"Training is the universal donor."
Said an HR manager to a very wet-behind-the-ears Nicole, when she tried to find out his training budget for 1992. Unbeknownst to naïve college senior me, we were in a recession. This frustrated manager was schooling me on a reality of business life: when times are tough, the training budget gets diverted to more "essential" business needs. I know many of you are facing the same dilemma today. Here are three reasons NOT to "donate" those learning and development dollars to other areas of the business.
Hungry for Connection
I'm working with organizations that continue to provide learning for their leaders around the world. Especially for virtual facilitated experiences, we are seeing record attendance rates and high levels of active participation. We're noticing a lot of lingering long after the session formally ends. People are hungry for connection. These learning experiences are a way to see others and be seen. Even if only for a couple of hours, well-designed learning is a way to interact formally and informally, share vulnerably and pursue mutual goals.
Hungry for Ideas
Leaders are eager to explore new and different ways to navigate their organization through unchartered territories. When it comes to leading today, no one is a seasoned leader. We are trying to find our bearing without a contextual compass. There's no past to draw upon for reference, no rule book, no case study, no sage's feet to sit at for wisdom. It's a greenfield moment for all. I see learning looking very different than it has up to this moment. Typically, learning is about knowledge transfer, shaping proven attitudes, developing known skills, and embedding desired behaviors as habits. But, now there are no subject matter experts, role models, or track records to base learning upon. Instead, learning experiences need to be times of personal and collective discovery. Learning is a means of innovation. Design learning that looks more like a lab or a playground - a means for leaders to experiment, play safely, create, and share their experiences with others.
Hungry for Meaning
We share new lingo. "Unprecedented times." "Social distancing." and my favorite, "Silver linings." Our communal consciousness yearns to find the goodness - the meaning in the madness. People happily report enjoying once impossible but now routine daytime meals with their kids. Dogs are being walked for miles on end. Stacks of books are being read. Every day new ways to leverage Zoom are invented. People's schedules and priorities are shifting. Where learning and development fought for mindshare, we now have their attention. Leaders have time and are willing to make time for things that bring meaning and hope. Learning is a font of optimism in a world worn out from worry and cynicism.
Speaking of hope… mine is that you now realize how essential learning is for leaders. If you continue to invest in your leaders, they will be better equipped to make sound decisions and take courageous action in this time of ambiguity and uncertainty.