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Training In A Turbulent Economy

Originally published: 04.01.08 by Lisa Bordeaux


Your budget should always have room for training.

Investment in employee development through a well-planned training program provides a significant competitive advantage for contractors. Many companies invest in their people during a strong economy because they see the need to hire new employees and expand their business. 

Yet when the economy dampens, they often scale back that investment and suffer long-term consequences. The best training opportunities occur during economic downturns, leading to better competitiveness when things improve. More companies now see the value in promoting from within the organization to effectively succeed while providing growth opportunities to their people. When business is slow, developing highly skilled employees prepares the entire organization to ride the next wave when business picks up. A company cutting training from its budget may find itself unwittingly cutting muscle instead of fat during a downward cycle in the economy. 

To be sure, on the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributor’s CD “The Power of Profit: Profiles in Wholesale Distribution,” Branch Electric’s Chuck Steiner describes the company’s strategy in 2002. “We viewed people as our number one asset. We committed to train and develop them so that they knew who we were and how we did our business. All of our

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training effort was to ensure that all employees had the necessary skills to be our number one asset. As a result, 85% of our management team started in warehousing and driving.” 

Training employees no longer requires significant time away from their normal work responsibilities. Leveraging technology to minimize the need to remove employees from the workplace extends the reach of training. Short, content-rich training modules accessed during normal slow times throughout the day hold the learner’s attention and deliver ‘just-in-time’ information. 

Employees who are properly challenged by a comprehensive training plan develop the ability to focus on the most profitable aspects of the business. In many cases, partnering with knowledgeable staff and vendors leads to inexpensive ways to continue growing organizational intelligence. 

Tracking training activities in a learning management system enables company management to identify knowledge gaps and ensures all employees are as productive as possible. 

Riding the cycles of the economy means using training effectively. One of the most common reasons for limited training endeavors is lack of time. “We’re just too busy and can’t find time” is understandable, yet wrong. Training becomes the tool for keeping employees productive, and for practicing the behaviors and activities that lead to better on-the-job performance. 

Doing more with less has always been a business mantra. While investing in employee training and development benefits the bottom line, reality requires tangible and measurable results. An organized and well-administered training program addresses a range of business needs. Implementing process improvements, cross-training employees for increased flexibility during peak activity times, identifying and filling employee knowledge gaps, and longterm succession planning can all result from a systematic training plan.



Articles by Lisa Bordeaux

Training In A Turbulent Economy

Investment in employee development through a well-planned training program provides a significant competitive advantage for contractors. When business is slow, developing highly skilled employees prepares the entire organization to ride the next wave when business picks up.
View article.