Two macroeconomic factors have the potential to wreak havoc on training: a tight labor market and rapidly rising interest rates. The former has been making it difficult for employers to recruit and retain qualified talent, while the latter portends a drop in consumer spending and, therefore, corporate revenue and training budgets.
In this environment, employers and training teams should be thinking hard about how to do more with less when it comes to their training efforts. We reached out to companies looking for ways to streamline and optimize their training efforts in the midst of this challenging environment.
Conducting an Internal Audit
Just as with personal finance, a great place to start when trying to trim down a training budget is by looking at current areas of spend and trimming some fat. Many organizations may have a variety of initiatives, subscriptions, and programs in place that have outlived their economic usefulness and may be ready to be revamped or retired altogether.
“Carefully look at all of your learning materials and platforms,” recommends Jennifer Miller, SHRM-SCP, ICF-ACC, head of people and coaching at Lingo Live. “Determine which ones produce the most bang for your buck, and determine if you’re fully optimizing every platform. If you have a platform or service that isn’t being optimized or used—do you have another one that has that same functionality inside, that has a better adoption rate?”
For example, Miller shares, she had been using a very powerful survey platform but didn’t feel she was using it enough to realize sufficient value. “We identified that we could conduct surveys through our HRIS, which was more often used by employees and had better adoption through the organization.”
Focusing on Core Priorities
A lot of corporate training efforts get written off as “fluff” by those compelled to complete those trainings. While that critique is often unfair and based on a lack of engagement, it is true that many training departments spend time and resources on material that is only tangentially related to the company’s core mission and priorities.
For example, does a non-customer-facing warehouse team really need to spend their time learning about the secrets of customer service excellence?
Certainly, every employee can benefit from learning about customer service, but training focused on safety and streamlined operations is probably a better use of limited resources for this hypothetical warehouse team. When resources are stretched thin, it might be unjustifiable to spend them on content that is only marginally relevant to the organization’s core goals.
Leveraging Online Training Programs
Companies that have experience bringing in outside trainers are well aware how costly such efforts can be. While live, in-person trainers are great for promoting engagement and participant and trainer-trainee interaction, live programs aren’t always the most economical for every organization.
One way companies have been saving money on training efforts is by leveraging lower-cost, on-demand or livestreaming courses.
“One of the ways we’ve been doing more training with less expense is purchasing subscriptions to Udemy for Business for our employees,” says Mark Pierce, CEO of Cloud Peak Law Group. “It’s actually less expensive and more cost effective to buy licenses for those programs than to bring in trainers multiple times per year. Using online learning platforms also allows for training to be more personalized to each individual employee.”
Pierce says switching to this method of training has been beneficial in terms of employee development. “Since each employee is now learning skills that are related to their jobs, they’re able to become more effective in their roles. Employees are also now more engaged in learning, since they’re able to choose (with input from management) what skills they learn.”
Leveraging Automation and Collaboration Technologies
Even training departments that are already operating lean in terms of their content mix and utilization of existing expenditures may be able to save money through the use of automation and collaboration technologies. The same technologies that can streamline processes for the accounting or operations departments can do the same for training teams.
Unfortunately, training efforts are often unnecessarily siloed from other training efforts and other stakeholders within an organization. “Training data is a valuable resource to most departments in an organization but that data is typically not easily shared,” says John Peebles, CEO at training management platform Administrate. “A fully-integrated platform can allow two way sharing of training data and analysis to inform other departments.”
Similarly, Peebles recommends leveraging automation whenever possible. Automation helps reduce labor needs for tedious, mundane tasks and allows available human resources to focus on higher-level, more important tasks. For example, having a computer score post-training quizzes instead of human team members can allow those human team members to focus their efforts on the broader analysis of those results and process and content improvements.
Sometimes training budgets are inefficiently utilized simply because staff aren’t fully aware of the available resources. Half-full training sessions and unclaimed subscriptions to training platform accounts that have already been paid for represent wasted money. Often, that waste isn’t due to a lack of interest but rather a lack of awareness. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon training teams to not only develop and deliver great content but also ensure relevant staff are aware of that great content.
As rapidly rising interest rates portend a drop in consumer spending and, correspondingly, corporate revenue and as companies continue to struggle to find qualified employees in a tight labor market, it’s becoming increasingly important for organizations to do more with less in the training department. Focusing on core priorities, leveraging technology, and boosting engagement in and awareness of available training opportunities are essential components of an efficient training program.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.