Making it count: ensuring your training budget isn’t wasted in a tough economic climate.

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The restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with an increasingly shaky global economy, are causing genuine concern for many businesses.

Yet many are still continuing to invest in training, despite the desperately tough economic climate we’re operating in. And they’re right to – we argue here that delivering effective training has actually never been so critical.

Even before the pandemic, teams were trying to develop the skills they’ll need for new roles in a world transformed by technology. Now, in a world transformed again by COVID-19, many of these changes have accelerated.

People are struggling to keep up. On top of huge changes to the way they work, they’re now also trying to keep themselves safe during the pandemic. Regulatory and compliance pressures have never been so high. And at the same time, financial restraints are tightening by the day.

All this adds up to a huge challenge for people managers and senior leaders. How do we ensure that the money we spend on training – particularly in this tough economic moment – isn’t wasted?

We work with a lot of training providers, people managers and senior HR professionals. So, we wanted to share with you here just a few of the things that we’ve seen working, and that will help you to get a good return on your training investment.

1. Make training about people, not business

Too often, decisions around training are based around a perceived business need, rather than the needs of the people themselves.

It sounds obvious, but one of the easiest ways that you can make sure training gives you a return on your investment is to simply ask people what training they actually need. Of course, the needs of your people and of your business strategy should be well aligned anyway, but don’t always assume that they are.

Building on this, we’ve also seen how embedding human stories into learning encourages engagement and creates a greater personal connection with your training.

Storytelling has become something of a cliché in corporate circles, but that shouldn’t take away from its power. For example, imagine you’re running a day’s training for your managers, and your CEO wants to be involved. To open the morning session she records a video message, talking through the schedule for the day and explaining the strategic reasons behind the training. She tells everyone how valuable it will be for them to take time out of their schedules to take part. 

But imagine instead if the CEO had used the video message to quickly highlight the main learning theme of the day before sharing her own personal experience of learning that particular skill. For example, the training could be around resilience, and dealing with setbacks. So, she could talk openly about a time she failed in business, and how she learned from that experience.

This kind of story feels authentic, builds trust in the leader and creates a sense of the relevance of the training for the trainees.

2. Give people a reason to engage

We’d all like to think that our teams will commit to and engage with the training you provide for them. But ask yourself a simple question: why should they?

Does it really feel relevant to them, in their roles? And if not, why not? What more could you do to explain the context of the training? How will it tangibly improve their performance in the jobs they do everyday?

Crucially, your people need to feel empowered to guide their own learning and development. Of course, some training is mandatory – for example health and safety compliance. But in other development areas, it’s vital that trainees feel that what they’re doing is taking them closer to their own personal and professional goals. So always make the training a two-way conversation, implicitly linking their future with that of the business.

Finally, while training can’t always be fun, at least give people a reason to engage with it. For example, gamify the learning process if you can to create friendly competition: and reward the best performers.

3. Build a culture of learning and development

That ongoing process of rewarding performance and the reinforcement of knowledge is crucial. It’s an important step towards creating genuine culture change within your organisation.

When training is no longer a one-off requirement, but instead a rewarding, relevant part of every day life, real cultural change happens. So, build in a process of recognising those who engage well with training, and help them to become role models for the whole business.

Another aspect of this is the way you follow up on the training itself. So, rather than using general satisfaction surveys to gauge what your people have learned, we suggest that you should look for actual job performance improvements instead.

It’s easy to get hung up on simply asking trainees whether what they’ve just learned will improve the way they work. The chances are they’ll say ‘yes’ and then carry on doing what they’ve always done.

Instead, look at how they’re actually performing in their jobs now, compared to before the training. Identify where there are still knowledge gaps, and focus your resources on these. This kind of focus will directly benefit your business, and create a culture of continuous learning and development.

So how do you do all of this? Well, Cognito can help with these challenges and ensure that you’re getting full value for your investment in training.

Our technology helps you to deliver impactful, personalised and relevant training. It makes it fun and engaging, and also helps you as a leader to see how well that knowledge is landing across the business. And it helps you to begin to build a lasting, open and engaging culture of learning among your teams.

To find out how Cognito could do this in your business, give us a call today on 01423 203 733.