. They run a session for a small group and then, using technology, replicate the session in an electronic format. The broader audience can then access the electronic module from the workplace in a timeframe that fits their work schedule.

Another choice is self-directed learning materials that can stand on their own. A guide, journal, or job aid that is creatively designed can convey a simple but vital concept to a large audience without the expense of delivery through formal training.

There are other cost-saving techniques that you can use as well. You might be able to pool training budgets across your organization if you have multiple business units with a similar need. Perhaps your learning can be delivered right in the workplace in “bite-sized” pieces that employees can access at convenient times. So, although it may be challenging, there are ways to overcome the rough seas and choppy waters of our fragile economy when it comes to learning and training. The key is to think differently about training – not as an event, but as a journey, an ongoing experience where we are learning continuously.

May 12, 2009


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