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Agenda: Cutting it


arrowCuts seem common parlance in these credit crunch days, so how can training professionals make sure that they are not victims of the economic downturn? Mike Morrison argues that targeted training and development that delivers the skills employers need is now more valuable than ever.

Where ever you look in the training and HR press there are stories about job cuts, cuts of spending on training, as well as cuts in staff numbers and recruitment. In addition, recent TUC research has shown that "13% of the workforce are not confident they will still be in their job in a year's time". So times are a-changing and are we responding appropriately?

Photo of Mike Morrison"Effective training and people development is an investment not a cost. We know this, but now is time for us to make sure our employers know this too."

To top this off many of the unions are now starting to look to taking industrial action for increased pay and less hours - heard this before? Yes, in the early 1980s just before the recession - have we not learned? We all need to learn to adjust to having less than we once did, as individuals, as employees, and as organisations.

Effective training and people development is an investment not a cost. We know this, but now is time for us to make sure our employers know this too. Training and development is only a cost if there is no solid business case nor a measurable return in some way (and I am not getting into the merits of return on investment – ROI – here). If we want our employers to keep developing the people they employ, it is up to us to demonstrate that when there is less money to go around, we are not the place to cut spending. It is up to us as professionals to set the pace and tone of what can be achieved.

Additional external impacts

The government's announcements regarding immigration are starting to take effect, many of the smaller employers are saying that they will not be able to staff their business as there are not enough 'qualified' staff here in the UK. The sectors which seem to be being hit the most are hotel, catering, restaurants and the care sectors.

These are often minimum wage jobs but often do require some level of skill, so where are we going wrong? The economy is taking a pounding, there are increased levels of unemployment, and yet employers are having to bring in immigrants to fill vacancies. This is crazy. What has the post-16 education market been up to? Are they really looking at the local job market and offering courses to meet demands or are they chasing funding from the Learning and Skills Councils (LSC) for courses and qualifications that mean little? Why are we always chasing the qualifications rather than ensuring that our people are employable?

Shared responsibility

This is not just a government issue, as employers we must accept our responsibility to train the workforce of the future. In the past, the apprenticeship programmes run in the private sector did work, the government-driven ones are not, in my opinion, working. Is it up to the corporate and social responsibility of all employers to ensure that it is doing its bit to develop the future workforce?

So this is a big challenge, how can we as professionals help? Well to me it is straightforward: we need to start to learn to identify the development needs for the organisation, develop those skills efficiently and effectively and show the management of our organisations we can do this. It has to be a bottom up approach - to expect the UK PLC to be capable of delivering top down is beyond the 'noughties' culture.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI Ltd, a consulting and training company specialising in organisational development and the development of high performing teams and individuals. For more information go to

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not of


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