Home Mail

Training Officer Tip Archive

October 28, 2003 - How to Increase (or at least protect!) Your Training Budget - Part 1

It's never a surprise these days when training budgets are cut. Traditionally, the first things that get the axe in government budgets are the Two T's: Training and Travel. But it seems to have gotten worse over the past few years, and you're probably sick and tired of it. Pretty soon they'll cut your funds down to nothing unless you take measures to combat the trend.

So what can you do? Lots, actually. Let's take a few minutes to explore how you can prepare in advance to protect your training budget, and maybe even increase it in coming years.

First, we need to identify why training is one of the first things cut. There are many reasons, but the primary ones are:
1) Upper management does not believe that training results in a strong Return on Investment (ROI).
2) It's the way it's always been, so rather than cut things that have never been cut before, they go after training. The budget people know you can absorb the hit. They're not sure how other departments would react.
3) Training is rarely (and mistakenly) viewed a "core competency" of the agency.
4) Training is not a high-profile political football like other line items that could alternatively be assaulted by budget cutters.

Now that the reasons for the short shrift given to training are in the open, here are a few steps you can take to protect your budget:

1) Create ways to measure the effectiveness of the training you buy. This is probably the single most potent tool you have in your bag of tricks, but it's also the most difficult weapon to use to defend your territory. The improvements made as a result of training are difficult to quantify in the short term, and budgets are often made by short-term thinkers. So, you first need to reorient the goals of your training programs away from short-term results and focus on the long-term benefits of training. Secondly, you need to come up with ways to show a return on the investment of training dollars by figuring out how to quantify quality improvement. One way to do this is to set benchmarks for each program against a pre-training quality assessment of each employee's skill levels in each training area.

2) Plan your training calendar far in advance. This might seem obvious, but how often is it really done? We've noticed that the organizations who prepare a training plan complete with courses and dates scheduled months in advance usually get what they ask for. It shows the folks who hold the purse strings that you are serious about the training function's importance in developing the human capital of your agency. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be taken seriously - and that will mean fewer dollars coming your way.

3) Tie your training plan to your organization's strategic plan. This is another one that appears logical on the surface, but using an ultra-clear approach might get you more. Pretend you have to explain your reasons for wanting training dollars to a kindergartner. For each course that you schedule, write out a simple but convincing explanation of why you must have such and such training. For example: Instead of justifying a course in "Presentation Skills" by saying, "We really need this class because many of our employees fear making presentations and don't know how to do them well," change your approach. Consider saying, "In our needs analysis, it was clearly shown that our employees are deficient in making effective presentations to colleagues, partners and vendors. Once we identified this need, we asked ourselves how relevant improved presentation skills are in achieving the goals laid out in the agency's Strategic Plan. We determined that our poor presentation skills 1) make us look bad to our partners and vendors outside of the agency 2) are too clumsy and data-driven, wasting time and resources and 3) prevent those fearful of public speaking from making presentations in the areas where they are really the experts - instead they get others with less expertise but more confidence to make their presentations for them. In our Strategic Plan, it clearly states that our agency needs to improve its communication skills with outsiders. So, becoming better presenters will accelerate the achievement of this important goal. The Plan also states that with a looming federal deficit, capital resources will be reduced during the next three years. If our people can create and deliver their messages clearer and more concisely, the resources used in meetings, conferences, off-sites, all-hands and retreats (i.e. people, time and money) can be optimized - potentially saving our agency hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars during the next three years. Also, our Strategic Plan mentions the recruitment, development and retention of the most qualified personnel as a major goal of the agency. If the "best of the best" lack the skills to turn their knowledge into value for the betterment of the agency, then we'll be falling down on our promise to get and keep the best people."

Sound like a lot of work? It might be, but if you can systematize the way you ask for training dollars, it becomes easier over time. Next month, we'll continue discussing this important topic with several more techniques for improving your training budget. In the meantime, mull these suggestions over and test them out in your own creative ways.

Forward to a friend
Copyright © 2008
Home   |   About Us   |   Services   |   Tips & News   |   Information Request