We may be ‘out’ of the recession but its aftermath rages on as UK businesses in both the public and private sector continue to battle for survival, to address change and overcome the challenges that we face.
The strength to survive and indeed thrive comes only from our ability to be flexible and adaptable, a process we can accelerate through adopting an innovative approach to learning and development (L&D).
We need to take valuable lessons from the last recession where so many organisations stopped investing in their teams and as a result lost their best talent. These organisations then suffered the impact when markets picked up and their expertise and best people were no longer there; they were working for the competition.
“Now is the time to invest our training budgets wisely, to help organisations see a clear return on investment and to look at new ways of working; not by doing more of the same but by being more innovative and creative with L&D intervention so that staff are engaged, enthused and motivated; leaders are given the autonomy to lead; and managers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage.”
Important and Urgent
One of our biggest challenges is therefore to convince those who are looking to reduce costs that there is now an important and urgent need to use L&D to survive and thrive. We need them to realise that now is not the time to cut training budgets; now is the time to invest in L&D.
Where’s the return
Demonstrating a return on investment (ROI) is crucial to any L&D programme and should be a key part of any plan to secure investment. But whilst many speak about it, few follow up and evaluate training, leaving L&D wide open to budget cuts. Within the public sector the need to justify investment in L&D is only going to intensify as every degree of training spend is scrutinised as budgets are slashed further and should the ‘right to data’ be implemented through plans for the Big Society.
Measuring the return on any investment should be our first step to securing sign off on L&D budgets. We should ask “What difference is required?”, “What will participants do differently?” and “How will we know?” Once we have these answers we can then support the overall development needs of the organisation and individual team members.
ROI does not necessarily need to follow a strict formula that takes too much effort, time and money. We also need to remember that ROI is not just about money, bottom line profit or cost savings; demonstrating value to the business can be shown in many other ways.
One of the most effective ways of evaluating the ROI of a L&D initiative is by monitoring the change in, and the impact that the training has had on the individual. If learning is aligned to business goals and strategies then it should produce a measurable return, such as increased customer service levels or shorter delivery times.”
Once we have demonstrated a suitable return, finding time availability is the next critical factor when it comes to designing L&D intervention, but accommodating training schedules becomes increasingly difficult especially as our teams shrink but tasks and outputs stay the same.
With this in mind traditional training methods may not always offer the best solutions and organisations should look to integrate or adopt alternative blended learning methods.
David Taylor, Coach and Training Partner at Jigsaw@work, comments: “We need to make the most of our time, so adopting focused, integrated and versatile development programmes is crucial. This can be done by combining traditional training and delivery methods with interactive approaches such as open space activities, mentoring and web-based learning.
Coaching, for example, is a very powerful tool. Research proves that coaching is one od the most effective forms of learning and also one of the most flexible, whether you look to deliver coaching on a one-to-one basis, over the telephone, through video telephony or using internet technology such as Skype.”
Make It About The People
The effects of the recession are placing increasing pressure on our leaders, managers and front-line teams, whether this is having to deliver the same high quality products and services with fewer team members or dealing with the effects of merging teams and clashing cultures.
As budget cuts take effect, uncertainty prevails and brings with it scrutiny and low morale as everything is monitored and justified, from how much Sellotape is used through to whether replacing paid staff with volunteers is feasible or simply the only option.
Leaders and managers need emotional intelligence, the confidence and the skills to help their organisation to survive; they need the ability to deal with the effects that this uncertainty has on individuals throughout the organisation.
Those adopting a survival strategy will find little room for dealing with the emotional effects that this will have on colleagues and in turn how this will impact upon their performance. Under pressure care and empathy is often suppressed as those in senior positions prepare to be ‘tough’.
David Taylor offers the following as a definition of Emotional Intelligence “The intelligence of feeling: our ability to understand and express our emotional aspects effectively and creatively so we can use them to take positive actions and make positive communications.”
This is emphasised in recent research by the CIPD and detailed in the ‘Employee Outlook, emerging from the downturn’, Winter 2010, which states that “..’employees’ attitudes to senior managers should ring the alarm bells for employers. Only about a third of employees say they trust or have confidence in their senior managers and just a quarter agree their organisation’s directors consult them about important decisions.”
Frozen in Our Roles
Albert Einstein once said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
This too can be said about our systems and processes. Our teams need to look at and adopt new ways of working; this requires support and often the need to adopt new skill sets.
Adopting new ways of working often requires a shift in mindset towards changes in working practices; managers need the knowledge and skills to support individuals through this and individual team members need to feel equipped to manage and cope with the proposed change.
The library sector is a prime example of how change is impacting on systems and processes as RFID technology is embraced and a more proactive approach to customer care is adopted.
We have worked with a number of libraries to devise L&D programmes that lead and support teams through the change process and equip individuals with the skills needed to deliver a modern, personalised, customer centred library service. For frontline teams it was about addressing fears, helping them adapt to the new ways of working and the culture of a modern library service.
The Right Support
Getting the right return from L&D often depends on choosing the right training provider. With few barriers to entry, those choosing external support should start by identifying prospects who are members of institutions such as the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) or the British Institute for Learning and Development (BILD); taking these routes can save valuable time and offer a degree of assurance that the said practitioner has the right skills, attitude and experience to deliver.
*Article originally published in 2010 within our Newsletter, Bits and Pieces.