Why would you invest in training in a recession? Because, though it might not feel like it yet, but the UK is deep in one.
You might be worried that you’re going to come under pressure to cut your training budget. You might well be right. The figures are stark: a drop in GDP of 20% in the 3 months to June. The sharpest drop on record. And yet, with pubs, shops and restaurants reopening, and the sun (mostly) shining, it feels as if we’re a long way from the dark days of 2009. But the furlough scheme will soon end, Brexit isn’t going anywhere and reality may well hit us all hard in the coming months.
What the recession means for the public sector
In 2009, it became clear pretty early in the recession that the public sector would be hit hard. Pay freezes, cuts and austerity were the order of the day. No-one in the sector was thinking much of investment. We were scrabbling to survive.
This time? We don’t know for sure, but the current government has demonstrated a general willingness to invest when needed. And given the size of the post-2009 cuts, it seems unlikely that we’ll see anything on that scale again. Instead of considering what might be cut, let’s think about what we might now be able to gain.
How public sector leaders can help the country weather the storm
Even if you and your organisation don’t come under pressure to cut, you’re likely to come under pressure to be cautious. Revenue may drop, debts will be harder to chase and funding more difficult to get.
Investment in training in a recession seems like an obvious, easy place to roll back spending. But it is capable well-trained managers who are able to lead through change. Those with out-of-date skills or an inability to progress aren’t likely to be able to step up when things are tough. As a public sector leader, it’s up to you to make the case for continued investment in training.
3 ways to make your case for investing in training in a recession
You’ll gain the skills you need to make it through the downturn
Many of your managers won’t have worked through a recession before. Those who have, may have been too junior to have been making decisions or managing dwindling budgets. Depending on your organisational needs, financial management, leadership and policy skills training could all help you, and your people, get through this relatively unscathed.
You’ll keep morale high
When recession hits, morale drops. While public sector staff don’t usually have to contend with the fear of their employer going into liquidation or major restructuring, we will face significant challenges. Even if funding and public sector jobs are not cut, the fear of that changing will be there. An employer that fails to invest in its people will create doubt in the future. People know that when investment disappears, jobs follow.
You’ll be able to provide a better service
Recession or not, your organisation exists for a reason. The services you provide are needed. In a downturn, they might be even more needed than usual. The people leading, developing and managing those services need quality training to allow them to perform at their best. And this applies whether you’re a policy-driven Whitehall organisation or a district council.
You’ll be ready to thrive once the downturn is over
There is hope for a fast, v-shaped recovery. While we’ve a long way to go, GDP rose by over 8% in June. And even if the recovery takes years, it will eventually come. What kind of shape will your organisation be in if it fails to invest? Investment now means you’ll have the people and skills you need to succeed and strengthen once we’re on the other side.
What happens if you stop investing in training?
When you stop investing in training, people are likely to stop feeling committed to your organisation. Even in a recession, they’ll start looking around for other roles. They’ll assume that lack of training means that either they, or the organisation as a whole, are on the way out. The result? Rising turnover, poor recruitment and lack of skilled staff. Potentially, even, a failing organisation.
What kind of training should you invest in during a downturn?
As at any other time, the right training depends on your organisational needs and the development needs of your staff. But in general, think about: