HR has been urged to fight to maintain funding for staff training as organisations cut costs in response to ongoing economic uncertainty.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), published today at its annual HRD conference, reveals many employers are already reducing training spend.
But the CIPD and the CBI are both urging employers to treat training as a priority despite continuing concerns about the economic downturn. These fears are likely to be confirmed tomorrow when Gordon Brown announces his Budget. Employers are already having to cope this month with increases in National Insurance Contributions, estimated to cost business £4bn a year.
The CIPD study shows that 28 per cent of private sector employers cut training budgets in the past 12 months in response to worsening trading conditions.
The CIPD's chief economist John Philpott argues that training is even more important when resources are being squeezed.
"The morale and commitment of staff is tied to an environment where they are being provided with access to training and development," he said. "They see that they have a stake in the organisation and are not just short-term business fodder."
Senior policy adviser for the CBI's learning and skills group, Maniza Ntekim, said companies should respond to shrinking resources by focusing training on areas that really add value.
"When employers respond to short-term needs they must bear in mind that, in the long-term, they will need their people to be as skilled as possible to ensure they remain productive and competitive," she said.
HR director at the Montpellier Group Raymond Ryan agreed that employers could compensate for reduced budgets by training smarter.
By Ben Willmott and Ross Wigham
Feedback from the profession
Emma Lochhead, director of human resources, COI Communications
"I think it is a matter of working smarter - for example, more centralisation of the training budget. We are Investors in People for a fifth year running and want to ensure we keep it. We are running more courses in-house to maintain the level