• Helen Lickerish

3 Ways to Continue Employee Development When Budgets Are Cut

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Organisations need to adhere to their budgets to thrive and at times they need to prune these back due to either current or predicted circumstances, be that changes in the market demand, increasing costs, or factors such as we are experiencing now with Covid 19. It is common for this to include scaling back their employee development budget, but it is important not to cut back on productivity, motivation or learning opportunities.

"A learning organization is an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future." -- Peter Senge

Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees. So how do you keep up learning for your employees when you don’t have the same budget to invest in external training programmes?

Here are 3 alternative strategies that will help you invest in your staff without a huge monetary outlay.

1. Offer ongoing support and coaching

Employees want and need feedback They need to recognise where they are strong and where they can gain ground in their learning and skills. This role can be achieved through their managers. Taking time and genuine interest in how they are doing will not go unnoticed or without benefit to both parties. Recent Gallup research shows only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.

Getting your managers into the position where they can do this well gives the organisation the ability to cascade growth throughout its entire system. Staff also need to be able to voice their concerns and any anxieties they have around their employment- and this is especially pertinent at this crucial time of uncertainty. If you notice they have issues of a more serious nature- e.g. that they aren’t managing their workload or are suffering from depression or anxiety then they could be referred on to counsellors who are trained to deal with these issues.

2. Pay attention to behavioural skills

The advent of AI and machine learning are swiftly changing the job market. However, whilst much of the focus is on getting and keeping employees at the top of this game, it is important to remember that ultimately companies are comprised of people and people need to be treated as individuals with mental and emotional skills, needs and desires. People tend to work best when they are engaged, feel valued, seen and competent. Relationships and the way communication within the organisation is managed are critical to motivation, clarity, empowerment and understanding.

During times of great change or crises (such as many organisations are encountering through the Covid pandemic) there is a tendency to make decisions based on fear, rather than using critical thinking to develop ideas around new opportunities. It is through a culture of coaching and problem-solving that organsiations will develop greater resilience and be setting themselves up to emerge from difficult times stronger than before. So what are the main skills that will make the biggest difference?

1. Build relationships. This is the key. If your managers do this then they can build an environment in which trust can prevail – this allows employees to feel safe enough to explore and share their concern and ideas.

2. Communicate well. Listen carefully and encourage the sharing of thoughts, ideas, information, difficulties, solutions, etc. Try to keep ego out of the process and be open to hear what might be difficult- It is the lynchpin of a good leader and manager.

3. Develop others. No manage can do everything on their own. You picked your employees for their skill and potential. If you encourage this further, you will have an even greater team, and likely earn a great reputation as a manager too. A coaching approach is the way forward for this.

4. Be the change. Lead through example. When times get tough sit with it and show how to adapt current working practices and concepts to develop a more resilient and purposeful team. Show others how to stay positive and calm, despite challenges as this is the makings of success. This inspires others to want to also develop these skills and “can-do” attitudes.

5. Create a culture of accountability. This starts with you. No shirking of mistakes and over-sights. Everyone falls short at times and facing this with calmness rather than criticism or berating yourself is what enables learning and growth. Taking this stance allows others to do the same without fear of negative consequences and hence learn where they can improve their performance

3. Create a virtual network of learners and culture of learning

Whilst the online learning modality has ballooned over the past few years it is still a partially unknown platform it terms of success for participants and their organisations. Gallup's research shows that developing a blended learning approach (online and instructor-led) is most effective.

There are pros and cons for the online platform, including how far participants will stretch themselves when self-directed and what level of connection and support they feel is offered; yet It may be easier to be relaxed in your own environment whilst participating in online learning and this may encourage a more honest approach to the subject. As more employees are working remotely from home now it is even more important to recognise the potential impact this style of learning could have. Creating a network of employees working and learning in this way increases a sense of connectivity, gives more opportunity for sharing new ideas, and can increase motivation whilst preventing a sense of isolation.

Leaders and managers who take this seriously and put in the effort to create a strong network and culture of learning should reap the rewards for their organisation as well as for each individual. Focus should go on the strengths that people do and could bring. Encouragement, awareness, supported challenge and engagement breed an environment of confidence, desire for self-improvement and, done well, a cultural desire to benefit the organisation rather than just the individual. Building a culture that supports and amplifies learning will be a key strategy. As the renowned systems thinker Peter Senge said, "A learning organization is an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future."

So, you create a win-win situation and a stronger successful organisation.

At times like these it is vital to support your employees as you look to developing your business towards a future-proof, resilient organisation. Counselling and Personal Coaching help those struggling with their challenges- whether personal ones that naturally are taken into the workplace with them, or ones directly related to performance evolution. Coaching is shown to be a valuable support for managers navigating these waters and can support employees as they work towards improving their performance.

If you would like to discuss how we can help please get in touch and we can talk it through.

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