Cutting Your Employee Development Budget? Wait…Read This!

Sohail Zindani’s perspective on employee development in uncertain times.

Budget cutting is a necessary sin – that’s how, the budget cutting companies would like to say.

Having said that, you need to do it to help your organization survive in the long run. But then, how deep the cut will be?

Budget cut is like pruning the tree. Edges are good to go, but then if you cut too much or you cut in the wrong places, you might damage the tree.

THE EASIEST BUDGET TO CUT!

It’s sad but true that employee development budget is the easiest to cut. Even the companies who shamelessly chant that people are their number one resources don’t shy away from it.

Even the most careless parents won’t cut the school’s budget during demanding financial times. Right?

What’s important is that organizations don’t cut the learning opportunities that help people to:

  • be productive;
  • help customers;
  • help organization;
  • lead change;
  • stay focused and optimistic;

I know of companies who claim to be learning organizations. Here’s how Peter Senge defines a learning organization.

“A learning organization is an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future.”

Continuing with tree & cutting its edges as a metaphor, employee development is a branch that bears fruit for your organization. Cutting of this branch is not cost cutting – it’s practically purpose cutting.

Virtual learning has got significant attention – but then, it’s time to create a portfolio offering of formal and informal opportunities for learning and employee development.

I am excited to share the following alternative strategies to keep employee development in radar when you don’t have the same budgets and shareholders/leaders buy-in:

1. Offer Support – Ongoing and Generous Trying to control the world outside of your organization is a bad idea. But within your organization, you can offer your employees every opportunity to learn and invest in their personal growth. Especially during such a disruption and uncertain times, organizations must acknowledge and address employees’ anxiety and concerns with compassion. Having said that, conversation about future and how they can contribute towards a better future must never stop.
Special Focus: Managers play THE MOST important role here. Managers who are equipped to have coaching conversations thrive, not only for their teams, but for the organization.  More frequent check-ins and coaching conversations are the need of the time.
Bad news: Teaching managers on having coaching conversations is not a priority for sluggish, directionless, profit-hungry organizations.
Good news: If you equip your managers on how to give more meaningful feedback and develop people’s unique strengths, it cascades into providing growth to all of your employees on an ongoing basis. It’s not a training cost – it’s a massive investment.

2. Critical Skills are Needed – but Essential Skills matter the most!: Fact Check: 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This AI, automation, machine learning, biogenetics, etc.
Once we emerge out of this pandemic, there will be greater urgency felt to prepare leaders and employees for the future. This will demand HR and Learning Professionals to dramatically reimagine and revise their learning priorities.

While these next-generation skills are indeed essential, a 2019 IBM survey showed that, in the future, behavioral skills will be the area with more significant gaps than digital skills.

Here’s the “Sohail Zindani’s list of Essential Skills” you may want to consider:

  • Ability to Start and Stop without Drama
  • Assertiveness for the ideas that matter
  • Build something Bigger than what your Job Demands
  • Clarity over Confidence
  • Coach-ability and the desire to coach others
  • Compassion for those who are not like you
  • Creativity in the face of challenges
  • Decision making with Courage
  • Emotional smartness
  • Facilitation of discussion
  • Fanatic Problem-solving
  • Hustle instead of Convenience
  • Leadership – to transform the situation
  • Managing up
  • Ownership
  • Passion
  • Reacting v/s Responding
  • Stand for something
  • Storytelling
  • Thinking instead of Compliance
  • Tolerance for change and uncertainty

Why we need these essential skills?

Because it’s time to focus on growing people in a way that can’t be calculated by a percentage or a simple score – yet can drive change. It’s time to focus on the skills that matter.

News: I am coming up with a Weekend Seminar for Essential Skills. Register your interest here: https://bit.ly/EssentialswithSZ

In spite of organizations’ tightening budgets, there is a significant development opportunity to focus on these essential skills that are key to high performance.

Good news: You don’t need massive budgets for essential skills. You need courage to let people learn, share, observe, imagine and present.
Action Item: Create spaces [virtual and physical] for idea exchange. A place where people can share their imaginations and observations.
My Hope: Companies being more human – more like a family!

3. Embrace the Virtual: Let me be clear here. I am not that “suddenly surfaced virtual guru.”

Virtual is a good companion option for learning. It’s scalable, it’s cost-effective, it allows more collaboration. Having said that, people chanting about virtual being a replacement to human contact are brilliant opportunists [my opinion].

So – yes, I don’t think virtual is a replacement for human contact, but I strongly believe in leveraging on the potential of virtual.

Example: To organize a program with Seth Godin, Gary Hamel, Marcus Buckingham, Tom Peters, Tony Robbins, and other giants, you might have to invest millions of dollars. Virtual options bring you everything at a fraction of cost. This is magnificent.

Alternative and multiplatform learning modes are gaining traction, and we must make most out of it.

The actual effectiveness of these methods remains uncertain — primarily because very few organizations have tested them out.

But what I know for sure is that a blended learning approach is the future. A blend of synchronous and asynchronous experiences, integrated with consulting and coaching, to create a “learning experience” that unfolds over a period of time.

4. It’s not about learning budget and learning department. It’s about learning culture. The worst thing I have ever seen in an organization is when HR or Training manager is fighting for learning budget.
WHAT A SHAME!

If you think learning is about a function or a department, I suggest you must immediately abandon the function.

Learning is everyone’s business. In fact, Learning is what keeps your business in business.

If anyone must fight for learning budget, it must be CEO. The best learning resources and state-of-the-art training might prove useless if learning is not part of your culture. This is where managers look at learning programs as another checklist items, and employees take it as a mandatory off from work!

Leaders must actively promote a culture of learning. Anyone can invest in Coursera, Linkedin Learning, Udemy or other brilliant local options. But without culture, everything perishes.

A true learning culture goes beyond programs, courses or practices. It requires leaders and managers to actively support and role model ongoing learning. In this culture, learning cannot be differentiated from behaving.

YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO REIMAGINE YOUR EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY IN NOW!

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