In whom should we be investing when our training funds are limited?

A while back I connected with blog reader Ashley Dietrick, a Learning & Development Facilitator with Lawley. When we discussed the topics about which L&D professionals might be interested in reading, she mentioned that since resources are always tight, an article about smarter ways to invest limited funds could be of interest.

I’d like to thank Ashley for taking the time to share her thoughts on the subject with our Train Like A Champion audience. Following are Ashley’s thoughts:

Ashley Dietrick

Growing economic power is good news for many industries. Unfortunately, it does not mean we, as HR professionals, have more capital to work with for our Learning & Development budgets. Strategic spending decisions continue to be essential for our daily routines and yearly goals. Cost per head budgeting no longer fits the individual needs of employees, nor does it make effective use of our limited resources. 

So how should we spend what we have?

Money should be strategically invested in the highest performers with the most potential in our companies to see the highest ROI. These are the people that will shape the organization and gain the most from high levels of training and coaching.

Of course, once those individuals are identified, we can’t simply write them a blank check! Even if these high performers never pay a dime out of their own pockets for professional development, there is still a cost in the form of expecting them to bring new skills and abilities back to the organization.

Before anyone enters into a professional development regimen, their supervisor should start with setting progressive, SMART goals that help the organization overall while engaging and growing your top talent.

What should be in your budget?

Concentrated, niche knowledge needs: What expertise will set your organization apart from your competition, address your specific clients’ or customers’ needs, or fill a gap in knowledge on a team?

One-on-one, goal-oriented coaching for potential & current leaders: 360 assessments can inform face-to-face coaching to set goals and achieve them. This will address and hone-in-on soft skills that are key to any high-level role. Then, look forward to the competencies of potential roles and coach the areas required to advance careers.

Industry coalitions, groups & conferences where they can learn from peers or leaders in their space: Many top performers and high potentials may not have leaders in their organization that work in their space, so give them opportunities to meet others in similar roles at other companies and learn from what the best are doing! Some companies fear to let their top people meet with others from competitive organizations. This fear can hinder growth and efficiencies if you don’t send them to the right conferences and industry groups.

Presentation skills: Many professionals lack basic presentation skills. If these people are the face of your company and the top performers, they need to be able to share their knowledge in presentation form. This will prepare them to run meetings, sit with clients, and participate in industry roundtables and panels in a positive, impactful way.

Mentoring skills: Set them up with a mentor and train them to mentor others. Mentoring basics include coaching skills, goal setting strategies, communication skills, apprenticeship theory and servant leadership. Provide them these trainings so that they can mentor the next round of high potentials!

If you spend your budget on the high performers, you will then be able to leverage in-house talents and knowledge to address lower performance needs or basic training. For example, my company has seen much more success in teaching excel skills from an in-house Subject Matter Expert than one-off classes. Another example — we have addressed one employee’s lack of conflict resolution skills by pairing them with a mentor to work through their particular issue. If you have prepared your top people well, they will become an asset to your company, thus raising the level of the entire organization.

Do you have any examples of how you’ve invested wisely in your people? Let’s hear your experiences in the comment section.

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