Often in recessions training budgets are amongst the first to be cut, however research based on previous downturns demonstrates that companies who continue to invest in training are in the strongest position to gain competitive advantage in recovery.  Building on this research is the findings from the OGC (Office of Government Commerce) that highlighted one of the top 4 reasons for project failure is poorly trained Project Managers.

During a downturn organisations need to adjust their strategies, distilling business change into programmes and projects.  Failure of these projects can be crippling.

The view on training was reinforced by a coalition of the UK’s most senior business people who recently took the first-time step of issuing a joint call to employers advising them to make investment in training during the downturn a top priority.

The open letter published in national newspapers was signed by:

Sir Mike Rake:
Chairman of BT group and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills;
Sir Stuart Rose:
Chairman of Marks & Spencer and Business in the Community;
Richard Lambert:
Director General of the CBI;
Brendan Barber:
General Secretary, TUC;
David Frost:
Director General, British Chambers of Commerce;
Miles Templeman:
Director General of the Institute of Directors;
John Wright:
Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses;
John McNamara:
Chief Executive, Alliance of Sector Skills Councils;
Jackie Orme:
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development;
Ruth Spellman:
Chief Executive, Chartered Management Institute

The letter stated “the skills of our people are our best guarantee of future prosperity – and the best investment a business can make in challenging times.  We must not pay the price of failing to invest in the very talent on which our future will be built.”

A recent report by Cranfield University “Nurturing Talent” also cited that during a period of financial instability a strategic approach to the development of internal talent was a cost effective way to boost business performance and indeed found that that successful organisations were characterised by those that had long-term focus on employee development.

A good example of this philosophy was demonstrated by South West Airlines who trained their way out of a recession. Whilst they reduced external recruitment they also increased their training budget to boost internal talent and maintain morale. This move helped ensure they had the skills that it needed to survive the 2001 recession and they even made a profit.

Given the importance of well run projects, the need for project management training is magnified when considering Project Managers and project office staff.  It is at this time that projects must be delivered within time, cost and quality constraints.  There is no room for delays or overruns.  Customised training to meet the exact needs of the organisation and it’s projects provides significant ROI over generic public courses.  Now is the time to invest.

– UK Commission for Employment and Skills
– “Nurturing Talent”; Cranfield University School of Management