The last word

It’s all systems go, say the economic forecasts. But trainer
and writer John Charlton is guarded in his optimism

Are you feeling upbeat? If so, you are in tune with many who track the UK
economy’s fortunes.

Economic optimism, according to my Moodometer, is soaring – a view shared by
more business confidence surveys than you can shake a stick at. Big business is
optimistic, says Goldman Sachs; small businesses are even more optimistic,
claims the Bank of Scotland; and even the moribund IT industry’s outlook is
virtually optimistic, reckons the International Data Corporation, going out on
a limb to proclaim: "Things will be fairly upbeat in 2004". Heck,
even the FTSE 100 index is set to hit 5,000 by year-end.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has also caught the
bug, predicting the number of people in work will jump by 250,000 this year.

Only in bus queues is pessimism rife. Oh, and among some providers of
training materials and services that rival transient high-street retail outlets
in the scope and duration of their sales and special offers.

So what does all this business optimism mean for the training manager? Well,
it could herald a major change in the mood music that accompanies training
departments’ fortunes. Perhaps Rags To Riches instead of Buddy, Can You Spare A

As organisations’ fortunes rise, so in many instances do headcounts. The
higher the headcount, the greater the training budget. The more difficult it is
to recruit, the more pressing the need to upgrade skills and raise
productivity. Training is the key to staff productivity – the more productive
staff are, the less likely it is that total wage costs will spiral.

The miracle of the virtuous training circle is set to happen. So dust off
your five-year plan to launch that in-house, corporate online university you
have always promised yourself. There can only be one candidate for the
vice-chancellor’s job, can’t there?

But business optimism is a fragile flower. Just hope the soothsayers got it
right, and Bin Laden stays in his cave.

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