Leveraging unused – or underused – assets

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fernando de Sousa

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fernando de Sousa

If your business has been in existence for five years or longer, it probably has old or unused assets sitting around. I’m talking about things like equipment, training materials, or even inventory. When considering what to do with them, think about both the benefits and the risks of repurposing old assets.

Among the benefits you may find:

  • It’s less expensive to re-use old assets than to buy new
  • Repurposing supports your organization’s sustainability philosophy
  • You can act quickly to put the old assets to use

Among the risks:

  • The assets are out-of-date, or out-of-compliance, or irrelevant to your business or customers
  • Keeping the assets around results in “clutter”, whether physical clutter, or virtual clutter (e.g., electronic files on your server)
  • There may be hidden costs to re-using old assets that you overlooked

Let me comment on training assets specifically. You know the kind: you spent $25,000 on a set of videos, used them once, and they’ve been on a shelf ever since. When you find old training programs sitting around, those old training materials are likely to be:

  • Content heavy, and created in a “passive learning” model
  • Content-centered, rather than learner-centered
  • Filled with out-of-date content

The training industry has recently made important improvements in its guidelines for how adult training is structured. New training programs are likely to be:

  • Content rich, created in an “active learning” model
  • Learner-centered, rather than content-centered
  • Customizable, and therefore, “evergreen”

We can learn from those improvements and apply them to old training materials. Even with training materials that are more than three years old, you can find added value from them if you take a few simple actions. From a Learning perspective:

  • Develop performance expectations for the role being trained, then use the old content in support of those expectations
  • Create supplemental training activities that engage employees more deeply than may have previously been done; that is, treat employees as active learners
  • Make clear your expectation that the material taught with those old assets be transferred to the workplace

From a Quality perspective:

  • Adopt a “just-in-time” philosophy of training, to maximize impact and minimize the need to re-train (a type of “re-work”). Just-in-time means to train employees on the content or skills at the time they will need them, not whenever it is convenient for you to present the material
  • Reduce variation in your training results; seek consistency in training delivery
  • Eliminate training “waste”, meaning, training that doesn’t translate to improved performance on the job. Train only on those topics that matter.

Companies on tight budgets make training materials a low priority. On the other hand, companies with ample budgets often wastefully spend money on new training programs before fully leveraging the programs they have. Both scenarios are unfortunate and preventable. With just a little effort a company can maximize the value of its existing training programs and materials.

What are you going to do with your out-of-date training materials? Will they be making their way toward the trash or can you find another use for them? Get in on the conversation be leaving a comment below or by reaching out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

About Rick Swanson

Rick Swanson is founder and CEO of Learning Meets Quality LLC, providing risk management consulting services to businesses and nonprofits. Rick is a Six Sigma Black Belt, and a former chemistry and physics teacher, specializing in mitigating risks associated with inconsistent product quality and poor employee performance. In his spare time he enjoys photography, playing banjo, and brewing beer. Follow on Google +

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