Organizations must hone skills of employees

Slowdown or no slowdown experts say that it’s absolutely imperative for organizations to hone skills of employees well equipped with leadership skills. Hence, the ongoing testing times shouldn’t be a hindrance towards grooming and nurturing prospective leaders of tomorrow and organizations are ensuring just that, through more ways than one.

In their most recent survey on the top global companies for leaders Hewitt identified one distinguishing characteristic that sets such companies apart from their peers – even during the economic downturn the top companies remained committed to building leadership capability within their organizations. In other words, tighter budgets and fewer resources forced these organizations to think and act smarter and more creatively about what really mattered when it came to leadership but they didn’t lose focus. Global practice leader of leadership consulting at Hewitt says our research and experience tells us that while leadership talent is in short supply around the world, the top companies for leaders are still able to groom a near constant supply of world class leaders regardless of economic conditions. This capability gives them a unique advantage over their competitors and will poise them to emerge stronger and more quickly out of the economic downturn.

Experts add that in addition of reassigning, companies cutting jobs should carefully protect training and development programs. These are not only essential to maintaining work place morale, but also long term productivity. During the last recession, a well known IT major continued offering classes at its leadership institute by replacing external facilitators with the company’s senior leaders. This approach not only reduced the cost of delivery, but also thanks to the involvement of senior leaders, redirected the content of the leadership program by tying it more closely to decisions and skills affecting the company’s current performance.

Cost cutting, during a downturn is often necessary to ensure a company’s current profitability and future competitiveness. Rather than freezing all hiring and employee development programs, companies should use this period as an opportunity to upgrade talent and better engage existing staff.

If organizations consider training as discretionary spending, then they’re not thinking long term but for the next quarter. Too many organizations still dismiss talent management as a short a term, tactical problem rather than an integral part of a long term business strategy, requiring the attention of top level management and substantial resources. However, progressive organizations continue to invest in learning and development, albeit in more cost effective ways. Organizations are using e-learning programs in a big way; it is an economical option because of its scalability. Companies that re skeptical about e-learning use blended learning to get the best bang for their buck. Apart from this, due to the slowdown there has been a flight to quality organizations are turning to top executive education schools with a track record of success..

Though training budgets are often the first to go in a recession, research demonstrates that growing your own is an effective way for organizations to obtain the skills that they need while saving money.

Cutting down training cost now leads to recruitment cost being disproportionate. Also, if companies continue to invest in employee development, it is a very powerful message that the organization continues to think long term. This obviously applies to leadership training. Especially so, in these times, the leaders need to play by the new rules of the game.

Recently HBP implemented a 12 month leadership training program for WNS. Chief people officer – WNS explains the need for what critics would term as expenses in this economic environment. The complexity of work being delivered by BPO companies is increasing further, adding to the need for highly skilled professionals. In such a high growth environment continuous training of the talent pool is critical for business growth. For us, learning and development is strategic imperative. We do not believe in changing our focus on strategic imperatives based on short term environmental factors.

Due diligence was paid to map the need and design of the program – head of learning & Development Academy, WNS continues., The leadership development program conducted with Harvard Business Publishing i.e. Harvard Management Series for AVPs and VPs and Harvard Leadership Series for SVP+ roles were based upon competency framework jointly identified by Harvard Business Publishing and WNS. The competency requirements for the future were identified and mapped to the competency directory built by HBP. Post this, the design document was jointly created and the curriculum design was established.

The answer, say experts lies not in slashing training budgets but in creatively employing the same. There has been a pull back in discretionary areas; leadership training is one of hem. In the last few months, companies have taken a decisive action. Getting through this time is priority but not the end game. The war or talent is coming raging back; comeback is going to be a huge challenge.

Ironically, experts add, now is precisely the time to keep investing in skills of people. When markets are shrinking and order books falling, it is our talent’s commitment, productivity and ability to add value that will keep organizations competitive.