The Institute of Directors (IOD) has identified that companies who do not cut training spend in a recession gain seven competitive advantages. Such companies:
- Are well-positioned when economy recovery starts, as those businesses that do not survive will open up market share to those who do.
- Remain competitive. Knowledgeable employees are more motivated and will find new ways of generating revenue.
- Have greater understanding of customers’ buying habits and how to build on their loyalty, which helps to maintain repeat business in a recession.
- Enable their people to stand back from the day-to-day operations and understand the strategic implications of their work.
- Send one of the most powerful messages to their employees - that they are valued. When your employees are anxious about job security, it is more important than ever to demonstrate a commitment to them.
- Avoid a long term skills shortage. (Apparently UK businesses are still recovering from skills lost during the 1990s recession due to poor investment.)
- Benefit from increased productivity in the short term, as well as the long term.
The IOD concludes from all this that "the sooner you engage your staff, the earlier you can address and deal with the impact of the recession."
A recession, when time pressures are considerably reduced, is an ideal time to invest in training. It certainly takes courage and conviction, but the dividends can be huge. Remember, IBM became the company it did because Thomas Watson refused to layoff anyone during the Great Depression. Instead he required his people to use their time gainfully, improving themselves, with the result that after the Depression, IBM was, for a considerable period, one of the most successful companies in the world.
So just think, if training people during a recession can make the sort of difference the IOD depicts, how much more will actually valuing people deliver? If the key point is, as they say, that people need to feel valued in order to be engaged, this has to deliver all these benefits and then some.