I should probably say upfront that getting the most value from your training dollar is not about how to get free training. There are free training options available, but as with most things in life, sometimes you get what you pay for. Now I have to make my obligatory statement that there are a lot of fantastic free training options offered by manufacturers, but they are about the only ones who can afford to offer you free training. However, they cannot offer you ALL of the training you need. There comes a time when you will need to invest in the growth of your team through the expense of education funds.
Training Planned with a Purpose
As the management within your organization, it is important to steer the training efforts by demanding that all training aligns with the corporate vision. It should be part of the company's values at some level and easily defined. In other words, it is your role to make sure that any new training request is a good fit for your company's overall plan and strategic direction.
When someone asks to attend training, do not hesitate to ask questions about the courses they are planning to attend. These questions should include: Why did you decide you needed this training? How will you use this training when you are back on the job? Is this the only way you can receive these skills?
By asking these questions you are making the person requesting this training justify the training expense. Your training dollars will go much further if you can make each training request be justified. Not all problems can be solved by training as some are personnel issues, some are process issues and some are resource issues. Training will not impact any of theses problems.
Just as much as you planned on the training you must follow up to make sure that the employee did learn what you expected them to learn. Perhaps ask them to report on what they learned. Or simply reward them when you observe them using the new skills they were taught at the course to which they were sent. Regardless on how you choose to follow up on the training, it is just as essential to do this step as it was to do all of the planning prior to sending someone to the course.
Stretching the Dollar
So, how can you get the most value from your training dollar? It really is not that difficult. Just follow these simple guidelines:
Plan Ahead. By buying education packages early, you can sometimes save up to 50% off the cost of the retail prices. Early Bird Specials and other savings provided to those willing to commit to the training well in advance of the training date are meant to provide deep discount incentives.
Train in Groups. Volume discounts are one of the best ways to get value from your training dollar. These can be provided to groups as small as five people. Look for the discount to be about 5% for groups of five to 10 and then move to 10% when you commit to train groups as large as 10-20 people.
Host Private Training Sessions. If you have very large groups, perhaps in the neighborhood of 15 people or more (some will say the groups should be as large as 25), then you should request a Private Session. This simply means you have the instructor sent to you rather than you sending the students to the instructor. In most cases not only is this less expensive from a hard dollar perspective, but you also get a huge indirect expense benefit, which is the ability to customize the course content. Since the course is being taught for only your organization you should request that only the content that makes sense to you be delivered. These types of courses stretch the training dollar a long way and provide an environment where your students can learn what means the most to them for the jobs they are required to do.