Training Costs Money

I’m a big Harry Potter fan, not only for the well written story, but for the fact that everyone has a wand that casts spells.  Rarely does a day go by that having a wand would make fixing employee performance easier and faster.  Not to mention it would remove that ugly little secret that training actually costs money to provide.

This secret is often so well hidden in companies, that many completely ignore its very existence when they speak of “supporting the learning function” or “we are very big on learning here” and yet talk about not having money to devote to training employees.  They have grand goals for the learning function, but even salaries are lower than industry norms.

The truth be told, that training can and should return on the money it gets to improve performance, yet unlike Harry Potter, the training manager does not have a magic wand to waive to change performance or make money appear to purchase programs and systems.  I often as a consultant need to be the barer of bad news when the person across the table from me is giving me their wish list, and then shares the lack of money to spend.

I was meeting with an HR manager a few months ago as she in quite some detail, listed off everything she wanted in a training department, and then gave me her budget.  While I’ve been known to pull off a few miracles in my past, I would need a magic wand this time.  It was time to help this company realize they had two choices.

  • First was to prioritize the list, and attach a realistic dollar figure to each project.  If they were willing to fund the money, we could make these things happen.
  • Second, was to admit that training is going to cost money, and if they didn’t budget for it with real numbers, they would need to remove those items from their list until the financial resources became available.

I took the list and attached the dollars it would take to make each thing happen.  I then took their current budget, and asked them if they intended to keep the staff.  The answer was yes, so I subtracted that from the budget and highlighted the balance.  They had enough to do one thing on this list and that was it.  We discussed the highest priority, and I crossed everything else off the list and I handed back the sheet of paper.  Silence.

After letting reality set in, her response was, “well that was blunt.”  I responded that this is just were they are today.  It is no longer a list of things to be done, as until more money was allocated to training they only had one project they could do.  I know I popped their balloon big time, but I’m not doing them any service in getting everyone excited about launching management training, getting a talent management system, bringing in social learning platforms, and revitalizing service and sales skills when there is no money to do them.  Although these were all very targeted learning initiatives, no money means no training.

People wonder why I am such a big fan of a documented training plan, that is meshed with an approved budget.  It is because although it is relatively easy to obtain support for a targeted learning initiative, without money to pull it off it is not going to happen.  Training costs money and no amount of wishing will change that reality.


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