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Tight training budget? Then focus on learning

smashing a piggy bank

How to ensure people learn, develop and feel invested in – no matter how small your training budget is.

This time last year the CIPD released their latest learning report[1], and whilst not entirely surprising, it highlighted that charities and non-profit organisations have very tight training budgets. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant shifting resource and budgets, and it follows tradition that L&D budgets have been amongst the first to go.

But this doesn’t mean that learning is any less important. Responding to change, handling ambiguity, working in new ways, having brilliant people managers and being innovative all require constant learning. The pandemic has challenged us all to be creative, do things differently, and find ways to survive. Therefore, for HR, L&D and managers leading training programmes, the pressure to demonstrate bang for your buck is high. Buying a ready-made training product without thinking about the unique challenges and needs of your organisation, whilst cost effective, might not be enough to create real value. What is needed now is a culture and system of learning throughout the organisation.

Man watering brain tree

The challenges of the last 18 months aren’t totally new. New technologies, time-poor managers, and the demand for just-in-time learning has sluggishly been pushing for an evolution of training. What has happened in the last year is that this has been greatly accelerated. For people wanting to learn, there has never been so many options available: bite size classes, webinars, MOOCs, action learning sets, coaching circles, job swaps, work place shadowing, self-directed exercises, portals of curated content and of course, online training courses.

But there is an underling assumption here: the content exists, and people who want to learn will find it. However, the role of HR, L&D and managers is to engage people in learning. To enable them to learn, and ultimately to inspire them want to learn. So, how exactly do you engage people in learning in ways they may not have come across before? Here are some top tips:

  1. Ask don’t assume: if you need people to engage in learning, find out what makes them tick, what their needs are and most importantly what they can commit to. A charity we work with in the north is proving support for people who have had to learn new roles and take on new responsibilities as they have been redeployed. Rather than simply book a training day, the L&D manager took time to find out how people were currently working and then scheduled learning into manageable bite-sized sessions to take into account different shift patterns and heavy workloads.
  2. Make it easy: – all learning should be accessible and easy to find. Creating complicated pathways combined with learning jargon is a turn off even for those of us in the L&D profession. Keep it simple, and straightforward. We have recently supported a national animal charity by creating a bespoke online learning portal. This way staff can access the learning they need easily, and when they need it. They are able to learn at their own pace and at a time that works for them.

laptop showing online learning

  1. Take a coaching approach: coaching is a powerful way to enable people to learn how to solve their own problems. People managers can accelerate learning by taking on a coaching role – enabling learners to explore their challenges, and reach their own conclusions. An INGO has turned their management development programme into an online modular course with an emphasis on coaching in order to respond to challenges managers are facing as the pandemic unfolds. Participants form learning partnerships whereby they coach each other. They also have coaching conversations with their own line managers after each session. Internal coaching conversations cost nothing and the benefits are vast.
  2. Shared learning – creating networks and cohorts of learners can be hugely engaging. Learning alongside others creates camaraderie as well as mutual obligation. Learners hold each other to account. A national health charity is supporting new managers in stepping up to be leaders. Alongside action learning sets and tools-based workshops, participants are able to access a specific Yammer This enables participants from diverse roles to share learning, in real time, and connect across organisational boundaries.

The key to an effective system of learning is ensuring participants are engaged. Positioning online or bite size learning as a cheaper alternative is not very engaging. It may be true, and suits your budget. But it isn’t very motivating to think that your personal development isn’t worth investing in. Instead however, you can create valuable learning for minimum cost by:

  • using technologies and bursts of learning to ensure it is available when people need it most
  • curating content specifically addressing the strategic needs of your organisation
  • spending your money on expert content when you need to
  • spending your learning time on bringing people together, facilitating shared learning
  • enabling people to learn for themselves through a coaching culture

What’s next?

To find out how  =mc can help you explore effective learning options suited to your situation, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to one of our consultants.

You can find further information on our entire L&D services including blended learning, formal recognition, outplacement and more on our Learning and Development webpage. This page also includes considerations around social distancing for face to face training as well as information on online learning, and the different benefits of each.

[1] Crowley, Lizzie, Learning and Skills at Work 2020 – mind the gap: time for learning in the UK, Report, June 2020, CIPD.

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...