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Four questions every training manager should be asking themselves


With training remaining under pressure from tightening budgets, Steve Vaughan sets out the four key questions that every training manager should be asking themselves.

What is your strategy for surviving the recession?

There are lots of theories out there about surviving a recession. Some companies have looked at cause and effect; others invest in predictive models to gain greater understanding of the attributes and the cyclical nature of such times, whereas others have relied on a strategy of pure hope. The key is accepting that recessions happen and to deal with them we need a workforce that is highly skilled, motivated, inspired and totally aligned.

Change is inevitable and shift happens, so the companies with people who have the skills and ability to carry out its core offerings, along with the courage to accept change, will be the ones who not only survive, but flourish in such testing times.

Do you view the recession with fear or see it as an opportunity?

Fear is a powerful emotion and often leads to avoidance. The result of choosing fear is that people tend to move away from challenge, change and difference rather than embrace it and choose a different emotive response. If a workforce views a recession with fear then their focus will be on the ‘me’ rather than the ‘we’: conversations will centre on negativity and productivity will become all but paralysed.

People will look to abdicate responsibility, make poor, uninformed decisions and focus solely on the things that are outside of their control. It is here where a company’s training strategy can really affect how the workforce views such challenges. Give them the opportunity to focus on their own individual strengths, those of the company and how they align. Accept that change happens and have the skills and techniques to deal with such.

Allow them to discover that there are many solutions out there, some we have never imagined and get them to keep asking the question, 'what’s possible?' It is in here that true opportunity lives.

"The key is accepting that recessions happen and to deal with them we need a workforce that is highly skilled, motivated, inspired and totally aligned."

What will cutting your training budget do to your reputation as an employer of choice?

It is not the cut to the training budget that has the greatest affect; it is the way it is communicated. In times of recession we all know that companies look to save money and more often than not training budgets are viewed as the first port of call. Decisions are not made lightly and any cut is made with positive intent - to retain finance and so secure peoples’ futures. However it could be seen as a withdrawal by observers or indeed employees. There needs to be a common understanding as to why such decisions are made, then communicated in the most effective way by the leaders within the business.

What will be the long-term effect of cutting budget for an existing training programme?

When a company is in the midst of delivering large-scale training programmes, the main issue is how do we keep going, keep driving forward? However, the question: 'would it be possible to continue to do this for less outlay?' is inevitable.

What is seldom considered is the possible effect any such cuts have on the people who are yet to go through the experience. Especially as many companies begin their programmes at a senior or management level and by the time it gets round to the rest of the workforce that inevitable question starts to resonate through the corridors. There are so many potential consequences to this message, including ‘us and them’, ‘they’ve used all the budget’ and ‘the company doesn’t value us’.

If the commitment to training isn’t consistent throughout the life of the programme and, arguably, beyond, then there is the potential for devaluing the programme for the future attendees. Indeed, such decisions could possibly affect any further initiatives introduced, as employees will benchmark any new training against one of lost momentum, lack of budget and reduced importance. Why would they want to commit time and effort into any new programmes?

Steve Vaughan is a founder member of Fuel Learning and Master Facilitator, specialising in research, design and delivering programmes recognising that organisational growth occurs through individuals and teams. Part of Steve’s motivation for developing people to extend their performance capabilities comes through his coaching in team-based sports at a professional and international level and also competing himself in various endurance events. Contact Steve at: or visit

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