Cost-Effective Ways to Optimize Employee Learning and Development

People at Desk

There are numerous benefits to organizations offering a continuous learning culture.  In today’s job market it is often described as a ‘competitive differentiator’ and can be vital in retaining key talent.

Unfortunately, many small and midsize companies aren’t able to invest much to bring in external training consultants or purchase a learning platform that offers multiple courses for a specific number of employee enrollments.

The good news is that in a budget constrained situation, there are alternative ways to offer learning and development tools and opportunities that will help address the skills gaps in your organization.  The crucial point being that employers cannot afford to neglect the development of their people and there are several effective ways for all organizations to address this.

Leaders and managers should actively and creatively support all efforts to promote a learning organization.  This includes sharing their skills and knowledge, providing mentorship and job shadowing opportunities, and appointing other skilled employees to coach team members.

Consider these cost-effective employee development ideas:

  • On-the-Job Coaching & Feedback

Leaders that consistently coach their employees will empower them to think critically about a problem, provide solutions and make informed decisions.  We all have our predominant style of leadership that is natural to us, but we can be more effective coaches if we are willing to adapt our leadership style to compliment the profile and needs of the learner.  While an inexperienced employee may need a direct and assertive leadership style, this may not be favourable for a skilled worker who needs to feel empowered. 

Being committed to adaptive coaching within the workplace will help to improve engagement and retention.  While coaching in the moment is not always possible, be sure to schedule regular 1:1’s for discussion and feedback.  With improvement feedback, ask the employee questions to help them think through the situation and come up with their own solution.  Avoid dictating answers wherever possible so that the coaching opportunity doesn’t bypass the learning process.

  • Identify internal trainers

Make use of your skilled internal employees to provide hands-on-training.  Not only is it cost effective, but employees will have that go-to-person for any questions and additional assistance.

Consider these internal trainer roles as additional responsibilities added to their job function that justifies extra perks and incentives.  You will find that certain employees will enjoy teaching others and contributing to the overall training goals. Work to find a natural fit between trainer and trainee as on-the-job training can be challenging and not all experienced employees will be effective.

  • Take advantage of external free courses and webinars

Digital technology has opened up many doors for us when it comes to personal and professional development.  Employees that are involved in their self-learning will develop various skills and stay ahead of changes and updates within their field.  Instead of paying expensive fees for seminars, consider joining memberships with organizations in your field that offer free webinars and training.  LinkedIn is a great way to build your network and tap into companies and industries.  Many professional organizations offer monthly blogs, webinars and training that is free and easily accessible.  Some examples include Lexology, Ted Talks, LinkedIn Learning, and YouTube. Good online digital training content is constantly evolving so stay current and engaged on what is available.

  • Set up a mentoring program

When it comes to career development, establishing a mentoring program is an effective way to pair your high potential employees with a tenured employee that is knowledgeable in a certain area.  Identify senior managers that are willing to mentor less experienced employees.  They may have specialized skills and their knowledge and expertise will be highly appreciated and eagerly absorbed by the younger employee.  Organizations that offer continuous coaching and mentoring will inspire top talent that have a passion for growth and development. It’s also important to find a natural mentorship fit but employees will often gravitate to each other so be creative by fostering opportunities for this to happen organically if possible.

  •  Provide Lunch-and-Learn sessions

This is a fun way to share ideas, provide opportunities for internal employees to host a session, provide cross training and/or even invite experts to present a session.

Not all sessions need to be work related.  A new hobby and interest can be a fun way to keep employees engaged and learning something new.  Encourage employees to let you know if they would be interested in hosting a lunch and learn to share a hobby or skill.  You can reward them with a gift card or cover the materials they need to host a session.  Perhaps invite managers to provide an overview of what their department does which helps employees learn how their role ties in with overall organizational goals. 

  • Invite key contacts from your network

Building up diverse networks is essential for effective leadership.  This includes maintaining relationships with key professionals that could be former colleagues, business partners, clients and your 1st degree LinkedIn connections.  Determine their strengths and identify experts that are willing to run a webinar or come in to speak to your employees about a subject.  You may even find them hosting a live event that you can sign up for and invite your colleagues to attend.

  • Develop Individual Development Plans and Learning Pathways

This is a process where the employee takes accountability for their growth and development and in partnership with their manager identify and evolve their strengths and opportunity areas.  Even though the primary responsibility is on the employee to learn, the manager has an important role to provide the necessary coaching and support as well as offer resources and opportunities for professional growth.  Here are some ideas of what you can offer your teams:

  • Provide scenarios of real business problems for employees to work through.
  • Create a list of organizations that offer free webinars and learning.
  • Provide a network of trainers and mentors with various skills.
  • Identify trade journals and magazines relevant to a specific field.
  • Provide competency-based learning assignments.
  • Provide job shadowing and job rotation opportunities. 
  • Offer internal training material and courses.
  • Set-up an internal library with user guides, leadership books, policies, and manuals.
  • Provide your non office staff opportunities to access technology.
  • Schedule company meetings and discussions.

There are so many different training methods that are highly effective with little, or manageable cost involved. An organization can get very creative at developing a comprehensive learning plan on a minimal budget.  Employees are your most important asset and building a learning culture is a key strategy in ensuring overall job satisfaction and retention. Contact Bridge Legal and HR Solutions for practical guidance and support – (647) 794-5442 or at

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