Low cost staff learning: tips for HR in summary:

  • Even with tight budgets, there are a wealth of effective but relatively inexpensive staff learning and development opportunities out there.
  • Large corporations – including Google – now use mobile technology and free-to-use online resources to help facilitate their employees’ own development.
  • Mentoring and creating ‘internal coaches’ are also inexpensive, but effective methods of helping knowledge sharing and collaboration.

When budgets are tight, staff learning and development activities are often the first to come under the axe.

For example, a recent survey by Corndel revealed that despite continuing concern over chronic skills shortages, half of UK organisations have cut or frozen their staff learning spends due to ongoing economic uncertainty.

Of course, maintaining investment in training can be a particular challenge for any business. But, this is not just because belts are being tightened. It’s also because businesses often find it difficult to give employees time off from the demands of their day-to-day job to attend courses. This is where the nub of the problem lies.

Low cost staff learning tips for HR Cezanne HR Blog

Far too many businesses are still locked into an outdated model of training that is focused around expensive and time-consuming classroom based courses. The thinking – and the technology – has moved on considerably and although trainer-led development will always have a place, it’s no longer the only option.

In fact, there’s a whole host of effective but relatively inexpensive staff learning and development opportunities out there that are within grasp – even for the tightest of budgets!

How the big guns approach low cost staff learning

During a CIPD HRD conference I attended, I was fascinated to hear how two very different organisations – Save the Children and Google – are managing to keep their learning activities fresh, relevant and accessible to all staff… regardless of their location or levels of seniority.

Save the Children described how they are using mobile devices to deliver just-in-time training to their people out in the field. Their focus is on becoming the ‘curators’ rather than the ‘creators’ of staff learning.

In other words, looking at what knowledge and content is already out there and thinking about how to signpost people to what they need to know at the time they need to know it. There’s also a real emphasis on collaborative learning and actively being ‘learning organisations‘. Encouraging people to learn from others who are in the same situation as themselves, rather than sending them to the ‘experts’.

Good ideas from where you least expect

On the other hand, the philosophy at Google is that the next great idea could come from anywhere. Consideration is given to the learning needs of all employees… rather than just those of the chosen few.

‘Googlers’ are encouraged to own their own development, with the business stepping in to help people where they can’t help themselves. This provides a mechanism that allows any employee to put in a learning request and to expect a swift response with advice and guidance about how best their needs can be met.

Click here to discover the Cezanne LMS

Courses are developed quickly in response to emerging learning needs – and are no longer delivered when they’ve lost their currency. There are ‘hangouts’ – online forums where people can collaborate and learn from each other – and the ‘Magnet’, where secondments, short-term ‘bungee’ assignments and volunteer opportunities are advertised alongside jobs.

And that’s not all! Volunteer teams collaborate to create posters with bite-sized learning content, displayed on toilet doors as part of a program called “Learn on the Loo.”

Employees are also encouraged to think about how they can use internal resources (peers, mentors, existing knowledge) as well as external information sources (news reports, web content, helpful blogs, YouTube) to facilitate their own development.

What about smaller or growing businesses?

Of course, those are large organisations with more resources at their disposal than the average business. However, any company keen on supporting staff learning and development within a limited budget could easily adopt the ideas they’re both using.

Working lunches, for example, are easy to organise and perfect for getting colleagues to share expertise and information. Stretch assignments, on the other hand, can help employees develop new skills, make new contacts and build their confidence.

A simple discussion group, hosted on a shared workspace is a great way to get people collaborating and sharing knowledge and resources. Using your own staff to act as mentors or internal coaches can also pay enormous dividends in terms of skills development. And, it doesn’t always have to be top down…

For instance, why not think about getting some of your Generation Z staff to mentor more senior colleagues on the use of social media? It’s little things like this can often make a big difference.

Where a Learning Management System (LMS) can be beneficial

If you’re considering more formal learning options, a good Learning Management System (LMS) can also support low-cost staff learning. This is because they’re able to provide a centralised platform for delivering training materials, courses, and resources.

An LMS can also offer a wide range of educational content at minimal expense, including online modules, videos, and interactive exercises. Additionally, using an LMS allows for easy tracking of employee progress and performance, facilitating personalised learning paths and targeted interventions.

Of course, there would be an initial outlay for an online LMS. But, longer term, it can effectively support ongoing skill development and career advancement for low-cost staff members. Perfect for any business wanting to watch the pennies.

Author bio

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.

You may also be interested in...