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In a down economy, trainers turn to homegrown help.
Jerry Gratton, director of learning and development for 1-800-Got-Junk?, a franchised junk-removal service headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, used to spend several weeks a year on the road bringing training to franchise employees, sometimes visiting eight cities in two weeks. He has replaced that travel-heavy schedule with frequent telephone-based training. For less money, he now reaches more employees and has wider impact throughout North America and Australia. Instead of reaching a handful of franchises, he reaches them all.
When the economy takes a downturn, training budgets often get slashed. But HR professionals such as Gratton find ways to fill the gaps with in-house initiatives that often have greater impact than more costly alternatives. Some initiatives are well-known but underutilized. Others are one of a kind.
“It has become part of our process to determine how we can deliver on our original ideas and achieve the proposed learning objectives for the lowest possible cost while upholding the integrity of our design. Out of limitations comes creativity,” says Jayme Walls, director of Corporate Gaylord University for Gaylord Entertainment Co., based in Nashville, Tenn.
To do more with less, HR professionals recommend focusing on peer teaching; keeping instructional modules simple, specific and immediately applicable; leveraging technology; and maximizing what you already have.
Instead of hiring external consultants, turn to the real experts: your own employees.
Highlight internal talent. Sande Scoredos, executive director of training and artist development for Imageworks, a division of Sony Pictures, in Culver City, Calif., fosters peer review among her creative talent, reflecting, “If, after a show wraps, there was some great work done on it, then we showcase it.
We’ll have a team or an individual do a noontime lecture. We’ll invite everyone to see the explanation of the work” that was done. Employees who attend the lectures learn techniques, and the showcased employee or team gains recognition, boosting morale.
Gaylord Entertainment is taking a similar approach. “We have begun to seek and utilize the talents of our internal stars [high-potential employees] as additional design and development resources, in lieu of hiring external consultants,” Walls says. The stars want to be involved and “thus more committed to the final result.”
During tough economic times, company leaders pull back and instruct managers to concentrate on what the organization does well. Training should reflect that focus. Give attention to training that is immediately applicable to every employee’s job.
Some technology is costly. However, many company trainers have already invested in the computer hardware and other technology required for e-learning; now they must use it to reach the most employees with little additional cost.
In boom times, HR professionals can be so eager to obtain the latest training materials that they might buy more than they can use. Lean times provide opportunities to exploit inventory.
Capitalize on Opportunity
“The impact internal talent and untapped creativity have had on our training organization is astounding. We are able to do more, utilizing less,” reflects Corporate Gaylord University’s Walls. “Never underestimate the ability of internal teams within the organization. Should you need to utilize outside vendors, take a long look at the parts or pieces that can be developed internally and outsource just the tasks that absolutely cannot be completed with excellence.”
Scoredos adds, “I’m always looking for outside sources, internal sources, anything that can be inspirational.”
Willett concludes, “Engage your workforce in helping find answers. There is no silver bullet one-size-fits-all program, design or delivery system. By working closely and collaboratively with the people who have the learning needs, and the supervisors who are deeply vested in helping [workers] become proficient as quickly as possible, you can accomplish a great deal. Our mentoring groups, communities of practice and team-led learning initiatives are the products of these partnerships. They all take time, effort, imagination and commitment, but they do not require great amounts of money.”
The author is a Wixom, Mich.-based freelance writer and former HR generalist and trainer.
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