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Are you wasting money on learning and development in your business?

I recently met the owner of a successful IT business. He told me he cut every budget in the current recession – except learning and development. He believed that having  highly skilled and motivated employees – who can respond quickly to changing customer needs – were essential for survival.

Yet in most businesses, the learning and development budget is the FIRST place for cutbacks when times are hard. Why? because the majority of businesses are wasting money on ineffective, unnecessary training. If they don’t see a direct impact on the bottom line, you can’t blame them!

The result? over time, with no learning and development input, employees get “stuck in the rut” – afraid or unwilling to take risks, demotivated, and less able to respond effectively to customer demands. NOT good for business.

So is it possible to support learning and development in your business AND save money? Absolutely. Once you have a planned strategy and proper systems.  Here are some of the steps involved:

1) Get into the Helicopter

Take a helicopter view of the business. What are the current problem areas? What are your plans for the future? What skills will be necessary? Hold structured interviews with a cross section of people – from the senior team to the operator level.  And don’t ask “What training do you need?” – that comes later. Your first task is to identify the key issues.  Use a funnel approach. Ask for views on three levels – business, team and individual. You may find an outside resource useful for this work; someone who isn’t making assumptions can often add value.

2) Head for the Mountains

What are the issues that stand out like mountain peaks? These are the ones to focus on.  For example, you may have a low level of repeat business. A call campaign  may be the answer – along with sales training.

Work out your training priorities in line with your business plan and agree them as a team.

3) Stop for Lunch

And don’t choose from the same old set menu. So many companies send people “off on a course” expecting them to come back transformed. This approach has a high failure rate and can be very costly.

Instead go for the buffet. Use a variety of training methods, all within your budget – that get you the results you need. Try short job transfers. Support distance learning. Train in-company trainers. Use the intranet. Hold webinars.  The list is endless.

4) Don’t Get Lost on the Way Home

Many companies have an action packed training calendar – but get lost along the way and forget to assess outcomes. Keep track of before and after metrics. Coach employees before and after a training event, so they know why they are going and how they might transfer the learning on their return. Too often the response on workshops is: “I was sent..!!”

I have been self employed as a learning and development consultant since 1989. Through my company (In-Tuition), I help companies (primarily in the medical device/pharma sector) to develop a learning strategy. I set up systems to make it happen and I design and facilitate management and trainer skills programmes. In 2009 I set up which is a free resource for managers. It includes concise tips on a range of management skills based on my experience of seeing what works (and what doesn't!) when managing people.

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  • Hi Ann, welcome to Bloggertone. Another point is that many of the businesses that are continuing to train are too focused on the cheapest product in my opinion. Take sales training as an example, the cheapest product (off the shelf) is also ineffective in the majority of cases. Regards, Niall

  • Hello Ann, a pleasure to meet you and your first post, welcome to Bloggertone!
    This post is sooo close to my heart, I could have written it myself, so I have nothing to add, but agree with Niall’s sentiment.
    A lot of organisations are not aware of the alternatives to the “sticky plaster” solution which is not a long term solution but a short term costly reaction.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Hi Ann; Another newcomer to Bloggertone.

    Great tips for employers there. Highlighting the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ is really important, as is discussing learning options. The world is changeable and knowledgeable + adaptable staff are valuable.

    Thanks Ann – loved it!


  • Thanks for the feedback!

    P.S. Hi Niall: Technical issue – despite being logged in, it says I am replying as a guest?

  • Hi Ann,

    You will need to open an account and log in to Diqus, the commenting system that we use.

  • It is true that sometimes we took too much time and effort in propagating our business without noticing that the problem is internal. Somehow every owner must think outside of the box.

  • Thank you for this great post. I’ve been an Applehead ever since the Apple II, so it’s great to see them doing so well. Have you’ve read Jim Collins’ “Good to Great”? Would you consider Apple a good-to-great company? In some ways, I can see how Steve Jobs has the Hedgehog Concept down, but I sometimes think that Apple has too many products. They sometimes seem to lose focus on what they’re best at, home computing–the Mac. Any thoughts on this? Please give me your insight.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • Brilliant interview Ivan! This is really great interview for aspiring onlineu00a0entrepreneurs, a must watch!u00a0Thanks to Anitau00a0@smallbiztrends:twitteru00a0for providing such wonderful and practical advice, she’s an inspirational lady and has always been very supportive of the Bloggertone community.u00a0

  • What a great interview, so many great tips and ideas. It is really interesting to hear that having a product aimed at small businesses can work so well and be so profitable. I am often concerned that by aiming at small businesses I could be limitingu00a0my business potential and income but Anita has shown that if you find a niche and do it well then then there are great rewards. u00a0It is also reassuring to hear her say that having the link between herself and her business is one of the income streams for the business. Loving all of the video interviews. Keep them coming.

  • u00a0Great interview, Ivan.nnAnita has one hell of a job, for sure!nnu00a0The Franchise Kingu00ae

  • Thanks Joelu00a0 .nn’Inspect what you expect’ was/is a favorite quote from Anita and it made me re-think how I manage my projects, which is what you want, right? Always room for improvement :)nnIvann

  • Hi Beatrice. nnAnita did an interview with Yaro Starak on that’s worth listening too. nnListen to the part where she explains how to position her business against (and other big hitters) and come out on top. nnRegards, nnIvannnPS – if you cant find it let me know. I have the file on the PC here.

  • Thanks Niall. nnMaybe we can do a followup when her new book comes out later. Looks good!nnIvan

  • Thanks Fred, nnDavid Airey is also worth reading for this type of marketing. nnIvannu00a0

  • Thanks Ivan,nGoing to check that out now.u00a0

  • Great interview Ivan, lots of great tips in there, I’ll be watching it again and again to make sure I don’t forget anything.n

  • Ivan, this is such a refreshing interview to hear real insight and the truth about the time it takes to grow a business on line.u00a0I loved the way Anita was so honest about her early days stuff and I feel this is so often missed in everything we read and see today. We need to know that hard (but smart) graft is needed and the internet is notu00a0the silver bullet many voices tend to say it is.u00a0The latestu00a0government backed initiative to get irish small biz online is great but this interview is a great partner to this in getting the message acrossu00a0thatu00a0getting online is just step 1u00a0& the work only just starts;u00a0we need to nurture and tend to our virtual space with the dedicated attention of a passionate gardener 🙂

  • u00a0Thanks Mairead,nnHer videos for SXSW are also excellent.

  • Sure does Joel. nnDrop me a line when your book comes out. nnIvan

  • Great analogy with the garden, Sharon.nnHaving worked in a ‘real’ business also gave Anita the insight into starting/running a business that many web gurus lack. nnIvannnn

  • I will be out of communication from 1st June u0096 10th June 2011. I will replyrnto your email after my return.rn rnBest regards,rn rnMairu00e9ad KellyrnEncouraging ExcellencernRealising your Potential rn http://www.encouragingexcellence.iern(+353) 086 1702010rn rnLink to us on LinkedIn:rnrn us on Facebook: rn us on Twitter: rn

  • Alex 03

    your moneynI am totaly agree with you because the majority of businesses are wasting money on ineffective, unnecessary training. If they donu2019t see a direct impact on the bottom line,and wast our money such things .

  • Tom Holmes

    Thanks Warren – glad you liked the post. My aim was to clear up some of the recent misconceptions about the corporate tax system here in Ireland and hopefully will encourage some consideration of Ireland as a country to set up a business in. Many thanks Tom

  • Mariah – Summertime slowdown is certainly a major factor for small business. In addition to taking a well deserved break, I advise clients to use the time productively. The suggestions here are great. Other practical action (in the business development arena) include: tidying up your CRM system, gathering information and writing profiles for tenders, gathering testimonials, and a review of competitor websites. These priorities deserve ongoing attention but may be forgotten during the busy season(s). On a positive note, I do find that not all potential customers take their breaks at the same time so the summertime slowdown can provide a window of opportunity to touch base with them that you may not get during the busier periods. Thanks for an interesting read. Donncha.

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