There are many business scenarios that require training, including implementation projects, new industry standards, changes in regulations, employee turnover, employee motivation and development, to name a few.
While most managers will agree that training is an important factor in determining project success, training is also one of the first budgets to be cut.
Combine the low training budgets with the corporate pressure for results, and managers often find themselves performing a balancing act between quality of training and available resources.
With all this in mind we often ask ourselves: as training professionals, is it possible to provide training with little or nothing in the pocket? Luckily for us, the answer is: YES, it is possible! Are you ready to go from zero to hero? Here are some of the strategies that anyone can implement to provide training at little cost or no cost:
Take Advantage of Free Resources
Nowadays, there is a large variety of free training offerings; a simple web search is a great starting point. Sites like Alison.com, open2study.com, Microsoft Virtual Academy, among others offer free courses that could be integrated to a training plan. In addition, free trials are an option to test and explore in depth what these sites can offer.
Alternatively, if you are wanting to develop content that is a little more catered & custom to your needs, many training tool developers often provide free accelerators, such as templates, or even pre built content.
Design a Mentorship Program
Mentoring is an excellent tool for many organizations. Whether you design an informal or formal mentorship program, it is important to define a goal, create a framework that explains each phase, and outline the expected results.
Connecting the mentors with the right mentees is key to achieve the expected results, as each has a different background, skills, learning/teaching styles and needs. As a best practice for the matching phase, a strong profiling is essential. Be sure to include mentor/mentee preferences, topics of interest, location, availability and goals.
A well-managed Mentorship Program will give the opportunity to develop your mentees by taking advantage of the Mentor’s expertise at no additional cost.
Use your In-House Knowledge
When we think about training we tend to think of external knowledge without realizing that there are actually many ways to encourage knowledge sharing across team members. Identify people with communication and presentation skills and implement one or more of the following techniques:
Cost wise, is much more effective to send one or a few of your team members to a formal training and have them share the knowledge with other team members once they get back.
Create a Brown-Bag Series
This is a great way to involve the team in all aspects of the business. Ask your employees to prepare a presentation of what their role is about, how they contribute to the business and how they depend on others to perform their job. As your employees learn about the company’s business processes, they will be encouraged to cooperate with other team members.
Cross-Training on the Spot
Know-how is one of the most valuable assets of any organization, luckily it is more available than we think it is. Look around your production or any area in your organization and you will notice that what keep things rolling is the know-how of your employees. Take advantage of that valuable asset and encourage your employees to train others while performing the task. According to the 70:20:10 model, 70% of what we learn is through experimentation. Have them shadow someone who is experienced until they are ready to perform the task or assume the role on their own.
In-house knowledge is a great source of training opportunities. As a learning and development specialist, be creative and find different formats to encourage knowledge sharing. You will always find people willing to contribute and share their knowledge at no cost for the organization.
Switch to Online Training
When we hear “online training” we tend to think of self-paced online courses like the ones available on Udemy.com or Lynda.com. Even though they are an excellent and cost effective way to get trained, there is more to Online training.
Virtual Instructor-led Training combines the best of Online Training and Instructor Led Training by providing a two-way communication channel, the possibility of having immediate feedback and instructor guidance. There are plenty of tools that allow to do screen sharing and video conference at the same time, transforming the virtual training into a real experience. Cost wise, Virtual Instructor-led Training is an efficient way to deliver training as there are no travel expenses and employee downtime is minimized.
A Learning Management System (LMS) is commonly used as a central repository of content where employees can access relevant training materials to their job role. However, beyond being a central repository, think of it as a way to host and rapidly deliver customized content. Instead of having a professional to create and deliver training materials, an LMS can help you cut the cost related to the delivery phase.
As mentioned before, Online Courses are an effective way to get trained, however there is an extra tweak to that. By negotiating licenses in bulk you can get a better deal per license. Even though this will require an upfront investment, travel costs can be significantly reduced and again, employee down time can be minimized.
Bring Speakers Instead of Trainers
Trainers are often an expensive choice when you need to reach a large population. Training involves aspects like travels, curriculum preparation, assessment preparation, and long hours of consulting between the client and the trainer. In contrast, a speaker is a person that specializes in a few topics and can deliver a single session to a large number of people, maximizing the value of the investment. Ensure the goals of the session are known, contextualize the speaker and ensure the content is aligned to the overall goals.
Talk to your Industry Association
Industry, professional or government associations often offer discounted rates for training events. Check your association webpage or subscribe to their newsletter to look for training opportunities. Depending on the membership, some of the training offerings might be free of charge.
Share the Cost with your Employees
There are some situations in which a technical training is required to perform certain function, most of the times this type of training is expensive and not always the company is willing to cover the cost. As an alternative, design a policy to share the cost of these type of trainings with the employee. Most organizations tie this to the career development and succession plans.
As an overall training strategy, building a training plan by role can help your organization to save some extra dollars. An annual or bi-annual training planning can help you organize and prioritize which trainings are the most important, negotiate bulk prices for licenses or training hours.
Despite budget constraints, training on a limited budget is possible. Be creative, mix training techniques, design a plan and always measure the results of your efforts. Now, go out and be a hero to those who need your support.
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