You want your staff at the forefront of your field, but footing the bill for expensive training isn’t usually in the budget, especially for startups. College-level courses can cost hundreds of dollars per person. That adds up quickly if you have a large team. With a little creativity, you can find plenty of free or low-cost ways to help your employees continue learning. Using a variety of affordable learning options also helps match different learning styles within your team.
You may already have learning resources within your walls. Your employees may naturally share tips, knowledge, and information. Encouraging more social learning or setting up a formal plan to implement it can benefit newer staff members. One way to boost social learning between colleagues is setting up a mentor program that pairs new employees with experienced staffers. Another option is asking in-house experts to put together a training or presentation for other staff members. If you send one employee to a class or training program, ask that person to share the gained knowledge with everyone else. This maximizes the dollars you spend on formal education. Even a company book club focusing on industry-related works encourages learning.
Online learning is a booming business. That’s great for small businesses like yours because you gain access to affordable content from pros. Many colleges offer distance learning programs if your employees need college-level courses or certifications. Alternative online learning options like Microsoft Virtual Academy’s information technology offerings supply business-related courses for free. Massive Open Online Courses, commonly known as MOOCs, give your employees access to free online classes on almost any topic you can imagine. Providers like edX let you take those courses, which are often taught by professors, online with self-paced learning.
Informal Online Learning
Informal online learning through industry blogs and podcasts can benefit employees. Many of these free online resources come from people who actually work in your industry. They share their experiences, both positive and negative, so your employees can learn from them. You may hear about a new cutting-edge concept within your industry from an expert who tries it first. Anyone can create a blog or podcast, so it’s best to find online resources from experts or industry organizations.
Do your vendors and suppliers offer training options for their products? You might find videos or tutorials on their company websites. Some vendors may hold in-person training sessions that are free for the companies that work with them. Even if the company doesn’t have a formal training program, you may be able to get training support if you ask.
Upcoming industry events give your employees access to leaders and colleagues in your niche. Trade shows, conferences, and workshops hosted by industry organizations are often affordable and offer a range of educational opportunities. Breakout sessions and keynote speakers share the latest in industry news and techniques to inspire your staff. The topics of those sessions also give your employees ideas for researching on their own. If you belong to a trade association, you may have access to free or inexpensive training sessions for your staff.
Your industry networking can help you save money on learning opportunities. Paying a professional trainer to come to your office may be out of your budget, but you can share the cost with another business to make it more affordable. Partner with another local business whose employees may need similar training. Both businesses get a quality learning opportunity while splitting the cost to save money.
Creative solutions to a tight training budget help you encourage ongoing learning without taking money away from other areas. Encourage employees to seek out new learning avenues with a company culture that values knowledge and continued growth.