It's easy to think of training as a seminar or workshop where employees are sent into a classroom-style session while a trainer stands in front of a room showing/explaining a series of PowerPoint slides. But there are many other ways to think about developing employees and their skills without adding costs and draining resources. Especially during these tough times, when training is considered a luxury -- not a necessity -- companies are finding themselves looking for creative alternatives to train "on the cheap," or cut it altogether. The problem with totally eliminating training is that there is also a price to be paid when employees are unable to continue learning and growing because then their organizations can't either. So...
One of the first things that can be done is to trim the fat off existing training, (assuming any exists). To do this, you simply ask yourself, "What do our employees need to either know or do in order to be effective in their jobs?" Then, give them whatever information they need to either "know or do" along with a chance to process that information which involves some type of interactivity that shows evidence of either cognitive or behavioral learning. This will shave hours of wasted time and superfluous content off your training efforts and also make for far more targeted, relevant learning.
But in addition you can create...
Learning Plans: These put a little organization and structure around how employees can learn on the job. They are a combination of formal and informal activities that uses experience inside and outside the workplace to create opportunities to learn and avenues to apply that learning to work.
Learning Teams: These are groups of people who learn together. They can choose a book to read and discuss. They can take turns teaching each other what they know. Or, they can simply have group discussions to talk about ways they can improve their jobs and subsequent contribution to the business and/or organization.
And also, you can take advantage of implementing "training" through...
Mentoring: Here you have learning by advisement, role modeling and the experience of another person through the use of one-on-one relationships.
Management: And finally, a constant stream of feedback, both corrective and reinforcing, is one of the best ways to develop people and one of the most underutilized. I go back to teachers/coaches who develop artists and athletes all the time. Without a clear and balanced understanding of what they are doing wrong and right, employees (like athletes and artists) are unlikely to improve. That's not good for the business or the people in it.
So, give one or all of these a try and keeping the learning going in your organization for less.
Image: Flickr // garethjmsaunders