Whether you have a full-fledged training department at your disposal or you’re a
manager who’s responsible for your team’s training needs, it’s likely that
you’re being asked to… you know what I’m going to say, don’t you?… that’s right,
do more with less. Or, if you’re lucky, keep doing what you’re doing now with
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just as your personal budget may need
occasional tightening to help you hone your priorities and become a more
conscious spender, a training budget tuneup can likewise uncover new
To start, you’ll need to review your strategic training plan to determine
whether your budget is aligned with your most deeply held organizational
1 Revisit the Strategic Plan
Let’s assume that you already have a strategic training plan, and that it’s
aligned with your company’s business objectives. Rather than stressing over the
uncertainty of not being able to meet key goals when your financial picture
changes, make the time to review your plan to see if it is still feasible with
your current resources. If it isn’t, map out alternate scenarios for your senior
management team. For instance, if you’re responsible for mandatory compliance
training, what would you save by offering a straight-tothe- point PDF covering
the basic guidelines, coupled with a quiz, to satisfy this year’s training
requirement rather than a fully interactive e-learn course? What about
transitioning some classroom training to an online format? Is that system
upgrade really necessary this year, once you factor in the costs associated with
getting the entire staff up to speed on using it?
These are tough decisions to make. Yes, you often must give up something in the
compromise, for instance, when you move to training delivery methods that your
staff don’t enjoy as much or that aren’t as thorough as you would like. But keep
your ultimate objective in mind: to develop a finely tuned, crystal clear
strategy that aligns with your current company landscape and business
objectives. If the company is cutting costs, then your worth lies in your
ability to show that you can get the job done and reduce expenses.
What if you don’t have a strategic training plan? The perfect time to develop
one is when money is tight and you have to pare your objectives to the
essentials. A good resource that offers a blueprint for painless strategic
workforce training and development strategic planning is 10 Steps to Successful
Strategic Planning, by Susan Barksdale and Teri Lund.
2 Streamline Planning
Your strategic plan is clarified and lean. You know exactly what you’ve promised
to accomplish this year. Now it’s time to plan how the work is going to get done
without waste and on time.
Adhere to strict principles of project management. It’s especially important to
be straightforward about stakeholders’ accountability to clearly defined and
documented time lines and deliverables. Tightly scheduled teams can’t afford
misunderstandings or missed deadlines, so create a standard project planning
methodology and process, and educate your entire team on how to manage their
projects efficiently. For each project, create an internal written agreement
that clearly states who is going to do what by when, as well as contingency
plans and the ramifications of missed deadlines.
3 Leverage Internal Resources
Resourcing — identifying roles, capabilities,
availability and costs — is an essential step in project planning. It deserves
special consideration since having the resources to get the work done is often
the most significant challenge when budgets are tight. You’ll earn big dividends
by being strategic in how you use internal subject-matter experts (SMEs) and
other stakeholders. To be blunt, try to get them to do as much of the work as
possible. This isn’t a self-serving strategy — it’s a very efficient way to move
the design and development work forward.
The reasoning? Training is a crossfunctional responsibility. Everyone in the
organization should have a stake in identifying needs, contributing content and
verifying its accuracy and quality. It’s important to think of the training
function as the conduit for performance improvement interventions (which
includes, but is not limited to, formal training). We facilitate learning
opportunities by identifying needs and clarifying requests, and making sure that
employees have what they need, such as instruction, job aids, individual
coaching, system changes, internal knowledge bases, email communications, etc.
This does not mean that we can or should design, develop and deliver every piece
of “training” or every intervention that is produced.
Also, the traditional instructional design model in which the training function
interviews SMEs, reviews documents and tries to glean what’s important about
content they aren’t familiar with isn’t a very speedy or costeffective approach
to developing or delivering content. A much more rapid and efficient method is
one in which the training function provides templates, tools and expertise to
SMEs who then take on much of the heavy lifting of development.
If you’re a manager with training responsibilities in a group without a
dedicated training function, this is even more critical as you encounter
requests — both large and small — since your training content is probably
generated by crossfunctional resources. For instance, consider your response to
a request like: “We could really use a job aid that shows how to enter these
orders using the new screens.” Should you automatically reply with, “Sure, I’ll
add that to the list”? Or would a better reply be: “That sounds great. Can you
draft what you think it should include and I’ll review it with you?”
4 Manage Internal Requests
The first three strategies concentrate on diligent,
disciplined planning of big-ticket, scorecard-aligned strategic projects. But,
inevitably, changes in scope and additional training requests filter in
throughout the year. As you evaluate requests, first ask yourself if they’re
linked to a strategic organizational objective. Projects that aren’t, and that
require significant resources, simply are not priorities when budgets are tight.
Consider establishing a Workplace Learning Council to help you evaluate training
resource requests and validate final decisions about which projects to take on.
If requesters are persistent and your internal processes permit, you may offer
your assistance to guide them through the process of developing and delivering
their own content. For instance, “That sounds like a worthwhile project and I’d
love to help. Unfortunately, our resources are committed to other priorities for
this year. If this is important enough for you to commit your resources to, I’d
be happy to provide you with guidance toward meeting your objectives or discuss
other ways you might meet your objectives without formal training.”
Training requests should always be responded to quickly and compassionately.
When resources are limited, it’s important to offer alternatives whenever
possible for requestors to meet their objectives. This, and each of the five
cost-conscious strategies, should be proactively communicated to the entire
organization so that employees understand how and why resources are allocated in
alignment with specific, conscious cost and organizational objectives.
Tips for Creating a Strategic Training Plan
If you have a dedicated training function in your contact center, the training
manager or director is responsible for developing and maintaining the strategic
training plan. He or she should use this process as an opportunity to clarify
stakeholder expectations and collaborate with senior management to ensure that
the plan aligns with organizational priorities.
If your center doesn’t have a dedicated training function, then the task of
creating a strategic plan will fall to you. If you’re not familiar with all of
the elements that comprise a training strategy, keep it simple with a basic
projection of your training needs for the upcoming year, including:
How many new employees are you projecting for which positions?
Will there by any system, process or product changes?
What resources —people, financial, technology — are necessary to meet the
How is your current approach working?
What additional resources will you need?
Use this information to clarify training objectives and priorities with
stakeholders, negotiate timing of rollouts and new-hires, and solicit internal
resources to meet demand.
5 Analyze Delivery Methods
This is a logical place to start cutting, but simply slashing entire categories
of training or establishing “no travel” edicts is not the best approach. You can
get close to meeting your desired training objectives — the specific results you
hope to accomplish as a result of a performance intervention — while trimming
costs simply by making adjustments in how, where and by whom the training is
delivered. Here are some suggestions:
Carefully compare classroom vs. e-learning. Classroom training can be
expensive if you factor in multiple locations and multiple classes, but it can
be less expensive than developing an in-depth e-learn course. Consider how many
sessions are needed, session length, who will deliver them, travel costs, and
the design and development costs for training materials. Compare that to the
time and resources needed to develop e-learn options. You’ll typically find
that, for some content, it’s easier to put together a quick classroom session
and train internal staff to deliver it (possibly over the Web, if you’re a
Explore rapid development tools. The e-learn technology field has exploded
with easy-to-use tools that can be used by anyone in the organization. Look into
products like the Adobe Articulate (www.articulate.com) suite of products, which
allows you to easily convert PowerPoint presentations into e-learn courses,
complete with trackable games and quizzes.
Implement performance support tools, collaborative tools (e.g., wikis, blogs)
and other non-training interventions. These are often the most effective way to
share information with agents. Instead of pulling them off the phones, explore
how to embed new or unfamiliar information in the tools that they use, and make
it available to them throughout the day. For instance, start a daily blog where
agents can quickly absorb the day’s updates. Post easy-tofollow job aids on a
wiki or corporate intranet. Look for ways to cut through the clutter of
information that agents receive every day and highlight the most important
Check out Accelerated Learning. This learning approach relies on a variety of
techniques to speed and enhance the learning process. Accelerated Learning
emphasizes multisensory learning and the latest in brain research about how
adults learn best. While it’s not appropriate for all types of content, it works
well for customer services, sales and management skills training. To learn more,
visit The Center for Accelerated Learning (www.alcenter.com).
These days, CFOs are merciless in their zeal to cut unnecessary costs. In
training, this translates into “let’s get in and out as quickly as possible and
move on to the next thing” — which often results in a lack of strategic and
These five cost-conscious strategies can help to guide your decision making in
good times and bad. Recession-driven budget cutting may not slow in 2009, and
neither should we in our determination to design and deliver training
interventions that yield tangible results while using the fewest possible
Recommended Training Resources First Things Fast: A Handbook for Performance
Analysis, by Allison Rossett The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How
to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results, by Calhoun Wick
Reprinted with permission, Contact Center Pipeline