How to train staff during a recession

It seems as if everyone is looking at their budgets to see how they can be reduced. In most companies across the UK, finance directors are looking at training budgets and suggesting the benefits of immediately utilising some of the funds elsewhere or stripping them away all together.

It is an uncomfortable situation and one that presents HR departments, and others responsible for training staff, with a difficult challenge. How can they reach their targets and grow the company if their workforce is under-developed?

Faced, as I am sure that many companies are, with this dilemma, there are some ways training should be focused and can be carried out that need not be expensive.

Firstly, intelligent managers appreciate that dips in the economic cycle need companies to be flexible and alert to opportunities as they arise. Customers under pressure will welcome new product and service ideas that reflect their circumstances. They appreciate suppliers who show adaptability and understanding. Training and development needs to concentrate on these workforce qualities.

Secondly, the focus should still be on the customer big or small. A customer should never be allowed to feel that they are only as important as how much they spend. In a recession, they will leave and when it’s over they won’t come back. Training in customer relationships is more important now than at any other time. This applies to employees of all levels from the switchboard to the managing director.

Thirdly, emotionally intelligent leaders are key to keeping staff motivated at all times. However, they’re critical during times of fear, uncertainty and pessimism such as these. Companies need leaders who can manage their own emotions, stay positive, anticipate risk and show resolution. Inculcating positive attitudes in the workforce has to be their overriding objective. This can be encouraged by focusing on what development opportunities are available which will help to foster the feeling amongst employees of being invested in.

Providing development through internal mentoring, using senior staff to mentor more junior employees, can be very effective especially if salaries and promotion are pegged. The best will stay only if they are receiving development.

Supporting your top management with mentors who can listen to their concerns "off-line" will help to manage stress which will lie outside of their control. Destructuve stress is created when unease is transmitted to people with no control of the situation.

Targeting your training budget at customer relationship behaviours will keep customers at the forefront of everyone’s minds and encouraging staff to contribute new business ideas will make them feel involved in the future of the business.

This will hopefully avoid rumours and disheartened feelings while encouraging and motivating staff.

When faced with that budget challenge from your FD, training should be tailored and targeted and if it is, it will be effective. Keep in your mind that recession puts a premium on good people and they need development and motivation to rise above the challenges they face.

*Jo Ouston is the founder and director of management and career planning practice Jo Ouston & Co

Related articlesHow to rev up your staffHow to thrive during a recessionHow to keep staff happy

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