What low growth and high debt mean for corporate learning

Although here in the UK inner-city rioting is grabbing all the headlines, behind the scenes we are experiencing (another) economic sea change, one that will influence just about everyone in the western world. The markets have woken up to the fact if you’re going to tackle crippling levels of national and personal debt then that necessarily means spending less and that economic growth will suffer as a result.

Whatever the arguments about how best we resolve these issues, prolonged periods of lower levels of economic activity will have an effect on l&d as on everyone else:

  • In the public sector, the spending cuts required to pay off national debt will mean that management will be looking critically at all non-essential expenditure.
  • In the private sector, the majority of enterprises can only continue to grow profits by cutting expenditure – there simply isn’t enough growth in western economies to rely on sales continuing to increase as they have in the past. So, again management will be casting their eye over any activities that are not absolutely necessary.

This situation is not temporary. It isn’t just a case of the normal  economic cycle taking its course – keep your head down and in a couple of years it will all be back to normal. We have to get used to working smarter and for l&d that’s likely to mean:

  • less courses, more resources: teach the really important things well and back this up with information available on-demand
  • less face-to-face, more online: when courses are needed, they don’t always need to be face-to-face nor do they need to last for days at a time; live group events are even more effective in one hour chunks
  • less live, more self-directed: live sessions are hard to schedule and inflexible; provide learning materials as small modules available anytime any place
  • less trainer-led, more peer-to-peer: enterprise social media tools make it far easier for employees to seek help from and share expertise with their colleagues; you won’t have time to teach everything, so don’t even try

There’s nothing new in this list, but there’s even more urgency now to put it all into practice. Those showing a reluctance to move with the times are sitting ducks – and we all know what happens to them.

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