T & T

Sequester, budget pressure, politics and conference scandals are leading many agencies to make cuts to their travel and training budgets. Cutting “T&T” is not new. Anyone who has worked in the training field knows one of the first line items to get cut is training. Why is that? Is training so undervalued that budget cutters think there is too little return on investment to justify the cost?

Sadly, the answer is usually yes. HR and Learning professionals have not done enough to show the returns investments in training are generating. Sometimes that is because they really do not know the ROI. Other times it is because there is none. More often, we simply have not done enough to make the business case for training. Absent a compelling business case, training can and does suffer during budget drills. Leaders who constantly say “people are our most important resource” will cut the dollars that might deliver a better-skilled and more engaged “most important resource.” Is there a solution?

Yes, but it is not easy, and it may require some tough decisions. Here are 4 things you should do if you want to keep training dollars in the budget.

  1. Make a mission case for the training. A mission case, much like a business case, clearly demonstrates how the training dollars will support the agency’s mission. If there is no mission case to be made, find a better use for the money before someone else does.
  2. Build support for the program. A big training program that has the full support of the Chief Learning Officer (CLO), Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) or Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and no one else has a target painted on it. In particular, focus on the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or equivalent. If the CFO is on your side, you have some support when the tough budget calls are being made. Those decisions are often made in one-on-one meetings between the agency head or deputy and the CFO. In addition to the CFO, the training program needs a champion. The people who lead the mission or support area that benefits from the program have to be its champion. If they are not, the program is vulnerable and will be cut.
  3. Establish discrete line items for key training programs. It is easy to give the order to cut a percentage of training dollars when the dollars do not have a program face. It is harder to cut training for the agency’s core mission workforce, or for the acquisition workforce, or for the leaders who will help move the Agency forward and get the workforce more engaged. A budget that is simply for “training” that will be parsed out during the year as needs arise is a target. It can and will be cut.
  4. Establish credibility by eliminating waste in training. I have been told (no joke) “all training is good.” No, it is not. Some training is feel-good or boondoggle training that is used to reward good performers or get poor performers out of the way for a while. In today’s budget climate we simply cannot afford to spend training dollars that way. The CLO/CHCO/CHRO and everyone who works for them must take the lead in cutting waste out of training. That does not mean cut your own budget. It means doing the hard work of ensuring training dollars are being spent on the real needs of the organization. I have never seen an organization that had more training dollars than it needed. Cutting the waste means you have dollars to apply to the pressing learning needs of the organization.

If you go to the budget battle armed with a mission case, a team of strong supporters, and a budget that shows clearly where the money will go, and with credibility you earned by making tough decisions on spending, and you are far better equipped to come away with the dollars you need. If any of those are missing, the budget sharks are circling and you may be chum in the water.

Excerpt from my interview on In Depth with WFED’s Francis Rose

Human Capital? Human Resources? Personnel? Does it matter?

Why did I call this blog ChiefHRO.com (for Chief Human Resources Officer) rather than something that uses the term “Human Capital?” After all, I was the Chief Human Capital Officer for the Department of Homeland Security. So why not use it? Simple – I really dislike the term “human capital.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “capital” as “Wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available or contributed for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing.”  “Resources” is defined as “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”  Proponents of the “Human Capital” designation assert that Human Resources is an organization that provides services and “Human Capital” is strategic value of the people who do the work of the organization. They are not arguing against the people in organizations – in fact they are arguing that people are so critical to any organization’s success that they must be managed and treated as capital – the fundamental underpinning of any successful business. Unfortunately, I can not get past the “owned” part of the definition. Employees are not slaves or indentured servants – they are adults who choose to work for an organization. They are free to leave any time and often do. Your capital cannot decide to take a hike.

The evolution of names for people and organizations who do HR work (and for the work itself) always generates some controversy. Many years ago, they were Industrial Relations Offices. Then they became Personnel, the Human Resources, and then (at least in government) they became Human Capital. Even with all of the name changes, the basic work they did often was little changed. In fact, the name change were aspirational in many organizations. They wanted to be different and, more importantly, they wanted to be perceived differently. The sad fact is that changing your name doesn’t change what you do, who you are, or how you are perceived. I can change my name to Brad Pitt, but I don’t become a blonde, rich and famous movie star.

So is it really important to decide on a name for HR? I don’t think so. If you like Human Capital, by all means be a Human Capitalist. If you prefer HR, go for it. A few years ago, a friend who lead HR for an independent Federal agency changed her title to “Chief People Officer.” I think I like that one best of all, because it says in plain English what it is all about – People. Whatever you do, just recognize that organizations get nothing done without people, and people have minds and hearts and free will. Treat them badly and they can and will walk. Treat them with respect, give them opportunities to do good and interesting things, and they will make you successful. That’s what it (and this Blog) is all about.