Due to the context of the past few decades, many managers and leaders have never had to deal with the uncertainty and challenges of a volatile environment such as we have today. The skills developed in maintaining a growing company, or even in dealing with the normal challenges of any organization, are not sufficient for ties of great change. The “soft” skills of communication, leadership, team building and trust are the very issues that will challenge you the most in the current environment. As the “quick-win” action of cutting back on training is so common, the result is a decrease in employee morale and in the ability to overcome the ever-changing obstacles of the current business environment.
This is not to say that leadership development budgets should be untouched or overlooked in turbulent times. In fact, now more than ever, you must make sure that time and money are not being wasted on ineffective or unnecessary training investments. Like any responsible cost decisions, you should examine the training activities and ask:
Are we focused on the right targets for the right people at the right time?
Are we using the right methodology for the best return on investment?
Your training should be explicitly linked to (a) your primary business objectives and initiatives and (b) your employees’ effectiveness and engagement. This means, beyond traditional skill-based training, your leaders need to learn how to effectively engage the organization, communicate the key change messages, and establish (or re-establish) trust throughout the organization.
It is far more effective to spend a larger percentage of your budget on a smaller number of training initiatives than it is to spend a little bit of money on many unfocused topics. Especially in challenging times, executives should take the time to decide exactly which areas are the most crucial for their business and provide adequate training in those limited areas. A focus on a few key areas will not only give you the greatest return on training investment, it will also communicate a message to your organization about where the key priorities lie.
In addition, there are many ways that leaders can participate in training beyond the traditional classroom initiative. Many teleseminars, webinars and other forums of technology driven training can provide a powerful yet inexpensive method of continuing your talent development. In this case, don’t let old prejudices eliminate the possibilities…each of these forms of training has become more and more sophisticated and many providers offer customized sessions, delivered either only through technology or in a “blended-solution” model that combines in-person training with distance learning. These programs can be highly engaging and interactive while at the same time offering tremendous economies of scale and reduced logistics costs (travel, etc.)
Business environments will continue to go through changing opportunities and concerns. The real challenge for today’s leader is to remember that they need to do more than merely “survive” the current conditions; they need to come through those conditions in a stronger and more competitive position. Focused and responsible training can ensure your organization has the tools and the abilities it needs for maximum success.