To Train or Not To Train, That is the Question

The English poet Shakespeare once said, “To be, or not to be — that is the question.” Given our current state of the economy there are many companies who are now asking themselves a similar question, “To train, or not to train? While organizations consider this question, I think it is important to keep the big picture in mind. What do I mean? Well, let me explain.

yes-no-small.jpgWhile times are tough and budgets are under the microscope, it would be wise for organizations to take a strategic and thoughtful approach vs. a reactive one. Determine what the most valuable assets are that will keep the business going long term. Arguments can be made for technology, more infrastructure, more resources and equipment, or more systems and processes. Of course, all of these things are important; however none of them will perform well without people to put them into action. People still remain and will always remain to be an organization’s most important resource. When the chips are down and dramatic changes are needed, it won’t be your computer to get it started, especially when it is the culture and environment that might need the most attention. There isn’t a technology available that can openly capture the level of motivation or disappointment that is going on within an employee’s psyche. So, how can an organization get through it all?

Let’s use the analogy of the stock market to help us consider a potential solution. While many people watch their 401K or other investments dollars declining, their gut reaction is to “stop the bleeding” and sell. However, an important formula called Dollar Cost Averaging exists that an investor needs to consider. While the share price may be getting slimmer and therefore account value is dipping, a key component is that you are buying more for your current dollar. It’s like a sale at the clothing store buy one (i.e. $50) and get the other half off ($25). Who doesn’t like to see 50% off the MSRP. The Dollar Cost average would be $37.50 each. We all like this. So many say, just keep steady and keep on investing, eventually the share price will rise, and as you have more shares, your total investment will increase. So is the same with training, but let’s not call it training, because it is actually development. If you want to see your business grow, keep investing in developing training programs for your people especially when they may be looking for that reassurance from the company. The more you put into them, the more they will be put back into your organization. Call it a “stimulus package” that will spark renewal, commitment, and creative effort by your people to do more for the benefit of their team and the organization. Everybody wants some job security right now. Those organizations, that are willing to provide some investment, will retain their people and, in addition, drive a deeper level of partnership and collaboration from their employees.

We often hear that it’s hard for organizations to take time away from work to “train” their people. Well, here’s some everyday strategic thinking. If business is slower, there are less projects happening, so your people probably have more downtime and are therefore able to break away from work and go be “trained.” So, isn’t this one of the better times to get your staff ready? How is that for breaking the paradigm of it’s too time consuming to develop our people!

Another argument might be that training is too expensive. Yes . . . everything has a cost, some are obvious, and some are hidden. But you will run a bigger risk in not developing your people – which has all sorts of hidden costs that ultimately impact the organization’s profitability and success – vs. not spending money for people development and losing valuable experience. Keep in mind the stock market analogy….it’s easy not to spend money and think we’re doing a good thing but is this a good thing? If you stop investing in your people, won’t they provide you a much lower ROI in the long run? The strategic thinker will invest for the future.

This reminds me of one of the principles taught in university marketing classes. The best time to market is in a slow economy so people see your name; they build brand awareness and brand loyalty and confidence. These same results apply to people development. Put your budgets to work and sharpen the skills of your employees. Make them better tools of the trade to not only get you better results now but in the future. So, if you are asking yourself this question, “To develop people or not to develop people?” The answer is 100% yes, and invest more now and get more “shares” for better ldeveong-term results.

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About the Author

Matt Fankhauser

Matt began his career with CMOE and is a Regional Vice President. Matt has experience in management, marketing, advertising, and sales. He has developed and delivered personnel performance reviews, been involved with hiring, interviewing, and training processes for different employment positions. He has participated in market research and conducted interviewing involved with the research. He has delivered keynote presentations at various association meetings for SHRM, ASTD and others. He has facilitated groups in training sessions involved with the skill development of Coaching, Leadership, Team Building, Facilitation, and Strategic Thinking. He has also been involved with the design and development of Executive Team Retreats, organizational case studies and training materials, as well as the translation of organizational training materials.