7 do-it-yourself tips to cut training costs

training employees When companies need to cut corners, one of the first things executives slash is the training budget. When that happens, it’s time for HR to get creative.

Start by determining which training is must-have and which is nice-to-have. Must-have training covers topics mandated by federal, state or industry regulations. Examples include most workplace safety training and—in many states—training on how to prevent sexual harassment.

Other must-have offerings might include training and development that is not legally mandated, but is beneficial in preventing or defending against legal claims.

To assess the importance of continuing to provide training programs that aren’t mandatory, consider:

  • The risks of not providing the program. Will untrained employees cause safety hazards, legal liability or regulatory compliance problems?
  • How quickly the skill set being taught will become dated. Especially in technology-intensive industries, is the state of the art changing so fast that regular training is essential?
  • How essential the program is to the company’s success. Will failure to train make it harder for you to serve customers? Will it create a competitive disadvantage?
  • The impact on employee morale and retention. Do your employees value training as an important benefit? If so, cutting back on training may turn out to be a false economy.

Tip: Use these same factors to determine whether you should beef up your training program.

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7 practical cost-cutting tips

Once you have decided which training programs must continue, it’s time to figure out how to deliver them less expensively.

  1. Be selective about who gets trained. Instead of training the whole company or an entire department, it might be enough to just train supervisors and a few key employees—who could, in turn, pass on to co-workers what they’ve learned. Tip: If you can’t avoid training a large number of employees, look for volume discounts.
  2. Prepare training materials in-house. Instead of purchasing a canned training session, put one together internally. The Internet is packed with free resources. For example, some universities offer free online training courses. Many software publishers offer free online tutorials for their programs. Search “online _______ training,” filling in the blank with the appropriate subject.
  3. Present the material yourself instead of contracting with an outside trainer. If no one in HR is qualified to present the material, look elsewhere in-house before seeking an external facilitator. An IT manager, for example, might have the skills needed to teach a new computer program.
  4. Cut back on the frequency of training sessions. Instead of conducting training twice a year, do it once a year, and provide written materials that participants can refer to as needed.
  5. Forgo travel in favor of online web conferences and seminars. That eliminates airfare, hotel and meal costs.
  6. Adopt a no-frills approach. Skip the catered lunches, and treat mid-training lunch breaks as a regular lunch break—employees are on their own. You probably also can do without the glossy handouts and fancy binders full of materials. Keep it simple.
  7. Explore alternative training methods, such as mentoring and job shadowing.

Compliance check

Whenever you make changes to a legally mandated training program, check that the changes do not render the program noncompliant. California law, for instance, requires sexual harassment training to be conducted by a “subject matter expert.” If no one on your staff is qualified, you may have no choice but to hire an outside trainer.