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Survival Training
Early last year when the economy and the stock markets were hunky-dory, training managers had a difficult time convincing executives to take time out for training activities. Line managers were reluctant to let employees attend training, lest they lost out on the frenzied revenue earning opportunities. Today the training manager faces a different obstacle; budget cuts.

In a manufacturing economy, we would intuitively keep lubricating and maintaining our plant and machinery; failing to do so would mean seizure of the resource that justifies our existence. Take that premise, place it within the context of the knowledge economy, and we have the clear analogy that failing to lubricate and develop the collective mind of the workforce risks the stagnation and decay of the very resource that will sustain an organisation through this slowdown as well as help it grow once we reach the inevitable stage of economic recovery. It is then counterintuitive for businesses to cut budgets for training when they have the manpower resources available for learning and development activities. There is also a significant body of work suggesting a strong relationship between training and business sustainability. “Businesses must resist the temptation to slash training to cut costs. Why? Because businesses that don’t invest in talent are two and a half times more likely to fail, whereas those that carry on training will recover more quickly,” says John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills in the United Kingdom. The numbers come from a peer-reviewed report called ‘Training and Establishment Survival’. The key finding of the report was that the strong association between training and survival was found to be true across establishments in nearly all sectors, of all ages, sizes and types. The evidence does suggest that training is a key component of a great many business strategies for adaptation or survival in recessionary conditions, as well as for growth in better times. But it is only one component of the overall business strategy and cannot produce results in isolation, and therefore the strong case for aligning learning strategies with organisational strategy.

When the economy slows, corporations are forced to respond. Because cash flows take a nosedive, there is simply much less money to spend, and budget cuts are a fact of life that we must adapt to. This then is the time for the HR division to take a hard look at budget allocations across the spectrum of learning and development activities, cut down the frills, and focus on activities that are direct responses to the slowdown. We need to use learning and development strategically, and when I say strategy I mean it in the classical form of defining for ourselves a position that gives us a competitive advantage. While developing the strategy, it is also imperative that we look beyond the horizon of the recession and position ourselves for a robust and competitive economy. Organisations that are able to give their workforces the tools and skills to innovate and collaborate, by leveraging core competencies within key individuals and the organisation, are the ones that will prosper. Organisations that take the axe to training by making broad and sweeping budget cuts in learning and development may not survive to see the benefits of their cost cutting exercises.

Indranil Das, Editor           

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