Agile & Digital / Matrix Management / Virtual Teams

Too much to do – its no time to cut our training budgets

As we move into what is sure to be a global recession, we can already see that training budgets are coming under pressure. We’ve been around long enough to have experienced a number of recessions and organizations usually lose jobs, become more integrated and centralized, and focus on cost saving, resource sharing and innovation. Learning budgets are usually cut.

It’s a difficult situation. If revenues are down, then organisations do need to cut back.

However, if there is one thing that we’ve learned from this crisis, it’s that people capability is what has given us business continuity, resilience to change and sustainability. As we move into a “new normal” for the foreseeable future, there will be a critical need to upskill our people in some key areas.

In our white paper “Implications for learning and development of the return to work” we identified a number of priorities based around things we know will be needed over the next 12 to 18 months.

1. More remote working

As virtual and remote working becomes a bigger part of our ongoing way of working, we need to build this capability at scale across the organization.

Having the technology is not enough, we need the skills and behaviours to sustain community and get things done remotely for an extended period.

We will also need to reflect the remote context in all our training. If we run teamwork training it needs to assume the team will be at least partly remote. If we are training people to present or run meetings the context needs to include doing so in virtual meetings and online presentations.

In some areas like sales, where we may have been relatively dependent on face to face skills, we will have no choice but to learn new skills if our customers discourage site visits – for example in engaging with and influencing customers when we can’t get face to face.

Many leaders have recently learned that it is the human factors of creating community, wellbeing and managing communication remotely than make remote working sustainable over time. These factors need to be reflected in our skills development.

2. Accelerated digital transformation

The crisis will give a boost to many organisations’ digital transformation efforts. Organizations will be focused on anything that allows business continuity and resilience when people are not available or are unable to travel.

Digital business models, jobs and services that can be delivered remotely have seen less disruption during the crisis and will become increasingly attractive.

In learning and development, we need to be able to support digital transformation by building the skills required to operate in an agile and digital environment and we also need to develop our own digital business models.

Leadership at digital pace requires agility, faster technology adoption and the ability to fail fast and manage risk, whilst working with multiple autonomous teams and emergent non-hierarchical leadership.

Some agile principles, such as preferring co-located teams, may become less sustainable as remote working becomes more common. We will need to focus on virtual agile teams instead.

3. Greater business integration

During and after every recession that we’ve experienced, businesses have become more integrated and we believe that accelerating digital transformation will also accelerate this.

Cost savings and new ways of working will require greater cross functional and “matrixed” ways of working where teams and projects cut across the traditional vertical silos of function and geography.

In this environment people struggle with higher levels of ambiguity, working with multiple bosses and multiple teams, taking accountability without control and exercising influence without authority.

Several of our clients have set up “new ways of working” task forces to look at how they need to adapt to this situation which is likely to require major shifts in leadership, collaboration and personal effectiveness.

Each of these developments will drive new ways of working and require new skills. Research is already showing that, for example, people capability and culture is significantly more important to successful digital transformation than is the technology alone.

It is clear we will need to prioritize hard and innovate to equip people to succeed in the new normal.

Building new skills will be a critical component of this. This is no time to cut your training budget so be prepared to fight your corner. If you do find yourselves with less resources it will require some radical re-prioritisation around essential skills and stopping doing some of the things that aren’t as adapted to this new environment.

It also goes without saying that all of this will need to be delivered virtually through web seminars and online learning so we will need to update the skills of our inhouse traders and suppliers to do this.

Good luck

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