Doing Less with Less

In preparation for our upcoming research conference IMPACT 2009: The Business of Talent®, I just finished a conference call with six executives from well known HR and corporate training outsourcing companies:  Accenture, Convergys, General Physics, Intrepid Learning Solutions, NIIT, and RWD.  Together, these six companies represent more than a billion dollars of outsourcing and corporate training services around the world.

One of the participants made the comment that in today’s market, the big strategy companies are trying to adopt isGlass Half Full “Doing Less with Less.”  

As I considered that comment, I thought it was very profound and wanted to share some thoughts.

In today’s economic environment, with many companies seeing their markets and budgets shrink, the #1 problem corporate training (and other expense departments) face is figuring out what to cut and what to keep.  This problem is not as simple as it sounds.

If someone came up to you and said “start doing less” – most likely you would scratch your head and think hmm, what is it I should stop doing?   This is precisely the problem which corporate training and HR organizations face today.  As many of our research reports point out, most corporate L&D organizations have hundreds or thousands of training programs – many of which are not urgent or strategic at this point in time.  And most organizations still have a very federated model for corporate training, with staff and programs being administered all over the world.

One of the participants in the call mentioned that one of their clients had more than 15 different sales training providers, each offering their own “sales methodology” to different parts of the organization.  Clearly this presents an opportunity to save money and increase focus.

If you want some motivation along these lines, consider Cisco – a company that spends more money on training per employee than almost any other high technology manufacturer.  For years Cisco has had more than 30 different training organizations around the world delivering world-class sales, technical, service, and manufacturing training.   We have worked with Cisco for more than 7 years and have constantly been amazed at the company’s willingness to innovate and spawn new and different approaches to employee training.

This year the company made a huge decision:  they are centralizing the entire organization.  They are going to clean up multiple vendor contracts for similar programs, centralize training functions, use centralized infrastructure, and reduce the total spending on employee development.  This will not be an easy transition – but ultimately Cisco will build a more efficient, aligned, and flexible process for employee training, skills development, and knowledge sharing.

It is time to learn how to “do less with less.”  It will be good for all of us.