Will learning and development add value or just cost in 2009

Learning and development professionals will be aware of the Kirkpatrick model for evaluating the effectiveness of training. One of my colleagues, John Bland, forwarded this quote from the recent  Kirkpatrick Evaluation Summit

Those of us as individuals, training departments, and corporate universities who do not quickly find the means of first creating value and then demonstrating our value to the business will be putting themselves in career jeopardy.

Never has this been more true than in the current economic situation. There is a strong tendency at the moment for people to sit on their hands and do nothing, waiting to see what 2009 will bring.

It reminded me of an ex-client who suspended all L&D activity in anticipation of a reorganization. They delivered nothing in six months whilst waiting for the reorganization to be announced. It was known that, after the reorganization, people would still need most if not all of the same skills and capabilities as they did before.

When the reorganization came they took the opportunity to radically slim down departments that were seen as non-core or unproductive: guess what happened to departments that had delivered nothing for six months!

Now the reality is that many learning and development functions are experiencing budget cuts or travel freezes. The question is what can we deliver that has value during this period?

Many existing budgets are allocated to traditional and relatively low value learning activity. We should be thinking about aligning our learning to the strategic imperatives of increased productivity and lower costs. We need to deliver faster and at lower cost and to maintain employee satisfaction during this difficult period.

  • How are we helping employees to deliver more with less
  • How will we make sure that people have the skills to continue to get things done without travel and other expenses.
  • How can we deliver projects, teamwork and training remotely
  • How can we drive out unnecessary and unproductive work

Running traditional training courses wont help much with this.

Waiting for training needs analysis summaries of appraisals won’t help either. The individuals and line managers completing these forms are not experts in L&D and they don’t know what is available – in a time of change L&D need to innovate and bring in new ideas relevant to the times

If HR and Learning and Development want to be strategically aligned and bring something valuable to the party we need to be much more radical and focused.

If we don’t, then expect to be treated as a cost centre alone – and that is not a good place to be in a downturn.

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