4 ways to continue employee development when budgets are cut


Highlights of history

  • Employee development has big returns for companies
  • Before reducing your training budget, think about development alternatives
  • Discover four ways to continue development right now (beyond online options)

Cutting the budget is like pruning a tree.

You need to do this to help your organization thrive for the long haul. But if you cut too much, in the wrong places, you could damage the tree.

It is common for companies to cut back on their employee development efforts when it is time to cut the organization’s budget.

What’s important is that they don’t take away the learning opportunities that help people be productive on a daily basis – or those that help them prepare for the accelerated pace of the workplace and the next big change to come. to come.

“A learning organization is an organization that continually expands its capacity to create its future.” – Peter Senge

Employee development is one branch that pays dividends for your organization – it can have a huge impact on the long-term health of your employees and your business:

Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development have 11% higher profitability and are twice as likely to retain employees.

Learning and virtual classes are becoming a popular option, but beyond “formal” training (which probably doesn’t really help you cut costs), there are daily opportunities available to you.

Consider the following alternative strategies for continuing to invest in employee development when you run out of budget.

1. Provide ongoing support and guidance.

You can’t control how your employees experience the world outside your organization, but you can give them every chance to thrive when you invest in their personal development at work.

Particularly during an interruption, organizations must recognize and manage employee anxiety and uncertainty. They want an emotional outlet.

Equally important, they want to talk about hope for the future – how they can continue to do good work and contribute.

Managers play an important role here, in particular by functioning more like coaches than bosses. More frequent recordings and coaching conversations are a necessity right now.

Recent Gallup research shows that 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do their jobs better.

If you provide training for your managers on how to give more meaningful feedback and develop the unique strengths of people, it translates into continued growth for all of your employees.

To address serious depression and anxiety issues, companies can make Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) available to employees.

Trained professionals would be available to advise employees as they navigate these uncertain times – listen, advise and prepare employees when things return to normal.

Consider establishing an EAP-style communication channel for employee coaching, career guidance, and performance development.

2. Emphasize critical skills, but don’t forget behavioral skills.

A revelation: 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. The advent of AI, automation and machine learning are rapidly reshaping the job market.

As the current pandemic wears off, it will become increasingly urgent to prepare leaders and employees for the future. This will require HR and learning professionals to significantly reorient and revise their training schedules.

85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.

While these next-gen skills are indeed essential, a 2019 IBM survey showed that in the future, behavioral skills will be the area with greater gaps than digital skills. Gallup’s latest research highlights a few important ones – seven key expectations stand out as behavioral skills needed for the future of work:

  1. Build relationships. Connect with others to build trust, share ideas, and show care during tough times.
  2. Develop people. Help others become more effective by developing their strengths, clear expectations, encouragement and coaching.
  3. Drive change. Recognize that change is essential and that disruption is expected. Set change goals and make determined efforts to adapt the work to align with the stated vision.
  4. Inspire others. Even in the most difficult times, encourage others with positivity, vision, confidence, challenge, and recognition.
  5. Think critically. Search for insights, critically assess and help sort through available information, apply acquired knowledge, and troubleshoot issues.
  6. Communicate clearly. Listen, share information in a concise and focused way, and be open to opinions.
  7. Create accountability. Identify the consequences of actions and hold yourself and others accountable for the performance.

Despite the tightening of organizational budgets, there is a significant development opportunity to focus on those behavioral skills that are essential to high performance. We can often learn the wrong relentless change or emerging crisis: fear, risk avoidance and a survival mindset. This is why it is so important that leaders use these experiences to develop people to adopt a mindset focused on problem solving and opportunity.

Specifically, companies need to understand how well their future leaders are meeting these expectations and ensure that the right coaching and development is provided to address key gaps.

Not only does this help employees throughout their careers and lives, but it also ensures that organizations recover faster and adapt more effectively to the new, post-pandemic future of work.

3. Create a virtual network of learners.

Alternative and multiplatform learning styles have continued to grow in reach and impact.

Many organizations have successfully implemented e-learning. Cloud-based learning, the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and AI in learning are also gaining in importance in the workplace.

But the actual effectiveness of these methods remains uncertain, mainly because few organizations have tested them.

Less than half of learning leaders surveyed by McKinsey said they offer peer-to-peer, self-directed learning, educational initiatives that take participants out of their comfort zones or safe learning environments.

What we do know for sure is that Gallup research shows that developing a blended learning approach (online and instructor-led) is most effective.

Gallup’s own learning interventions feature a blend of synchronous and asynchronous experiences, integrated with counseling and coaching, to create a “learning journey” that unfolds over time.

In fact, Gallup recently looked at our virtual learning – in the midst of the pandemic – and found that there was a more individualized focus on participants, as well as greater connection and intimacy.

Indeed, as many people participate in distance education from their home or the setting of their choice, often dressed, a feeling of inclusion is quickly created.

As more and more employees work remotely, virtual learning needs to be emphasized, but companies can encourage open learning and peer learning with other employees.

But more importantly, it requires creating a culture where open feedback and dialogue and collaborative decision-making are encouraged.

4. Build a culture of learning.

The best learning resources and cutting edge training can prove to be useless if employees do not engage in the learning or apply it effectively.

Leaders need to actively promote a culture of learning – not just compile a collection of learning resources and a brimming training calendar.

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

Every action, strategy or decision generates and adds to organizational learning. Leaders need to acquire the skills to help activate, create, organize and share knowledge and learning. And employees at all levels should feel free to contribute and develop this knowledge base.

A good place to start is to transform your learning culture into a strengths-based culture. Talents and strengths grow endlessly, and Gallup knows that investing in strengths generates long-term benefits, including increased productivity, fewer security incidents and lower turnover. It is a return on investment that deserves to be sought.

Your opportunity to reassess your employee development strategy

To ensure that organizations remain resilient in the face of rapid change and disruption, they must continue to invest in employee learning and development.

It’s important now, for supporting employees, and it’s important for the future of your business, as the organization seeks to deal with future disruptions.

Building a culture that supports and amplifies learning will be a key strategy. As the famous systems thinker Peter Senge said: “A learning organization is an organization that continually expands its capacity to create its future.

This time it’s an opportunity to organize a balanced learning and development program – one that brings the best of online learning, instructor-led and experiential in a way that best invests in the capabilities and capabilities of employees today and in the future.

Continue to develop your employees during COVID-19:


Vibhas Ratanjee is Senior Practice Expert – Organizational and Leadership Development at Gallup.

Ryan Pendell contributed to this article.


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