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Streamline the Training Development Process – Without Sacrificing Quality

This article was originally published on Forbes.com.

It’s possible not only to optimize your training program in a year of market volatility, cost cutting and pressure on training departments, but set your team up to thrive in the future.

While the US economy remains hot, high inflation and a recalibration of growth targets for many of the country’s leading companies is leading to volatility in how employee training and development programs function. But while unpredictability can impact the labor market, it also creates opportunity for training professionals to innovate.

When we reflect on past recessions, we see training organizations and Learning and Development (L&D) departments being called on to:

  • Accomplish more with fewer resources to draw from, in both people and technology
  • Support consolidation of departments, which requires upskilling employees with cross-functional skills
  • Take an integral role to support mergers and acquisitions, as stronger companies take advantage of lower company valuation in the market

As a result, L&D groups need to focus on the ways they can help their organization become more efficient and more scalable. In times when cuts are being made, L&D professionals must be at the forefront and visible as a critical support structure to facilitate the mission of the organization. While internal investment shifts away from new capital investments and technology, we must retain our vitality as agents for change. We can offer strategic alternatives in how people – and the larger organization as a collective whole – can be equipped to do the jobs they are tasked to accomplish (often with fewer resources).

Learning from the past, and looking toward the future, we recommend the following areas of focus for your organization.

  1. Optimize your use of resources. Run an audit on your internal and external partnerships though needs analysis, skills matrices, and performance mapping. Ask questions, including what are the core functions you need internally? What functions can be moved to variable costs, outsources to outside resources specific to initiatives your organization is tasked with? Use your findings to refine your training initiatives and provide valuable data used to make key decisions.
  2. Control costs and timelines. By focusing on the readiness of your organization to support training initiatives, you become more effective with the resources you have allocated to your project. In times of great scrutiny on budget and costs, make sure alignment around training objective, content readiness and the business objectives behind the initiative are clear. A focus on more upfront planning often protects the timeline and budget.
  3. Prioritize the learner experience. Consolidate around learner-focused experiences needed directly for job execution. In volatile times, learners may be stretched by new roles and expectations. Consider whether your organization is set up to provide your audience with enough job specific guidance that can be applied quickly. Some areas of soft skills investment may have to wait as the focus flows to more hands-on training initiatives.
  4. Embrace change. Don’t ignore the future as we work through this period. Being under-resourced can take a toll both professionally and personally. Necessity can be the mother of invention, so to speak. We recommend looking for things that can be embraced for the future, such as scale, areas of innovation in how we use technology, and efficiencies that would enable us to provide better service to our target audiences.

How does this all come together? To illustrate, we’ll cite an experience we had during the last recession. We were tasked with a project completed by the team at AllenComm that was necessitated by downsizing. Essentially, we were asked by a major, well-known credit lender to retrain remaining staff after a major downsizing – or rightsizing – as a department of 300 was scaled back to 100 employees and needed to upskill staff to cover multiple roles. (For many, it’s a familiar scenario.)

In response, we chose a learning design approach that prioritized simplicity and efficiency but didn’t oversimplify and ignore the predicament that necessitated the upskilling. We optimized available resources by creating documentation of skills needed. New roles and responsibilities were clearly outlined and made accessible, even for stretched employee learners, though self-paced and live training. In situations such as these, we emphasize easy access to information and short seat time to control cost, create efficiency, and respect the bandwidth of learners.

Finally, a word about how far we’ve come. At AllenComm, one of the bright spots during the past years of being under the shadow of Covid has been harnessing our inherent capabilities to be flexible and innovative in challenging circumstances. For the past 40 years, our company has supported the learning function through good and bad times – so we know how hard it can be in an HR-related field when organizations look for ways to lower costs and streamline activities. Based on our experience, we believe that the principles we have outlined above are critical best practices in hard times and lay the right foundation to continue to see successful outcomes when things get better.

Thanks for reading. We know you’ll find the above information valuable in your efforts to scale your employee training and development programs. And if you realize you could use additional support to scale your team, you can find more information about AllenComm’s L&D staffing resources here.