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How to train and develop your workforce on a tight budget

In times of recession, training budgets may be the first to be cut.

Yet having a skilled workforce, both paid and unpaid, is a critical element of success in voluntary and community sector organisations. It is still vital to keep a planned approach and use the creativity that is a mark of the sector. The worst thing to do would be to bring in a scaled-down training and development programme that didn't address learning needs or align with strategic imperatives – but was just cheaper.

This how-to guides gives some practical suggestions about how to keep developing your workforce during difficult times.

1

Internal training and knowledge sharing

The most obvious approach is that the knowledge may well already be in your organisation! Sharing knowledge is also a great way to build a sense of team identity. Why not start or end each team meeting or internal conference with an opportunity for people to deliver a mini Creativity Training session, sharing their skills and knowledge? 

Don’t forget your trustees, either. They may well have the expertise in the particular area where learning is required. Alternatively, they may know someone who does!

2

Performance management

Appraisals and regular one to one/supervision meetings between line manager and employee are of course the nuts and bolts of staff development and performance. They are a key way in which managers can develop their staff and they don’t incur extra costs!

3

Checking out reductions in training

Sarah Goodman from Enterprising Opportunities, a Community Interest Company, comments that ‘training providers are keen to fill spaces on courses, particularly those that are not funded. Speak to your training provider for their best offer, you may get a discount for booking more than one space, late availability or even pilot schemes - you don’t know if you don’t ask.’

4

Collaborating with other voluntary and community organisations

Sharing knowledge 

Do you have contacts in other organisations that are facing similar issues? If so, you could consider what opportunities there may be for your employees to spend time in another organisation to learn new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. 

Mentoring schemes 

Mentors are people who are experienced in a particular field and therefore able to advise and support others. Mentoring can help develop professional knowledge and skills. Many people mentor on a voluntary basis, so it doesn’t need to be expensive. 

Coaching schemes 

Coaching relationships can be a really cost-effective way for the organisation to foster and develop talent. Coaching can help to improve both individual and organisational performance. 

Unlike mentoring, coaches do not offer specific ‘advice’. They are skilled in questioning and listening but it is the coach’s role to enable the individual to find answers within themselves. 

Line managers can adopt a coaching role; alternatively, external coaches can be used in particular for senior staff to help them work towards a specific goal,  where a formal training course is less appropriate. 

Training courses 

It makes sense to work with other voluntary organisations that may have similar training needs. Rather than pay for an in-house course just for your organisation, can you collaborate with another organisation to help reduce costs?  

5

Self-directed learning methods

Many organisations are becoming to be more innovative and creative about how they organise learning and development, to reflect current pressures on time and finances. Some organisations give staff what is called ‘protected learning time’, to develop themselves outside of the traditional training course.

Online courses are another form of self-directed learning. Staff can access the courses from their own desktop at a time that suits them. Such e-learning is a great way of reducing overheads and it is also possible to track how much progress is being made. Learners can choose when and where they do their training which makes it time efficient – and good for the environment too!’ 

Online courses are not an instant fix, however. You need to be sure that your staff or volunteers will respond well to this type of learning. You’ll need to check that any e-learning system is appropriately designed for your organisation, allowing for appropriate monitoring and follow-up.  

6

Access support from Acas

If you are seeking training on managing people, you could explore what is on offer from Acas. Acas have a free helpline where you can get advice and support on boosting productivity and having the right procedures and policies in placce can help avoid future problems and establish your reputation as an employer people like to work for.

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Page last edited Apr 12, 2018 History

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