Educating Your Workforce on a Shoestring Budget

One of the great dilemmas faced by all organizations these days is the ongoing need for employee development and training in an environment where there seemingly is less time and, more than likely, less budgetary resources available to do so.

Prioritize the Spectrum of Development Topics Most Urgently Needed by Your Workforce
The first step in getting your head and hands around this daunting task is to carefully analyze the core development needs of your workforce. While it might be a lovely notion to have all employees up-to-speed on the latest spreadsheet program or the principles of project management, it is essential that you step back and ask yourself which specific skills and knowledge are essential for competent job performance in specific roles across your organization. Armed with this information you can then look for the common shared needs that touch the greatest number of employees.

Identify the Knowledge and Skills That are Unique to Your Organization
Once you have a general sense of the most urgently needed development topics, the next step is to determine which of those topics represent knowledge or expertise that is proprietary to your organization, or for which there is a resident pool of subject matter experts uniquely qualified to train/educate others.
The bulk of your internal training and education efforts should be directed toward those topics for which no viable external resource is available.

Empower Your Employees to Take an Active Role in Their Development
Rather than approaching training and development from the traditional patriarchal model where it is the responsibility of the organization to spoon-feed employees the knowledge via conventional methods, why not consider delegating responsibility for development to your employees to increase their level of personal commitment to the process?
Instead of spending your limited resources on course development and delivery, consider making development a key component of your employees’ individual performance development plan and utilize your budget to incent and reward employees for locating sources and implementing the development on their own. As the old adage goes, “necessity is the mother of invention,” especially when there is a financial incentive to do so.

Be Creative and Willing to Think Outside of the Box
In addition to traditional classroom sessions, webinars and other conventional knowledge transfer methodologies, it might be worth considering more organic, personalized strategies such as individual mentoring relationships and peer mentoring groups. One of the basic tenets of adult learning theory is the power of “action learning” where learning is incorporated into on-the-job performance.

A very cost effective way of acknowledging and capitalizing on the wisdom of your most seasoned people is to incent them to serve as advisors to project teams and to make themselves individually available to newer employees in much the same way that newer/younger workers in the past apprenticed under seasoned workers in various trades.

Create a Culture of Continuous Learning
There are a multitude of advantages to be realized through deploying more organic learning methodologies in your organization. Not only do you take advantage of internal resources in a cost-effective way that capitalizes on their knowledge and skills on the job rather than in a classroom, you also help to foster a culture of ongoing relationships and continuous learning. While classroom sessions, online trainings, webinars and the like tend to be finite mechanisms with a clear start and finish, learning relationships take on a life of their own that can pay dividends for years to come.

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