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.
Train Online. When at all possible, send your students through the online equivalent of the instructor-led or classroom-based version of the course you are considering. Undoubtedly you can save money by having your students attend online courses. Even if the tuition is similar or exactly the same in cost, you will save money in travel, field downtime, instructor and venue fees (if you are required to pay these), etc. It is rare that an online course cannot be cost justified over an instructor-led course and students will benefit because data has shown us that the retention rates with online training is about 30% higher than with instructor-led courses.
Train Regularly. This may seem like an odd point given our overall theme of stretching your training dollar. But we are really talking about getting the most value from your training dollar and with that point reminded it is important to point to data (meaning the recognized standard) that the regular training of a company's employees has a direct correlation to the value of that company's stock value. So, if we invest in training, we invest in creating a greater value in our organizations.
In the End
It is a given, of course, that no two situations are alike. One thing that does seem to be consistent within most organizations is that we are all being asked to do more with fewer dollars. Being creative with our training budgets will prove to satisfy management and our training stakeholders alike. If you can change one thing on how you implement training within your organizations in order to train more people for the same amount of money, then that is a good thing.
Connie Moorhead is the President of The CMOOR Group and founder of SecurityCEU.com based in Louisville, KY. CMOOR is a full-service education solution provider, custom online content develop ment and Webinar service firm focusing exclu sively on the security, manufacturing, and construction industries. SecurityCEU is an industry certification resource and online continuing education provider.