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Is the Economy Changing Our Attitude About Corporate e-Learning?

by Carla Torgerson, instructional strategist

I’ve been wondering... In these increasingly tight economic times, are people more likely to see corporate e-learning as a cost or an investment?

For those not familiar with the return on investment (ROI) speak, if we see training as a cost, then it’s just something to check off our checklist. In this case, we will spend as little as we can and really won’t look at the quality of the outcome. However, if we see training as an investment, then helping employees to do something better improves our business. In this case, we will spend an amount that seems appropriate for the problem we’re trying to solve, and we will care deeply about the quality of web based training and its impact on employees. 

Personally, I know a few trainers and instructional designers who have been laid off (and many more, who like the rest of us, are just plain nervous). In these tough economic times, it’s not surprising that people are trying to cut costs, and some see the training department as an unneeded expense.

But what I’m most interested in is the opposite side of that fence. I was recently at a major cell phone store and the customer service was amazing. I was so impressed that I told the staff person so. He thanked me and said that the company was working on customer service because they believed it could keep customers coming back in these tight times.

In these economic times, I think it’s more important than ever to think of training as an investment. Can you use training to keep customers coming back when they do spend? Or maybe you can train employees to get a process done faster or reduce errors - both of which may also impact customer service.

What are your experiences? As we “tighten our belts” are advocates who once saw training as an investment now seeing it as a cost, or are people who didn’t see a lot of value in training seeing it as a possible competitive advantage? Or are our attitudes the same, but we’re just looking for a better value for what we spend? How is the economy changing our views of training?