“Training? Are you crazy – Haven’t you heard there’s a recession on?!”
This is something I’m hearing more and more frequently. Ok, so people are generally a little more polite than that, but the general thrust of these conversations is that in a recession the last thing a PR agency should be doing is spending money on training its staff.
You won’t be too surprised to learn that, as a provider of training to PR agencies, I strongly disagree. If previous recessions have taught business leaders one thing it is to remember that when recession end – as they always do – you need staff who are skilled, informed and motivated.
It’s encouraging to see that many business leaders aren’t making the mistake so many did in the last great correction of the early 90s and firing whole swathes of talented, capable employees – when the good times returned most of those companies were soon overwhelmed by their competitors with more enlightened people policies.
However, keeping your staff is not enough. You also need to keep developing them, so that they are able to help you survive the bad times and then really push the business forward in the forthcoming boom. And that means training.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you should carry on as before. Without doubt, this is the right time to review your training strategy. In fact the smart businesses are taking the following five steps to ensure they get the most out of every penny they spend on training:
1) Share existing knowledge
Rather than paying people like me to come in and train your staff, why not get your staff to train each other on their specialisations? If someone is an expert on social media encourage them to hold a lunchtime training session on the topic. If someone else knows Excel inside out then make sure everyone goes to him or her for advice on that. There will still be areas where you need to bring in external expertise, but don’t miss out on this sort of free training.
2) Focus on what matters
Identify your business priorities and ensure that all training is geared towards that. So, if you need to get in front of new business prospects, train your team on how to set new business meetings (see here for details of a new course I’m running on this subject: http://www.alex-blyth.co.uk/training_details.php?id=16)
3) Pick the right providers
In a recession everyone wants to be sure they are getting the best possible return on thier investment. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, but it does mean that supplier loyalty goes out the window. You might be finding that your clients are reviewing their contracts with you – so shouldn’t you be doing the same with your training providers?
4) Get maximum value for money
Every supplier knows that times are tough, and so they should be willing to offer you a good price. If they don’t then look elsewhere (for example, I charge £285 per delegate for my open training courses, but if you mention this blog post when booking you can come for £250)
5) Reinforce with coaching
Classroom training is only ever a starting point for someone’s learning and development. It is too easy for all the knowledge and the good intentions to evaporate as soon as the session is over. Training needs to be reinforced with ongoing coaching. You can provide this yourself, or ideally you should find a training provider who incorporates an element of ongoing coaching into their training courses.
Those are five reasonable steps that are straightforward to implement. The smart PR agencies are doing exactly that now – look out for them in the coming months and years. They’ll be the ones hiring the pick of the staff, getting front page coverage for their clients, and winning all the big contracts.
Crazy to be spending on training now? I really don’t think so.