Corporate Budget Cuts: Protecting Your Job

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Here’s the reality: When corporations need to trim the fat off their expenses, training is the first program to be downsized.

Why? Because there’s no immediate loss, according to David S. Murphy, founder of the International Association of Information Technology Trainers and a certified professional technical trainer (PTT).

“When a company runs into financial difficulty, often the first thing to be cut is face-to-face training because it’s difficult to quantify what the benefit of that training is. And it’s often a very obvious, large cost item,” he said. “The company would have never thought to say, ‘I’m going to save money this year by getting rid of all my company trucks.’ Because it’s obvious, if I don’t have trucks, I can’t deliver my goods to my distributor. If I cut my training, it’s not obvious that I’m going to have problems in the future.”

To prepare for the possibility of budget cuts, IT corporate trainers need to gather information that proves the success of their instruction to those higher in the chain of command. Trainers should solicit evaluations from students, test them at the beginning and end of each course and then collect this data and send it to management.

“You have to literally, on a daily basis, prove your value to a company,” Murphy said. “You have to protect your job because you will be one of the first people to be cut.”

Student evaluations have been a topic of discussion in the training sphere for years, and the community is split on whether to use them. But Murphy’s not exactly sure why, as he believes they are a win-win.

“It takes the students five minutes, and you collect data,” Murphy said. “Then you can use that data for whatever purpose you want. If the students say you stink because you mumble, well, you can learn not to mumble. If the students say you are great and you helped them improve their productivity, you send that evaluation up to your boss. No matter what feedback you get, you can use it to your advantage, either to improve yourself or to prove yourself to your boss.”

If students aren’t responding, trainers could offer a carrot by doing a drawing for those who completed the evaluation and give the person selected a CD, T-shirt, gift certificate or other incentive. At most, these drawings would cost a department $25 per week but could save your job.

As a trainer, you also need to be canvassing new computer-mediated venues, innovative training methodology and off-site training resources in case your face-to-face time is cut.

Murphy suggests trainers create an online database similar to Microsoft Knowledge Base, where customers can find solutions to a variety of problems. Comparably, trainers can develop an archive of vertical market applications, and every time a trainee asks a question about how to do something with a specific application, the trainer can put the solution into the database, where it is available for other trainees.

Another viable way to augment face-to-face training or replace it if a corporation’s budget demands it is the iPod Nano. The Nano broadcasts video so trainers can videotape lectures, make the lecture a podcast and put it on the company’s intranet for trainees to download.

“How can we use technology to enhance or expand our training? What pushes that question is the cost of face-to-face training,” Murphy said. “It’s horrendously expensive to send employees to face-to-face training. Businesses that pay for the cost of the training are pushing us trainers to use technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our training by using technology. But we really don’t have any wiz-bang technological gadgets. The one that I’m staking my most hope on is the iPod.”

But Murphy urges companies to put their dollars into face-to-face time even if they are in a budget crunch because it is the most effective training method.

“I’ve been saying for decades, people are coming out of college wholly unprepared to go into most businesses, so businesses have to accept the responsibility of training their employees,” Murphy said. “We come out of college with a degree in English or a degree in science, and then we go into a business where we have to learn how to apply our education to that business. In other words, the business has to teach us how to be an employee within that company. A company has to take on training responsibilities, yet time and again I watch companies cut their training budgets.”

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