How to train employees on a shoestring

March 13, 2013
in Featured Article,Managing & Communicating

When companies need to cut corners, one of the first things executives slash is the training budget. When that happens, it’s time for you to get creative.

The benefits

Start by determining which training is must-have and which is nice-to-have. Must-have training is that which is mandated by federal, state, and/or industry regulations, such as sexual harassment or safety. Other must-have training can include training that is not legally mandated, but is beneficial in preventing or defending against legal claims.

To assess the importance of continuing to provide training programs that aren’t mandatory, consider:

  • The risks of not providing the program
  • How quickly the skill set being taught will become dated
  • How essential the program is to the company’s success
  • The impact on employee morale and retention.

You can use these same factors to determine whether there is a training program that the company should be adding.

The costs

Once decisions are made as to which training programs will be continuing, next determine ways of cutting the costs of those programs.

  • Be selective in who gets trained. Instead of training the whole company or a whole department, it might be enough to just train managers and maybe a few key employees who could then, in turn, pass on what they’ve learned. Tip: If training a large number of individuals is unavoidable, look for volume discounts.
  • Prepare the material in-house. Instead of purchasing a canned training session, put one together internally. The Internet is packed with free resources. For example, Business Management Daily offers a free downloadable Microsoft Excel tutorial.
  • Present the material yourself, instead of contracting with an ­outside trainer. If you’re unqualified to present the material, look in-house before looking outside. An IT manager, for example, might have the requisite skills needed to teach a new computer program.
  • Reduce the frequency of training sessions. Instead of conducting training twice a year, do it once a year, and provide written materials that participants can refer to as needed.
  • Forgo travel in favor of online web conferences and seminars. Cut out transportation, hotel, and meal costs by utilizing web-based training, which lets you pay one enrollment fee and gather an unlimited number of employees around the computer.
  • Adopt a no-frills approach. Skip the catered lunches, and instead opt for brown-bag sessions. You probably also can do without the glossy handouts. Capturing and keeping employees’ attention doesn’t take a lot of bells and whistles; it takes good, useful content and a captivating presenter.     
  • Explore nontraditional alternatives. Sometimes employees will learn just as much, or even more, from being mentored by, or shadowing, a co-worker as they would from a classroom-type training session.

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