Training is critical in good, bad economic times

By Donald H. Taylor

For years, training often was something organizations felt obliged to do. That is, they felt obliged until things got bad and then, like other costs, spending on training was slashed until company finances got better.
 
But in the recently finished recession, things changed. Yes, some training teams have been badly hit. But, overall, we missed the slash-and-burn response of previous recessions. The reason is that people now know that skills matter. In many cases, organizations have taken across-the-board pay cuts or gone on short working weeks until times get better. The explicit reason: When the recession ends, the company must have the skills to expand production. What a contrast to the downturns of the 1970s and 1980s.
 
In a couple of decades, developed economies have moved from a position where labor was a commodity to one where ability is a vital part of organizational success in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. This should be a great moment for the training profession, but this recognition of the importance of what we do brings with it both opportunity and threat.
 
The opportunity is clear: At last, training should be able to take the initiative and prove its value to the organization. It should be able to embed learning in the fabric of daily life.
 
The threat is simple: If we don’t do this, others will. Others less able, with less understanding of learning, people who believe that anyone can facilitate learning because, after all, we all went to school, didn’t we? That’s like saying that anyone can be Shakespeare because we all can write.
 
It might be only barely perceptible, but we’re in the middle of a learning revolution right now. Training is changing fundamentally. It’s now about supporting learners in the business and, for the business, not about delivering training. This might sound like something we’ve talked about for years, but now three things are coming together to make it a reality.
 
First, we have the social learning revolution, which threatens to bypass much of what the training, or learning and development (L&D), department has been about until now. If nothing else demands a rethink of the way L&D approaches skills development, it is the fact that a great deal of learning takes place without the department’s involvement.
 
Secondly, there is a greater emphasis from executives on skills as they realize that learning is essential to the organization. With that, though, comes an increased emphasis on the business accountability, measurability, and impact of learning. Along with skills, the L&D department is now more in the spotlight than ever, and it’s time to show we can play our part.
 
Finally, these two changes lead to the final, most dramatic change: L&D has to aim higher than ever before. Of course we always will act professionally, but now we have to demonstrate it. We have to show that we have the right frameworks for creating a learning organization, for demonstrating value, for adding to the business.
 
Quite simply, we have to drive ourselves to be the best in our field. That way, we will be the agent of personal development that we really can be. Without this drive to professionalism, we run the risk of irrelevance. It’s up to us.
 
Reprinted from our sister site, Trainingzone.co.uk, and reproduced with permission of the Charity Learning Consortium.
 
About the author:
Donald H. Taylor is non-executive chairman of the Institute of IT Training. You can also follow his tweets: @donaldhtaylor.He also chairs both the Learning Technologies Conference and the Learning and Skills Group, a free international community of learning and development professionals. Donald blogs at
 
Related articles:
 

You may like these other stories...

From May 20-23, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) held its annual conference. Frequent contributor Sally Glick picked up some ideas that she will be sharing with us in the coming days, as she has done in...
Success, for a practitioner in a busy CPA firm, requires the ability to handle multiple tasks effectively. To get everything done, CPAs typically track their agenda with a "to do" list or other open-item systems to...
Everyone loses clients. You've seen the statistics. Clients and heirs often change accountants, attorneys, and advisors after a death or divorce. That's understandable. What about ongoing relationships when the...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 16
Hand off work to others with finesse and success. Kristen Rampe, CPA will share how to ensure delegated work is properly handled from start to finish in this content-rich one hour webinar.
Jul 17
This webcast will cover the preparation of the statement of cash flows and focus on accounting and disclosure policies for other important issues described below.
Jul 23
We can’t deny a great divide exists between the expectations and workplace needs of Baby Boomers and Millennials. To create thriving organizational performance, we need to shift the way in which we groom future leaders.
Jul 24
In this presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA revisits the Excel feature you should be using, but probably aren't. The Table feature offers the ability to both boost the integrity of your spreadsheets, but reduce maintenance as well.