Podcast | How L&D Teams Can Do More With Less In An Economic Downturn

September 1, 2022
June 26, 2023

Between hiring freezes and high-profile redundancies, L&D has another opportunity to steer businesses through difficult times… IF we can work out where to add value and how to navigate tricky conversations.

​This episode of L&D Disrupt Live helps you build the toolkit for success in this economic downturn.

From working out which problems need solving to identifying missing skills, and building content that tackles challenges preventing success in this crisis, Ajay Jacob and Kevin Alster shared some true L&D wisdom!

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Running order

0:00 Why the economic downturn is both a challenge and opportunity for L&D.
9:14 How can L&D work out where it’ll add value?
16:20 Prioritising your learning efforts and determining the right interventions.
25:07 L&D needs to be more considerate and careful right now.
35:17 Dealing with stakeholder push back on L&D’s value?
43:34 Audience question: Which metrics help L&D measure better?
54:12 Quick tips on creating human-centric learning content.

6 L&D lessons on doing more with less in this economic downturn

“It might sound very morbid and it’s going to be a challenging time ahead, but believe me when I say there is an opportunity hidden in there for L&D to add value.” – Nelson Sivalingam.

It’s too expensive to buy or borrow the skills businesses need to grow right now, so the most economic option is to build those within the organisation’s existing talent. There’s a renewed spotlight on L&D but ramped-up pressure to do more with less.

And as Kevin so succinctly put it, “If you can show value with the resources you already have, that’s how you make a winning case.”

If L&D’s budget has been cut, there’s a high chance everyone’s has

“And what this tells me is that when I go and speak with other departments, everybody is going to be hyper–focused on that problem they’re trying to solve. What’s the skill gap or resource gap they have?” – Kevin Alster.

Tip: Try listening out for sentences that start along the lines of ‘If I just had this’ or ‘I need a person who can do’, Kevin explains that this will help you spot the skills needed, motivation issues or those small levers you can pull to have a large impact.

Don’t get sucked into firefighting, and find the balance between proactivity and reactivity

“It’s not just about the present, it’s about looking forward into the future because we know things will get better.” – Ajay Jacob.

Being reactive to those fires you need to fight is great, but you also need to come up for air, thinking strategically and try to plan ahead.

Ajay gave a great analogy about how operational debt is built up. It’s like falling through the air and building a parachute at the same time. Understandably, you just want something that works before you hit the ground, not the best version.

But when you do land, you have a duty to prepare the best parachute should it happen again. Now is the time for us to build a better L&D parachute for future turbulence…

“When you do the minimum to get through a crisis, you end up accumulating operational debt and you have to start paying that back when things stabilise. Start putting processes in place, thinking about how you can support the long term.”

Use the ICE Framework to help prioritise your L&D efforts

Impact: How big do you think the impact of solving the challenge will be?

How confident are you that this learning experience or solving the challenge will have the desired impact?

Effort: Rate how much effort you think it’s going to take.

“Scoring your challenges based on this framework gives you numbers to play with, and often we see L&D not using numbers enough. It’s really about getting some hard metrics on the table and making it easier to discuss this, not just with the L&D team but with stakeholders across the business.” – Nelson Sivalingam.

Protect your internal experts at all costs

If we’re following that first step of speaking with and listening to other departments and their problems, we’ll get better at framing the business problems.

But if you’re losing the people who can solve them internally, that’s pretty much the worst thing that can happen when you’re strapped for resources.

“L&D can’t do this alone… How do I connect people with the right people who can answer those problems?… and people who’ll give them those skills needed later in their career? Something to look forward to and that people will actually seek out.” – Kevin Alster.

There’s an emotional part to the motivation to consume learning experiences, a desire for it to contribute to their career pathways, and learning from people who’ve been there and done it is a great way to tick both those emotional and developmental boxes for the short and long term.

Think of learning interventions like t-shirt sizes

“What are the skills you’re trying to teach and how do you size that up? If training and one-on-one coaching is the extra, extra large version, what’s the medium or extra small version of that?

“Is it a podcast episode? A different kind of job aid or a framework you can use? It’s about taking what you already have, being more creative and figuring out what else you can do with it.” – Kevin Alster.

Justifying L&D’s value is an argument we can’t win in the long run

Simply trying to present a case for why L&D exists won’t win people over. But if you’re bringing friends along and aligning with people across the business who can explain how you’ve helped solve their problems, that’s far more compelling.

Kevin recommends having two people on your side:

A Change Champion: Someone on the senior leadership team who knows your work and understands the value you bring.

An Influencer: A high-level person on a cross-functional team who can tell a story about how you brought their value or resources to other people and helped solve a business problem.