Go on then.
Two quick stories. In each I think the bravery comes from the people who backed me, not from me (because I just did what I do and that’s not very brave).
i) the annual budget for L&D comes through – and despite the fact the headcount has gone up our budget has gone down. Not much, but the per head investment is down enough for me to notice. I point it out to the HRD. She says there are budget cuts everywhere. I say that I know but I don’t think they should be here. I ask for some time to put together my thoughts as to why. She agrees. It takes me a few years to work out that she was agreeing to two things: to back me and to make her life more uncomfortable. That’s brave.
I get some figures from finance and book out a training room. I spend a day crunching numbers on Excel until I have a three year trend of investment per head, by department and by length of service. I turn it into a one page overview. The HRD takes it to the COO.
He asks us to tell him how we would spend an extra 150k and let him know within 48 hours, he doesn’t have to do this, but he’s prepared to take the flack for the overspend and any cuts that need to be made elsewhere. It’s a lot of money for a cost conscious smaller organisation. That’s brave, to tel everyone you are cutting and then reverse in one area. We get the money and we get to offer some smart cheap solutions as well as some more targeted investment. If you don’t ask you don’t get – but if you don’t have brave people backing you then you don’t get. We ran a development programme, two thirds of the programme were promoted before we have even taken the cohort through the full activity. We also got to do some things for everyone in the business we couldn’t have done otherwise. Money well spent.
ii) I’m new in the job. I’ve just taken responsibility for the Training Team and I’m asked to sit through a dry run of material to be rolled out to the entire organisation, sessions start the following day.
I hate 90 per cent of the material. I hate the structure. I hate the packaging. I hate the messaging. I watch the room. I can tell that other people do too. I watch the trainer and I can tell that they do too. We plod on. We can’t answer the questions that we know delegates would ask with any degree of conviction.
At the end of the day we enter the session designed to make any adjustments and people start talking about where we could make improvements. Where we could tweak.
I stop the conversation and ask if anyone believes what we are about to deliver to the organisation solves the problem we have.
The answer is ‘no, but we told the senior team we would deliver it by now, so we have to do something’ .
I ask if they think the senior team would rather we asked for more time or took up the time of every person in the business to put them through something even we didn’t rate.
Nobody wants to deliver it.
I head over to see the CEO. He listens and asks what I want to do. I say that I want us to do it properly and suggest what we should do. It means wasting all of the work and time that has gone into organising time to be available and completely redesigning what we have.
He agrees and asks how we should communicate it. I tell him what I’d like to do and he says to leave it with him.
Twenty minutes an email goes to the whole organisation. It says that time is precious and we take pride in setting our standards high. We are cancelling some training and it isn’t because we don’t want to invest in people, it’s because we want to do it right. He says it is his decision.