I was reading an article by Kevin Wilde, the Chief Learning Officer at General Mills in the March 2009 issue of Talent Management magazine. He is telling readers about a CEO who in hindsight after cutting the training function the previous year is very uncomfortable with the accomplishment report he has prepared for the Board of Directors.
It would seem that the funds that had been allocated to the training function was a positive savings of expenses, but the time that was freed up for employees that no longer needed to attend training events was not as productive as he had planned. He was however quite pleased that newly promoted managers where not bothering senior executives with mentoring meetings so his execs could focus on work. Anyhow, his concept of succession planning was letting the cream rise to the top like in the good old days.
By the end of the story, our CEO has realized that next year has to be different. He realizes that he has lost some of his top talent, especially “this new generation” to companies that focus on personal development. Replacements have been easy to get, but overall the company has had to settle for “C” level performance overall. If they go another year without learning, he fears that the company will fold. In the end, there may not have been much training, but the CEO did learn something.
Although I would hope that this article is complete fiction, I’m sure it is based on too many companies today who feel that the learning function is expendable. Sadly, you may be working for a company that felt training should be cut and the budgets for learning were the first to go to keep the company afloat.
I would hope that no company would go a whole year without the learning function before realizing the damage that decision has caused to their future success. Cut backs are different, and there are ways to engage cost-effective learning even in today’s economy. But friends, never ever go without learning completely. It is just not a prescription for good health!