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Training and Development During a Recession

Leaders committed to long-term growth understand that people are the only appreciating asset in any organization. In the past, training budgets have been one of the first expenses slashed during hard economic times, with the next step being downsizing. But business literature is showing a new approach, that is, re-investing in people and demonstrating a commitment to their growth can keep the whole organization alive and flourishing.

The sticky part these days is how to reconcile your bottom line with a commitment to staff development when dollars and extra staffing are so scarce. A learning culture can be kept alive and even nourished during an economic downturn with a little creativity. Try these five strategies:

1. Use the strength of our library community. Bringing outside trainers into your library is an option, but the cost can be high to one organization, especially if not enough staff could benefit. Through your CAMLS network you can share the cost with other member libraries also in need of the same training. Contact CAMLS if you have specific training needs and we will coordinate "team" training opportunities for interested libraries.

2. Skills trading. Find a common place, such as your Intranet or staff room bulletin board, for people to post any skill they have that they would be willing to share with co-workers. Build in some type of structure so that there will be time to commit to the learning, even small increments during slow times, or communication across branches by phone or email. This also will help show value for the whole person by making an effort to find out what talents lie beyond their daily task. Encourage them to "advertise" any skill--don't underestimate the wellness value of a lunchtime yoga group or knitting circle.

3. Free programs. CAMLS committee meetings are an excellent opportunity to hear a short program on a job-specific topic and share information with peers. Go to our committee surveys to tell us what types of programming you'd like to see.

4. Mentoring. Mentoring can be promoted within an organization at little or no cost. Informal networking relationships typically begin with one employee asking a more experienced coworker to be a mentor. Lockheed has developed a simple, informal mentoring program in which pairs of mentors and mentees (current count is 231 pairs) sign one year commitments, register their names, and are offered company support if needed. That's it. There is also a "no fault divorce" provision that allows for the relationship to end amicably.

5. Staff user groups. Community user groups focused on a specific technology may even meet in your library to share tips and tricks and help each other solve problems. Schedule user group meetings for staff who perform similar tasks or work with the same software or database. Make the meetings more informal, with discussion and refreshments.

The availability of online courses such as OPLIN's Element K contract, along with "Train the Trainer" approaches are also cost-effective ways to make sure that staff get the training opportunities they need, which will demonstrate that each worker is a valued asset to the organization.

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