Training Employees on a Shoestring Budget


When small businesses are looking to make budget cuts, employee training is often what takes the first hit. Not only does a lack of training lead to high turnover rates, it can also lead to critical errors that may cost multiple times over what good training costs. Employee training is absolutely critical to business success, but doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be effective. Here’s a brief overview of how to train employees well on a budget.

1. Define Training Needs and Goals

The first step to developing a comprehensive training program is to figure out which skills are most critical for job success. These can be hard skills, soft skills or a blend of both. Annual performance reviews will give you a good picture of where current training is falling short, so you can beef up your training program in those areas. Figuring out what is most important for new employees to know up front versus what they can easily learn on the job will save critical training time, while still ensuring they get the most crucial tools they need to perform their job effectively.

There are a wide variety of training module options available, but the one you choose should be in line with your company’s short and long term goals. Some modules offer extensive training before employees ever set foot on the floor, get behind a desk, a computer or on a phone, while others offer a mix of training sessions with actual experience. In some cases, training is best achieved through pairing new employees with a mentor. Make sure your style of training matches up with the types of work they will be expected to do from the get go.

2. Industry Associations, Conferences and Seminars

Whether it’s keeping up with industry standards or getting critical training on a new machine, growing and learning is an ongoing part of job effectiveness. This also doesn’t have to cost you anything. There are a number of industry associations that offer free or low cost training programs for members at annual events, seminars or even online.

Since you will likely pay a fee for your association membership, this is also a great way to get the most bang for your buck. Check your trade association website or newsletter for any available training programs.

3. Peer-to-Peer In-House Training or Mentoring

Passing knowledge and information from one employee to another is critical for business success. It’s likely that if you have an employee that did a certain job for a long period of time, they learned a great deal about how to do their job most efficiently or expediently. By moving someone from one job to another without having them train the person coming in behind them, you lose out on all the valuable knowledge they gained and cause your new employee to have to repeat the learning curve.

If you identify one employee that has a job skill you feel could benefit the rest of your employees, you can capitalize on this by holding an in-house seminar. Mentoring is also a great way to use existing resources to create ongoing training. In many cases, the mentor will also benefit from what the mentee brings to the table and training ends up working both ways.

If you send one employee, manager or supervisor to a conference or seminar to receive training, you can get the most bang for your buck by having them then lead an in-house conference to pass on their new knowledge or skills.

4. Technology-Based Training

Technological advancements have made comprehensive training easier and more accessible than ever before. Online training allows employees to learn at their own pace and gives instant access to resources later when they really need it the most. In many cases, one of the drawbacks of employee training is that they are trained on certain things in a classroom setting and can’t remember what they learned in the real-world environment when they need it most.

Online programs offer on-demand and just-in-time learning modules that employees can access quickly and immediately. If they remember something being covered, but don’t remember what was said, they can watch a short 3-5-minute refresher video or even get information about something that wasn’t directly addressed in training.

You can use a program that has already been developed for your industry or create your own custom designed program from a number of different free, online sites and courses. Online courses have made it easier for individuals to enjoy all of the benefits of remote education and working from home with 24/7 availability of training modules while still allowing you to monitor their progress and performance.

5. Gamification

As much as employers may balk at the notion of having to “entertain” their employees in training, the reality is the more senses we use when engaging with information, the more likely we are to retain it. Game mechanics are a great way to get employees to not just listen to material but actually engage with it.

The gamification of training programs also helps develop strategic thinking as well as building both competitiveness and teamwork all at the same time. In addition, learners get instant feedback on their actions and knowledge as well as learning to self-diagnose their own performance as they go.

Popular gaming techniques include:

  • Badges
  • Leaderboards
  • Avatars
  • Levels
  • Rewards
  • Challenges

6. Service Provider Packages

Service providers will often offer training with their programs or packages, such as the Microsoft training program. Generally, the topics offered relate directly to the products offered, but some service providers cover other topics as well. Whenever you purchase a new product or piece of equipment or machinery or even renew a license for an existing product, check to see if the company offers any kind of support training.

The most important aspect of employee training is whether or not it is actually applicable to the real-life situations they will encounter. Too often, employees are being trained in areas they don’t need, while being denied training in areas they actually do. In addition, training must be consistent and measurable to determine if the training is actually helping employees meet your business goals. Measurability helps you adapt to changing needs as well as filling in crucial gaps in training.

Alisiana Peters

Author: Alisiana Peters

Alisiana is a senior marketing coordinator at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.