In any organisation, the human resources budget takes into account a lot of parameters — from selection and placement, compensation and benefits, background checks, health, safety and security, to learning and development. This pandemic-touched world has proved that technology is the key to survive a crisis. It has given rise to the need for reskilling and upskilling of existing and new employees, making the conversation on learning and development (L&D) and related costs extremely important. It is believed that since being digitally savvy is imperative in a lot of processes, the HR budget may see a larger allocation towards L&D.
The world of HR unanimously accepts that L&D will be crucial in managing teams of the future. Many physical processes have gone digital now, which has made the shift even more significant. Additionally, the shift also minimises a lot of costs. Earlier, in the classroom-teaching method, trainings required organisations to pay for the travel and lodging of their employees. All that is a thing of the past. Now, organisations are expected to use a blended model. Therefore, while most of the training happens online, they can get people together for a sense of camaraderie. HR experts, therefore, believe that while the total budget will remain the same, realignment and reallocation may happen.
“When we get trained by our partners, they don’t charge us. So, it doesn’t affect our training budgets. Since we don’t have to spend money, we have intensified the learning journey.”
Sudheesh Venkatesh, chief people officer, Azim Premji Foundation, highlights an important fact about organisations cutting down on costs, which has definitely changed HR budgets now. “In many organisations, new recruitment cost has dropped while in others, salary increases have been put on hold. Recruitment advertising cost has moved from mainstream media to largely social media now. So, if one takes a mix of all these things, HR budget is certainly witnessing a change. Will there be increased allocation for L&D? Perhaps, yes!” Venkatesh predicts.
“during tough times, the HR budget is normally frozen, but it depends on the industry. Information technology or service industries will keep investing more on L&D.”
Even in the learning phase, there are certain costs involved. Many organisations are indulging in artificial intelligence (AI) or virtual reality (VR) practices to make technology even more inclusive in their HR processes. However, that will be a one-time investment. One can involve so many people in just one session compared to two days of face-to-face training. Therefore, technology costs can get easily mitigated as cost on non-value added things will go down.
Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR consultant, is of the opinion that specific skills training will be more effective now. Therefore, he believes, “The cost may remain same or go down, but the focus will be much more targeted. New skills will be required in the evolving scenario, so the investment will go towards that. In tough times, the HR budget is normally frozen but it depends on industry to industry. Information technology (IT) or service industries will keep investing more on L&D. It also depends on the forecast the business makes. If it’s on the higher side, the focus on talent acquisition and L&D will be higher,” explains Priyadarshi. The budget, therefore, will be moved depending on which process needs more attention in the post-COVID world and L&D will definitely be considered.
“In many organisations, new recruitment cost has dropped, salary increases have been put on hold and recruitment advertising cost has moved from mainstream media to social media. So, HR budget is certainly witnessing a change.”
Obviously, those who were already making a shift towards digital, definitely got the early movers advantage. As Rohit Suri, chief HR & talent officer – South Asia and corporate communications – GroupM India, reveals that the organisation has been employing digital means for nearly all HR processes for a few years now. Therefore, when the lockdown hit the country, they just had to make certain logistical changes on ground. “Much of our training is done in-house or by our partners. When we get trained by our partners, they don’t charge us. So, it doesn’t affect our training budgets. Since we don’t have to spend money, we have intensified the learning journey. We have hired 30 people from the campus. There’s a good three-month long training, typically in classrooms with tools and all. In the last two to three years, we reduced the induction to a one-day process and devoted the rest to webinars,” Suri points out.
The moral of the story is, while HR budgets may remain static or dip lower — with a lot of costs being truncated due to remote working — there is a higher probability of budget realignment, in which case, L&D will definitely get the benefit.