Making the most of learning and development in a time-poor setting

One of the most common effects of the economic slowdown of recent years – and the resulting shift in focus for many organisations – has been the need to ‘do more with less’.  In a time-poor setting for many companies, does this mean that learning and development is falling by the wayside?

This should be one of the first questions leaders ask themselves when aiming to get the best out of their teams in today’s fast-paced and competitive world of business. For many the apparent impact on the bottom line as a result of encouraging workers to take time out of their day to become involved in development programmes is simply a cost they cannot justify.

Invest in staff to boost productivity

There is always the temptation in challenging times to reduce training and development programmes, with excuses ranging from a lack of time, to the need to focus on ‘more important’ priorities.

This can be a mistake; in times of difficulty it is not only essential to reassure staff of their ongoing importance to the business (a positive byproduct of training and development that boosts employee engagement), but also to help to maintain momentum and positivity when times get tough.

Development programmes ensure individuals are operating to the best of their abilities, thereby delivering the best possible value to a business. However, this can only be achieved when leaders recognise the importance of investing both time and money in this area.

The perception that developing your people is a luxury that only the biggest and most profitable businesses can indulge in is something that needs to change for organisations that are keen to get the most out of their employees.

Far from being a drain on resources, leaders need to realise that when they fail to invest in the skills and development of their teams, they are, in effect, failing to invest in their own future.

An opportunity to add value

Being time-poor should be no excuse for making bad decisions, and continually failing to invest in your people is just that – a bad decision.

People need to feel that they are being supported by their employer if they are to remain loyal and one of the best ways to achieve this is by offering them the chance to develop new skills or to improve on existing ones.

When companies take away this drive to improve, stagnation can creep in – and stagnation is never something that will be conducive to a happy and productive working atmosphere.

As a result, businesses hoping to excel in their field should take a different view on training and development programmes when times get hard, looking at these practices as an opportunity to add value, rather than taking it away.

Developing a reputation as a company that is keen to invest in its workforce is no bad thing either, as this will help to attract both the best and brightest in the future, while also helping to keep hold of talented members of staff who might otherwise look elsewhere if they feel their talents and ambition are going to waste.

Don’t be afraid of customizing learning for best results

One thing that all leaders need to remember when developing training and development programmes is to ensure the effort made to involve and encourage staff to expand their skills is being focused in the right areas.

There is little point in offering training programmes that will be of no use to individuals in their day-to-day lives, so making sure schemes have been vetted to offer the skills and expertise that people really need is key. Focusing on a programme that reinforces the core principles and ethos of the organisation can also be an excellent way to boost employee engagement and trust.

A blended learning approach that includes online resources can be a perfect solution for time-poor businesses that wish to continually reinforce training and development for their people.  This type of development programme can compact a lot of information into a relatively small and easy to manage resource library.

Staff can also dip in and out of these online sessions to refresh their knowledge and pick up new skills when they need to.  And offering more structured experiential development complements this approach, and is a great way to really embed the learning and bring it to life.

Every business will at some time or another face a contraction in their available resources, but far from using this as an excuse to cut back on training and development, it should be seen as an opportunity to excel.

Leaders might be surprised as to how responsive their employees are to customised learning and development programmes delivered in a way that is accessible to them, and that meets the values and goals of the business.

For more information on the value of learning and development programmes and for hints and tips on helping to address issues surrounding employee engagement, read ‘Re-aligning disengaged employees with talent development‘.

  • Article by Sarah Cave, Primeast Head of Leadership.