So, following yesterday's budget, it seems that individuals and companies are going to have to watch their pennies and manage ever dwindling resources for a while yet. This means that big budgets for training are likely to remain things of the past, for a while at least. But, those lucky enough to be in employment still need to be trained and most training departments will be looking for ways to stretch their training budgets. Here are some practical tips to help learning continue during times of austerity.
1. Do a proper TNA. Take time to find what the actual ‘gaps’ are and why they exist. Throwing money at training is going to a waste if training isn’t the answer. Maybe your procedures need clarifying or performance management needs to be tightened up. Training only works if people don’t know what to do: If they don’t want to do it, or something is stopping them, then look for an alternative solution.
2. Use bite-sized learning sessions. ‘Power Hour’ sessions allow individuals to get the training they need, whilst limiting the impact on every day operations (no-one minds if you attend a 60-minute meeting, right?). They don’t need specialist trainers to run them, so it can also act as development for your managers.
3. Use projects and secondments. People learn by doing, and if a development need can be addressed alongside a business requirement, then everyone wins. Using coaches or mentors to guide the process maximises benefits to individuals and minimises risk to the business.
4. Use self-directed learning. Whether it is e-learning, traditional 'paper-based' distance learning or task-based activities, giving individuals the resources, permission and time to take control of their own learning can produce excellent results with moderate up-front investment and almost zero on-going costs.
5. Invest in quality design. If you pay someone to write bespoke training for you, you own it, and you can use it as many times as you want, using any trainer that you want. The initial investment is worth it as the more times you run it, the cheaper (per event/per head) it becomes.
6. Evaluate past training. Find out what kind of training is transferred back to the workplace and makes a difference to what people do by conducting a proper evaluation that goes beyond the 'tick sheet'. Prioritise this type of learning as you will get a better ROI.
7. Use freelance consultants instead of large consultancies. An obvious one, but if you must buy-in expertise, take the time to find a freelancer that meets your needs. Ask for recommendations and check out their credentials. You could save yourself up to 50% of the costs associated with a larger consultancy.
8. Make better use of coaching. Use qualified coaches for senior staff, and train managers in basic coaching skills to encourage a coaching culture. Coaching can improve performance a tiny bit every day, but unlike workshops, the impact is day after day, not just one big hit. Again, a moderate investment can have a big improvement.
9. Encourage social learning. New platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and industry specific websites offer excellent learning opportunities through tips, discussion groups and links. Be clear about what people can and cannot use these platforms for, but don't simply switch off the raft of learning that is available for fear of misuse.
10. Prioritise learning that has most direct impact on the business goals. Again, an obvious one, but if funds are scarce, the more you can demonstrate a link between proposed training and business results the more likely you are to get the budget you require.
So, let's think more broadly about learning and development, keep training our people, and let's NOT let a limited budget stop of from achieving great things in the future.