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Make Agility and Resilience Your Keys to Self Preservation

Do more with less. When these intimidating words become an urgent, companywide refrain as economic hard times threaten budget cuts and layoffs, it can feel like your L&D program is under belt-tightening scrutiny — or worse yet headed for elimination.

Responding and adapting quickly is critical when preserving your important initiatives — and your job — is on the line.

Proving the value of L&D is crucial. Preparedness becomes paramount.  

“One of the first things that leaders decide to cut [in a recession] is learning,” Francesco Mantovani, Director Global Learning Technologies and Innovation at Procter & Gamble, recently told HR Exchange Network. “It’s easy. Most people think that if employees don’t do learning for six months, nothing will happen.”

Those disbelievers couldn’t be more wrong. With the ever-increasing rate of technological change today, your organization cannot afford to wait until an economic downturn is over to resume upskilling and reskilling. In order to compete and win, you can’t let your people lose out on new skill development.

And, sure, cutting L&D doesn’t cut into the skills and knowledge your workforce already has. But your people will lose out on the self-esteem boost that learning opportunities are so good at providing. And that can lead to a drop in performance, Mantovani noted.

Cutting L&D is shortsighted.

Losing access to learning is bad enough. For a workforce in a downward spiral already demoralized by layoffs, reducing or eliminating personalized learning opportunities can be doubly discouraging.

As performance wanes, your business can suffer other complications — namely reduced productivity, lower quality, more employee turnover, fewer clients, less to innovate and less growth.

In other words, “If you have no future, then probably yes you should eliminate your L&D function. If you have a future, you need it,” according to analysts at ROI Institute.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, KFC “bucked the recession with a £150 million investment scheme for up to 300 new outlets in the UK by 2014 (an announcement made during the height of the recession in 2009),” according to a Cegos Group report. “This is also resulting in increased employee opportunities across its non-fried, oven-baking offerings as well. The commitment to invest and grow in tough times sends off a strong signal to employees in regard to the opportunities it creates. The result? Increased employee engagement.”

Retaining top talent is critical.

Identifying your best people and investing in them to help make them successful are key to weathering an economic storm, according to consultant Andrea Maliska at Rebel Learn. “Cutting . . . opportunities for highly driven and high-performing employees can cause them to feel like they are not getting the benefits, growth and value out of their jobs as they once did.

“When this happens, it can result in attrition either during the economic downturn or when the economy starts to rebound and the job markets become competitive again. . . This can be both crushing to company morale and costly to the bottom line.”

Studies show that the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to one-and-a-half times that person’s annual salary. 

Know your worth, and prove it.

When recession looms, what’s a cash-strapped talent development pro to do? How can you do more with less and still make L&D work for the greater good at your organization?

Our new, one-page Recession Survival Kit for L&D is designed to help. We’ve captured the top 10 things innovative learning leaders can do to keep learning relevant, develop and retain employees — and prove the business value of L&D — during lean times. 

Download the kit and print it so you’ll remember to:  

  • Look internally for talent.
  • Focus on career paths.
  • Identify employee skill gaps.
  • Create opportunities for peer support and feedback
  • Measure output not time spent, and more.

While the future is uncertain, planning can carry the day.

Jack Kennedy, UK Economist at Indeed, recently expressed hope that recession-related layoffs won’t cut as deep as they did during the 2008 financial crisis. 

By planning for a recession ahead of time, you can help drive a positive response at your organization and come out ahead of your competition. Moreover, you can help preserve your company’s culture of learning and demonstrate its positive business value. As you plan more with less for your learning programs, keep your survival kit close — so it can guide you through the months ahead.

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