Get Creative With Training

Holly J. Culhane SPHR
November 30, 2009 — 2,295 views  
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Whether you're preparing to move into your dream-home, raising a house full of kids - or both, you know each requires a lot of hard work, planning, and continuous upkeep - unless your want those dreams to turn into nightmares!  We've all heard that worn-out old adage, "Nothing worthwhile comes easily; work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last."  Well, it may be old and corny, but it's just as true as can be - if you want things to turn out well, you have to constantly work hard and be vigilant to ensure everything remains on track.  So if your business is running smoothly and all the employees and managers seem to know how to handle every situation - great!  But in this tough economy with scarce resources, how do you continue the trend if you no longer have money for training?

Unfortunately, when businesses start cutting, training is often one of the first items on the chopping block.  This is especially true when things have been going well and it appears that everyone is knowledgeable about not only their job responsibilities, but also the latest legislation on harassment policies, discrimination, etc.  However, we all know that every company experiences turnover and new employees may not be as well-informed as current workers.  Also, human resources policies, especially those influenced by legislation, are constantly changing and forever in flux. 

Bob Alberstadt, Senior Vice President of Aera Energy LLC, asserts, "Training and development of employees is an ongoing, long-term investment designed to produce improved business results. While short-term adjustments to the pace of this investment may be necessary in difficult economic times, the quality and commitment to employee development should remain constant."      

First and foremost, if your company is contemplating training cuts, remember that some training may be required by law - such as safety, sexual harassment, or risk-management training.  Additionally, keep in mind that "poor economic times translate into more discrimination claims."  ("Training on a Shoestring," HR Magazine, January 2009)  Keep in mind that desperate people often do desperate things - and when faced with being out of work and providing for one's family, some will resort to lawsuits to try to either regain employment, or receive a financial benefit.  Therefore, it is imperative that you not only keep employees up-to-date on the latest legislation concerning harassment, wage and hour issues, ethics, various types of discrimination, etc., but just as importantly, that you be able to prove employees were trained in these policies and procedures.  When lawsuits are filed, an organization must have a concrete paper trail for submission in court.

So - just how do you lower training costs and still keep your bases covered?  For one thing, get creative!  Make sure you eliminate elements that are unnecessary.  For example, forego the snacks, beverages, lunches, etc.  Schedule workshops and sessions for times other than mealtimes and advise attendees to bring their own food and drink.  If you must have a lunch time training because it is the only time available, rather than providing a meal you can save money by making it a "brown-bag;" however, be sure to inform employees well in advance.  And, remember, required lunch time meetings obligate an employer to pay an employee for the time in the meeting, and in some instances, premium pay may apply.

Furthermore, eliminate all, or at least some, of the expected "goodies" such as tote-bags, pens, notepads, etc.  While these items are useful, they are not absolutely essential to the learning process.  Again, workers need to know ahead of time so they can provide their own paper and writing instruments from their workstations, or possibly plan to take notes in their planners.

If your company has employees attending multiple-day workshops out of town, consider using a local trainer and move everything in-house.  If the trainer comes to you, you may be able to train more personnel with less cost.  Also, if you are bringing in an outside trainer, consider contacting other organizations to see if a joint training session is advisable.  If several employers participate, training costs can be shared by all involved.  Also, take advantage of technology and utilize video-conferencing, telephone-based training, learning management systems, or virtual classrooms.  Even if your company doesn't own such a system, you may be able to arrange to use one at a local educational institution or other communications vendor. 

Additionally, be sure to keep the lines of communication open with frequent e-mailing, newsletters, regular memorandums, etc.  Make sure all employees are notified of new policies and are updated on an on-going basis.  Utilize peer teaching and match new workers with seasoned ones to ensure they learn company procedures.  Figure out what your most critical training needs are - whether it be product knowledge, policies and procedures, or experience with new technology, and then offer the information as efficiently as possible.

Also keep in mind, if your business has slowed somewhat, this could be the perfect time to address training issues that have been relegated to the "back burner" during boom times.  So, brush off those materials on problem solving, decision making, etc. and give employees a refresher course in areas that haven't been tackled for awhile.  It's an excellent use of company time and can empower workers who may be struggling as they adjust to changes.

Remember, the economy - like everything else - is cyclical.  What is down now, will definitely be up again.  Just hang in there and know that better times await.

Holly J. Culhane SPHR


Identified the need for human resource and organizational assistance for small- and medium-sized business­es and formed Profes­sional Administra­tive Systems in 1987. Now known as P A S Associates, this firm combines specialists in the fields of human resources, labor and employment law, affirma­tive action, and substance abuse policies and education, providing an unsurpassed Human Resource Center.