Training in Tough Times

We need to ask ourselves those age-old questions that make training and individual trainers invaluable parts of an organization looking to “do more with less.”

“Getting by” calls for answering some age old questions in a brand-new year. As the American economy continues to try to recover, many workers begin to wonder if another round of layoffs will occur in their companies. While jobs are being added in the government sector, the growth of new jobs in the private sector has been slow. Businesses, even those doing well, have shown a reluctance to invest when there are so many uncertainties.

I know that’s not a cheery statistic to be spouting right after the holiday season, but the sad fact is that these sorts of layoffs and downsizings began to hit closer to home than ever this past year. The common myth is that in tough times, training is the first thing cut. The reality is that training is no more or less likely to be hit when an organization is looking to trim the fat.

Economic uncertainty does cause organizations to be cautious about spending any money, even if the company itself is doing well financially. But the fact of the matter is that when training is seen as an investment that gets a return, rough times have little impact. If we want 2015 to be a banner year, we must, as trainers and training functions, solve problems and deliver results.

The start of a new calendar year is a good time to make sure we’re doing the kinds of things that will allow us to sleep at night and avoid getting kinks in our necks as we look back to see if the ax is swinging our way. We need to ask ourselves those age-old questions that make training and individual trainers invaluable parts of an organization looking to “do more with less.”

Questions that often aren’t considered until it’s too late include:

  • Are we truly aligning ourselves with the corporate mission by getting out of the classroom and talking to supervisors, managers, and floor-level employees about what training can do for them?
  • Are we considering our own career development as trainers, and consistently working to improve ourselves, as well as the employees to whom we supply training? (I recently did a Webinar for TrainingMag Network, which is available on replay at with a useful handout. It is called “10 Steps for Getting the Most Out of Any Conference or Learning Event.” You can apply the strategies to any learning event you are doing for yourself—and help your participants get the most out of the training you offer.)
  • Are we learning how to say, "No," to requests for training that will do nothing more than overextend us and lead to lower levels of personal performance? Better yet, are we helping people making requests analyze what the problem actually is? Are we helping them examine solutions that will solve the problem? That may include a change in systems, a change in policies or procedures, better recruitment and placement strategies, or maybe some just-in-time coaching.
  • Are we conscious of our personal signs of bumout, and are we ready to take action to get out of the loop for a while if need be?

Doomsaying? I don’t think so. Because in good times or in bad, these are the sorts of considerations that help us make a difference in our organizations. And while the prospect of layoffs perhaps isn’t the best reason in the world for any of us to get going on these issues, it’s at least better than nothing. Maybe out of these tough times, good habits will develop that will carry through into a better economic era.

Until next month—continue to add value and make a difference. 

Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.


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