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Recession tactics: Training for a competitive edge


Knife edgeCompanies can be tempted to slash learning and development budgets when market conditions get tough, but this can be the ideal time for businesses to unlock potential and improve their performance, says Juliette Dennett.

The credit crunch is having an undeniable effect on everyone in business. Constant media stories about banks crumbling, pensions failing and property prices plummeting are making business owners increasingly tighten their purse strings and put activities deemed as non essential on hold. Unfortunately, training is often included in this category.

However, this is exactly the time when a business should pay special attention to investing in key members of their workforce to really set their organisation apart from the competition. This is because no matter how good a business's products and processes, it is probable that at some stage the competition will achieve parity. At that point, the difference can be determined in the energy, enthusiasm and attitude of an organisation's people at a time when such attributes may be in short supply elsewhere.

Photo of Juliette Dennett"When budgets are tight it is best to think about enhancing those people that can create the biggest impact."

Providing employees with well-structured and inspiring training enhances their feelings of being highly valued and secure in their role as it proves without doubt that their employer still believes they are worth investing in. It also helps to motivate employees by arming them with the necessary tools to effectively carry out their roles in tough market conditions, even if that means taking on extra responsibilities.

In turn, these things work to effectively energise a business and increase productivity levels. After all, it has been proven that employees who feel fully appreciated are much more productive than those who don't. So, how can those businesses trying to cut costs - but still wanting to benefit from a highly trained workforce - ensure they get the best possible return on investment via training?

The first and most vital thing they need to do is decide on the employees in which to invest. Rather than trying to 'blanket' train staff, business owners and training professionals need to ensure they pick the people within their organisations who have the potential to make the most difference to the mood and performance of others.

This will help to ensure that both the skills and knowledge gained on the training programme are widely transferred and then quickly adopted by other employees. At the same time, the person passing on the newly acquired skills will benefit from an increased sense of responsibility and importance - again a factor proven to increase productivity.

To further ensure the best levels of return on investment, businesses should choose to put employees on training courses covering the skills that are likely to be most beneficial to the largest majority of their staff. This is not to say that specialist courses do not have their place, as they certainly do, but when budgets are tight it is best to think about enhancing those people that can create the biggest impact.

It is also essential that employees attending training programmes understand how their participation impacts on overall business objectives – both their own and those of the organisation. Understanding a clear link between the outcomes of the development and the needs of the organisation will give them clarity and focus, enabling them to achieve maximum results from training.

The responsibility for achieving this clarity lies in three places – with the employee, their manager and the training provider. The employee needs the opportunity to explore for themselves their own areas for development and to set personal goals for training. In turn, these should be openly supported by their line manager, who should also have the opportunity to reinforce the employee's strengths and to contribute to their plan of action to accomplish higher performance.

"Effective training results in improved profit margins and a happier and more engaged workforce, which ultimately helps a business to develop a real competitive edge."

Using this information, the training provider will then be best placed to identify how the specifics of a training course can deliver the new skills and attitudes required by both the employee and the organisation they work for.

By following these simple steps - sending the right employees on the right training courses armed with the knowledge about what's expected of them - the benefits can be huge. Effective training results in improved profit margins and a happier and more engaged workforce, which ultimately helps a business to develop a real competitive edge.

It is therefore imperative that people working within the training industry work together to ensure business owners and leaders are aware of these advantages and sufficiently educated about the most effective training options available to them.

Juliette Dennett is managing director of Dale Carnegie Northern England, a performance-based training company that is a franchise of the Dale Carnegie group, which operates across 70 countries. For more information, go to: or email or call: 0113 251 5116.


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