9 Budget-Friendly Employee Development Ideas

9 Budget-Friendly Employee Development Ideas

Developing your employees can be difficult when you are working with a limited (or no) budget, which is a common challenge for leaders. Beyond budget limitations, we are all doing more with less and finding the time to focus on upskilling can be daunting in itself.

I love helping leaders solve this dilemma by identifying creative and often overlooked solutions. The reality is that development opportunities are all around us if you know where to look.

Beyond the traditional conferences, seminars and in-person training sessions, consider the following ideas for your team:

  1. On-demand web-based training: Adults learn best when content is just in time (JIT) and close to when the information can be applied. This approach also allows employees to find the right level of content for their unique learning needs. My favorite options for this type of training are:
  2. Books: Yes, books. With all the different formats that books can be consumed, this is a great way to give employees information on a variety of topics in a cost-effective manner. With specific book recommendations in hand, the employee may be able to find them free through a local library. I have the following apps connected to my library card so I can check out Kindle and audiobooks right from my phone:
  3. Committees: Does your organization have committees (e.g. safety committee, social committee etc)? Can you start one? This could provide opportunities for development in leadership, communication, collaboration, teamwork etc.
  4. Special projects/stretch goals: Is there a project that would allow your employee to challenge his/her skill set and generate results for your group? Giving your employee a chance to shine and potentially get exposure to other areas of your business can do wonders for employee development (and engagement).
  5. Leadership positions through professional and non-profit organizations: If you are struggling to find ways to develop your employee internally, consider external options. Is there a board position through a professional or non-profit organization that would provide exposure to public speaking, financials, communication or other areas that your employee needs practice in?
  6. Professional memberships: Most professions have organizations that are dedicated to furthering the body of knowledge in that field. Oftentimes these memberships will include newsletters, magazine, webinars, conferences and networking opportunities to keep your employee up to date on best practices.
  7. Free educational resources: Don’t forget about the true freebies! We are fortunate to live in a time were open source learning is a growing trend. Here are a few examples:
  8. Mentoring: Another free (less the cost of time) approach is to pair your employee up with a mentor (internally or externally) to help your employee grow. I recommend discussing what you want your employee to focus on so the time spent with a mentor is meaningful.
  9. Assessments: Check with your HR/OD department to see if there are assessments available. Using assessments can create a safe space to obtain objective feedback on strengths and opportunities. It’s also very cost effective in most cases. Personally, I am a big fan of the Everything DiSC, PAPI and StrenghtsFinder tools.

The list goes on… Point being, I have helped create robust development plans with a $0 budget when that was all I had to work with and you can too! Keep in mind that the development goals should help your employee make meaningful career progress and be aligned with your organization’s strategic direction.

If you would like help creating meaningful strategic development plans for yourself or your employees, contact me at lnorek@leadershipextension.com

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