Training and developing staff on a tight budget

‘If you think training is expensive, try ignorance’

This oft-quoted phrase, attributed to Peter Drucker, is frequently used when businesses say they ‘can’t afford’ to train or develop their staff.

So it’s worth asking yourself how much ‘untrained ‘or ‘undeveloped’ staff are costing your business – now and, potentially, in the future?

Staff with the right skills are more productive

Maybe you’ve promoted someone to a team leader role – and whilst they are great at getting tasks done, and know everything there is to know about your business, they haven’t the first clue about leading, motivating and delegating to others. Which means that nobody is as productive as they could be.

What’s that loss of productivity costing you in time and money?

Or you’ve recently hired two new starters but nobody has time to train them in a way that means they’ll be effective sooner rather than later. So they’re twiddling their thumbs or making mistakes that could potentially lose you customers.

Or maybe you’re struggling yourself to understand how to build and grow your business… or to manage performance…. or to focus on strategy…. Or develop your international market… when there is so much of the ‘day job’ to do.

How can you train and develop your staff without spending a fortune?

So what to do when you don’t want ‘ignorance’ but your business simply cannot afford thousands and thousands of pounds on ‘training courses’ that may or may not deliver the results you are looking for?

The first thing to do, as always is to take a step back and ask yourself these three questions (which of course you can adapt to suit your own business):

  • What do I need to know, understand or learn about myself and others to be successful and make this business successful? (Skills? Knowledge? Self-awareness?)
  • If I could learn just one thing tomorrow, that would make the most positive difference to my effectiveness at work, and to the success of this business, what would it be?
  • What’s the best way for me to learn that thing in the next month (six months/year – You choose!)

Then ask your team to answer these same questions and share their findings with each other – or, better still, get them to give each other feedback using these same questions.

What will emerge is a potential list of skills or knowledge gaps or personal development areas (e.g. developing more confidence or more assertiveness.) Plus, hopefully, some creative ideas about how everybody might find these new skills or knowledge or develop that self-awareness.

Now this assumes, of course, that your people are absolutely clear on where the business is heading and what success looks like…. They do, don’t they?!

5 Ways to train your staff on a tight budget

There are a variety of ways you can get the skill, knowledge and development needed without necessarily spending thousands of pounds. But beware. Look at any training or development in terms of value to the business and the individual rather than cost.

It’s all very well booking a cheap and cheerful training course but if nobody is able to apply what they have learned back at work – you’re wasting your money.

So to help you find cost-effective ways to train your staff, here are 4 alternative staff training and development options that might work for your business;

1. Find a Mentor – or Coach

A mentor is often described as a ‘wise owl’; a more experienced colleague; someone who has ‘been there and done it’.

A mentor is likely to be someone you already know – and who knows you. A previous boss or colleague? Another business owner?

If you’re open minded, willing to learn, willing to hear others’ wisdom and share ideas and experiences – and willing to contribute something to the relationship yourself – then mentoring might work very well for you. It’s a two way street.

Coaches on the other hand often specialise in a particular area – sales coaches, leadership coaches, confidence coaches, team coaches…. And so on. Whilst this is unlikely to be a ‘cheap’ option the adage that you ‘get what you pay for’ is often true.

The best way to find a good coach is through recommendation and word of mouth. So ask other business owners for some names. Talk to two or three of these coaches. Ask about their experience. See if they are likely to be worth the investment – and see if you are likely to be a good ‘fit’ if you work together.

Coaches and mentors won’t run your business for you – that’s up to you. But we can all benefit from a sounding board, different perspectives and time away from the business to think things through to get greater clarity and understand what to do about our blind spots.

And because a coach or mentor works 1-1 with you and potentially your business, there’s no time wasted on irrelevancies.

RELATED: How finding a great mentor could help you to grow, and your business to flourish

2. Weekly, or Monthly “Lunch & Learn”

This is a great way to build your team and learn at the same time. If you’re the boss, you provide a nice lunch (no curled up sandwiches, please!) and key team members share their knowledge with the rest of the team. Each team member has a lunchtime ‘slot’.

I’ve seen this work really well in small businesses with topics such as pitching to a client, managing email overload, delegation, writing a client strategy and so on … this should be an interactive session NOT a boring monologue with PowerPoint (yawn).

At the end of the session, each team member summarises three or four key things that they’ve learned and says how they will apply that learning.

3. Online learning

There is such a wealth of free information out there – on YouTube, free webinars and podcasts, articles on every aspect of training and development – that it’s hard to know where to start. Also, knowing something intellectually doesn’t mean you can do it in practice.

So my advice is this: Spend, say, one hour looking for information on a particular topic and then summarise your learning. Then look at how you can apply what you have learned with one of your team (or your whole team) in the next 5 days.

4. Expertise shared

Let’s say you’re a recruitment expert. You have a lot of advice you can give to growing businesses who are looking to hire staff. You might swap that information with, say, an accountancy firm who can help you streamline your financial processes.

It’s a bit like a barter system – swapping expertise with someone in a non-competitive field.

One small catering business I know ‘caters’ a monthly lunch for a marketing team. In turn, they help the caterers market their business extensively throughout the local area. It’s a win=win.

5. Reverse mentorship

Reverse mentoring is a staff training technique that has grown in popularity in recent years. As the name suggests, it effectively turns the traditional mentoring roles around so that younger employees ‘mentor’ their more senior colleagues.

Reverse mentorship was widely-used by former GE CEO Jack Welch to help the company’s senior managers get to grips with the Internet. Each manager was paired with a younger employee who was tasked with helping their older counterparts to understand new technologies.

Reverse mentoring is an approach that acknowledges everyone in a business has important skills. The benefits are two-fold. By tasking a younger employee with a helping an old-hand, you give the less-experienced team members confidence, while at the same time, help experienced employees learn new skills and get up to date with the latest technologies.

Combining experience and cutting-edge skills in this way can really help your business to move forward. Find out more in our guide; How reverse mentorship can help drive fresh ideas, develop staff and help your business succeed.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by International Executive and Leadership Team Coach, Lynn Scott, Director of Lynn Scott Coaching Ltd.

More from ByteStart

ByteStart is packed with help and tips on all aspects of starting and growing your own business. Some of our most popular guides include;

Motivating staff

Hiring and managing employees

Going for growth

Funding your business

Promoting your business

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