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Training Officer Tip Archive

September 29, 2004 - Making Long Term Development Your Short Term Priority

There's a battle that training officers fight every day. It's the battle between long term and short term training solutions. It can appear to be a no-win situation sometimes. You know that developing your human capital should be an ongoing, planned process, immaculately designed to enhance the skills of the employees you serve. But you recognize that the reality is that you have obstacles preventing you from carrying out a long term development plan. These obstacles include time, budget and obstinate managers. Is there a way to win? The answer is yes and no, but it requires looking at the problem from some different angles.

Angle #1
The first way to look at a difficult problem is to look at it from the opposite point of view. In this case, try putting yourself in the shoes of those holding you back from your long term development dreams. Ask yourself questions that they might ask which would prevent them from endorsing your plans.

Why do they oppose your way of thinking? From their point of view, are their arguments valid? Do they think the way they think about human capital development (i.e. training) because of past sins on the part of your office? Do they have reason to believe your office can operate more creatively than it has? Are you truly using your resources (i.e. budget) wisely? Do you communicate well with them? Are you tying your training plans to the mission of the organization and demonstrating the results of your efforts?

These are hard questions, but important questions to ask of yourselves. Be honest in how you answer them and verify with your opponents that they indeed feel this. Open dialogue will get you closer to achieving your plans in a timely manner.

Angle #2
A second angle that might help solve the long term versus short term training conundrum is to look at the way you use words associated with the issue. "Long Term Development" might scare people off because it could connote words like "expensive", "wasteful", "long" (that's not a joke), and "unmanageable". Instead of saying "Long Term Development", frame your plans as "Ongoing Learning", "Measurable, Repeatable Performance Development That Builds Upon Key Competencies", or "In-depth Training". You don't want to sound like a spin doctor, but be creative. How you say it counts for a lot. In reframing these terms, don't forget to remind people that purchasing long term development programs not only is effective, but it usually costs less per day than intermittent short trainings that are not designed to build upon previously learned skills.

Angle #3
A third angle to consider is to look at the way you ask training vendors to price their long term development programs. You might be accustomed to asking for volume discounts for these types of programs, but what is the rational behind the way you do this? What if you got more creative and said to your vendors, "Look, we really want to run some long term development programs with your firm. However, you charge us the same price for a day of training on a Monday as you do on a Tuesday. As you and I know, everyone and their brother wants training on a Tuesday (and Wednesday and Thursday). I bet you'd like to be busier on Mondays and Fridays. How about we run sessions for the long term program on Mondays and Fridays and give us a discount for helping you fill those wasted days?" I don't know many training vendors or consultants who wouldn't jump at this opportunity. They are businesspeople, so when you think like a businessperson, their image of you skyrockets. Not only that, but upper management and the budget makers in your organization will applaud your way of thinking.

Running a training office is challenging. It's never going to be easy. But if you try some of these techniques, you might become more effective and more valuable to your organization - and you'll have more fun in the process.

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