How you can manage talent in hard times – part 2 – training

I mentioned in my last Blog post “How you can manage talent in hard times – part 1” that training budgets are often the first to be cut when an organisation hits hard times. However this is somewhat naïve and organisations need to still invest in their staff development to help them get through the recession and be ready to go full throttle when the up-turn comes.

Organisations will find that career development is a significant motivator and will keep your staff focused on their development within your organisation, and hopefully stick with you through the bad and good times.

On a more positive note the ‘training message’ does seem to be getting through. For example, a recent survey for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) confirms that only 9% of businesses say they intend to cut training investment, with 51% saying that they will target the spending more effectively.

There are many free/low costs alternatives to expensive training courses that will all add to your employee development and engagement, here are just a few ideas:

Assess your organisation/department needs

  • When reviewing your business objectives and strategic direction try to tie these in with your staff appraisals.  If there is a common skill gap appearing, consider bringing someone in to run a course specifically tailored to your organisational needs.  This can often be cheaper than sending individuals on a course, especially if you take into account travel expenses etc.  The trainer should understand your company objectives and what the staff need to do to achieve these, therefore the course they provide should be tailored and more efficient than more general information staff could get on alterative courses

In-house training

  • See if anyone in-house can deliver your training e.g. universities have a wealth of experts in many different areas. Many may say they don’t have time and what’s in it for them, but if you don’t ask you will never know.  Try to emphasise when asking that by them providing training it expands their skills and helps share knowledge within your organisation

Free courses

  • There are some free courses about so look out for these on the internet or sign up to emails of organisations you think are relevant
  • Often companies offer free breakfast briefings or evening receptions/workshops to people.  Usually the format consists of an expert speaker and someone giving you some information on their company and products, but if you can bare a bit of sales pitch you can learn a lot for free
  • Organisations such as the British Chamber of Commerce offer courses often for a nominal fee
  • Local and national exhibitions in your professional field sometimes offer free seminars to encourage you attend their day and look around the supplier stands.  If you are going to attend these, from experience, I recommend getting the agenda early and planning which seminars you want to go to and get to each seminar early to avoid queues!


  • I went on a course a few years ago about becoming a mentor and with a few tools and tips, passing on knowledge to peers and your staff should become second nature. There are courses in this alone, but there are many articles and tips on the internet to get you started

Self development

  • This might be an obvious one but sometimes you don’t need expensive courses to help you develop skills however if you are all busy with the day to day tasks and the mantra of just “surviving” then perhaps this is the first activity that goes from peoples activity list.  Often if you allow employees time in their schedule (i.e. you grant them a couple of hours a week or one day a month) to do their own research then this gives staff the freedom to take their learning into their own hands
  • The internet has a wealth of info (obvious sorry!) and libraries can provide a different learning environment for staff to self-develop

Internal development

  • Something that we do at is have internal conferences to get the whole company together for half a day training, plus we ask each team to present to their colleagues a summary of activities for the previous year.  This is important to remind people of successes and also lessons learnt, but on a personal note this gives our staff the chance to present in front of a friendly audience.  This is just one example, but think about if you could ask staff to chair meetings, present findings to the team, write a brief report – all these small tasks help build or maintain their general employability skills

I’m sure there are lots of other ideas and if you would like to share any please leave me your comments.

And if like me this topic interests you, you may like to read the following:

A useful article from People Management, the magazine for the CIPD, on ‘A Guide to Surviving the Downturn’ (with a focus on training):

The Government is backing this strategy too and to recognise how important training is, in November the Government launched a National Training Award called ‘Now is the Time’.  This is to recognise employers that have invested in training their staff to help them survive the recession.  Deadline for submission is Friday 26th June 2009 and more details are at:


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