Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Make the Most of your Training Budget
In the current economic climate, most organisations are taking a long hard look at where they are spending their money. One of the most common activities to take a hit in such times is training and development, which becomes seen as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have”.
It is easy to see training as an expense rather than as an investment. Many budget-conscious employers quite rightly worry that if they train employees who then leave they will have wasted their time and money and be unable to recoup the investment. However, a worse scenario than training people who leave is not training people who stay. Investing in training has the power to boost the performance and attitudes of your employees and thereby increase the productivity and profitability of your organisation.
Paradoxically, then, this is a good time for organisations to invest in training: it can serve to motivate employees and ensure continued good performance and loyalty throughout the tough times; moreover when the economy recovers, organisations who have continued to develop their workforces will find that they are ahead of the competition and can hit the ground running with motivated and skilled employees.
However in order to make this happen and not break the bank in the process, there are some golden rules when it comes to making the most of your training budget.
1. Start at the top
It stands to reason that if you don’t have an unlimited budget for training (and let’s face it – who does?), you will need to make some decisions about what you spend your money on. When trying to prioritise budget spending, it is critical to make sure that any training you provide will be contributing to developing your business as well as the people within it. Have a very clear idea of what you want to happen as a result of providing training or other development opportunities to your employees. Make sure your managers know how to identify learning needs which are relevant and which will add value to the company as a whole. At the same time, avoid putting employees through training that they have requested if it doesn’t fit in with what the company needs. For example, providing PRINCE2 training for employees who want to have a project management qualification under their belt is great if you need trained project managers, but if you are unable to provide post-training opportunities for delegates to put their new found skills and knowledge into practice, they may start looking around for opportunities elsewhere.
2. Consider who will be having the training
Make sure that any employees you are investing in are motivated to learn and improve. Someone who is “switched off” in a training programme is unlikely to get the best out of the training. Negative attitudes and behaviours can be contagious can easily rub off on other delegates, which amplifies the problem. Individuals can have very different preferences when it comes to how they learn so employees should, as far as possible, be involved in discussions about the types of training available. For example e-learning may seem like a good way to get everyone in the company trained on a particular topic, but this won’t suit everyone. Similarly, someone who has had bad learning experiences at school or college may be less inclined to undertake a college-based training course.
3. Make sure the training is fit for purpose
To get the best return on your investment, the training you give to your employees should – be relevant to the kind of work they do. Many training courses that are advertised are “off the shelf”, which works well for some areas of training, but less so for others. Research into adult learning tells us that people tend to be more motivated and learn more when they are “connected” to the topic they are learning about. In other words, if they feel it is relevant, the training is likely to be of more value than if it is irrelevant. For example, if you want to develop customer service skills for your IT support team to help them work effectively with colleagues, then a training course based on hotel or retail scenarios is unlikely to be seen as relevant. If you have a number of employees who need training on the same issues, consider contracting a training provider to develop a bespoke in-house training course for your company. In-house training can be more cost effective than sending employees on open courses, especially if you are able to provide facilities such as a training room and refreshments, and the return on the investment is likely to be far higher.
4. Measuring success
Since we’re talking about return on investment, it is important to evaluate closely whether or not the training has had a positive impact on your business. Most training evaluation is typically carried out immediately after the delivery, which is helpful if you want to know whether the delegates have enjoyed themselves, or if they have learnt anything new. But what you really need to know is whether the training has had an effect on their job performance; this is not necessarily something which will happen overnight so you need some way to check this on a longer term basis.
5. Money matters
Since spending on training can represent a significant investment, it is important that you know exactly what you are going to get for your money. The cheapest option is not always the most cost-effective, but by the same token, you don’t always get what you pay for when you spend top dollar. Before committing to any investment in training, you’ll need to find out some key information from your training provider – don’t be afraid to ask questions about their credentials, their previous experience of working within your industry or with similar types of organisation. Find out how much input you can have into the design of the training. What is the total cost and what does this include? How will the success of the training be measured? Can they provide any follow up support after the training?
With these golden rules you can be confident that the training you provide for employees will be worthwhile and you will know that it has been money well spent. If you would like to discuss your training and people development needs with a specialist Consultant, please contact us.
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