Low Cost Training Options
Organizations must continue the operation of training and development even in times of tighter budgets. There are a number of different ways organizations can train their workforce with minimal expenditures. One obvious way of controlling costs is limiting the number of people sent externally for training. Other easy ways to decrease costs and increase the quality of training in your organization is through on-the-job training, using technology, offering online training, free webinars or simply formalizing the informal training that’s already occurring on a daily basis. By implementing some of the suggestions on this page, you can increase the quality of your training offerings while incurring little to no cost.
Federal Government Tools and Resources
Federal Executive Boards
- Agencies should coordinate with their local Federal Executive Board (FEB) for cost-effective training opportunities and pre-retirement seminars in their area. Historically, the Federal Executive Boards have offered low cost and sometimes no-cost training courses and seminars for federal employees. Fees arranged through the FEB are usually considerably less than published rates or tuitions from commercial sources.
The U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF)
- ATF’s Stepping up to Leadership Program (SUTL) is a twelve-month aspiring leaders program for non-supervisory GS-9s, 11s, and 12s. The program includes a mix of formal coursework, leadership competency assessments, and personally assigned activities aimed at developing the leadership competencies of program participants. Participants spend approximately eight hours a month on program activities, which include monthly (web-based) training sessions, online team meetings, and individualized learning using online courses available through the agency’s Learning Management System (LMS). The SUTL program is evaluated using monthly training surveys and a final leadership assessment measuring the change in leadership competency scores for each participant. Costs are limited to the purchase of leadership books. All other costs of the program are offset using existing training resources within the agency. For further information please contact the ATF Chief Learning Officer (CLO).
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
- The DOE Blended Learning Approach is a tool to assist individuals, manager, and learning and development professionals address employee development needs. It provides informal and formal methods as well as a systematic process for creating blended learning solutions. For more information or a copy of the tool, please contact the DOE Chief Learning Officer (CLO).
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
- OPM’s HR University (HRU) site is the Federal Government's "one stop" Human Resources Career Development Center designed to help guide Human Resources Professionals along their federal career path. The site offers a wealth of information, including: personalized career guidance, free online training courses, information about additional training, and resources to help you achieve high levels of technical, consulting, business and professional competencies. Also available is a list of online or classroom-based courses, evaluated and approved by the Office of Personnel Management to meet established competencies for the HR profession.
HR University also hosts the Federal “Manager’s Corner” which provides training and resources for ALL Federal supervisors, managers, and executives. They will find training, performance management information, pay tables, information on how to successfully implement work life programs, and other topics needed to successfully lead in the Federal Government.
Private Sector Tools and Resources
- LinkedIn Events
Search the social networking site LinkedIn for events by subject matter or location to find seminars, speaker presentations, and workshops.
- @Lrnchat/#lrnchat (Learn Chat on Twitter)
Lrnchat is an online chat session that takes place over Twitter every Thursday at 8:30-10:00pm EST/5:30-7:00pm PST. You can follow @LearnChat at http://twitter.com/lrnchat, or visit their website: http://lrnchat.com/
- Learning management system (LMS)
LMS is a computer software program to deliver, track and manage training. Widely used throughout corporate universities, a LMS provides the employee easy access register, schedule and complete the courses. The type of training an LMS can provide is synchronous (self-instruction), asynchronous (collaboration with others), blended and classroom based training.
Electronic (or virtual) course-taking is becoming a widely popular training delivery method for many organizations. Although e-learning courses may initially demand significant time and resources, the organization saves on facilitator and logistical needs in the long run. Many agencies offer e-learning courses through a learning management system to 1) allow easy access, and 2) create a record of the course being taken.
10 eLearning Freebies (from The eLearning Coach)
- Comic Book Characters and Scenes
- Cartoon Speech Bubbles
- mLearning Implementation Road Map
- Icon Finder
- Handwritten Fonts
- Weekly Graphic, Illustration and Font
- eLearning (PowerPoint & other) Templates
- Sound Effects
- Storyboard Templates
- Bonus: eLearning Resources
The eLearning Guild is also a source of information, networking, and community for eLearning Professionals.
Meetings and presentations conducted via the internet where the presenter is on-line presenting the information, and the participants are sitting at their desks or conference room receiving the training. During webinars, participants are given the chance to ask the trainer questions through the phone line that is required for operation of the webinar. The trainer also takes mini-polls at various points during the training getting participant feedback on issues. Often, the webinar is archived, so that it is available on demand around the clock. Many training based organizations offer free webinars to industry-based organizations.
A series of digital audio or video media files available for download through websites. Podcasts are great tools to have for the workforce to attend at various times due to shift work or difficult availability. Podcasts can be available on demand for anytime learning by employees – in the office, during the commute, or at home. Podcasts, which offer an alternative to reading that appeals to employees who prefer learning modes, enable employees to learn about issues, innovations, and best practices.
Here are some examples of on-demand professional and personal development podcasts:
This training method allows for multiple sites within organizations to connect together at the same time to participate in training events, meetings or presentations. The training is conducted through video and audio transmissions simultaneously. Videoconferencing is extremely helpful in organizations with global sites that also need regulatory training.
- Other Wiki Pages
Free training information is available across the OPM Training and Development Wiki site.
- External Subject Matter Expert Training Opportunities
Externally, many different low-cost training methods can be utilized from the employee's home if they telecommute or if they are on-site at the organization. Elimination of travel to training sites saves organizations time and expense. Externally, organizations can seek webinars, podcasts, e-learning events, and videoconferencing opportunities. In addition, organizations may be able to unite with other organizations seeking a particular training to obtain a group training discount from the vendor due to high demand of the training.
Read Trade magazines/Journals
Trade magazines are a good way for employees to learn about issues, innovations, and best practices. Subscription costs continue to decline; many publications are now free. A few are perks of association memberships. Often, a paper subscription comes with online access to the same content. Professional reading can be done during the commute or lunch hour. The below lists reflect examples of robust content, as they pertain to various professional disciplines.
For Learning & Development and Human Resources Professionals:
For Project Managers:
- PM Network (available with paid membership in the Project Management Institute)
For I.T. Professionals:
For Education Technology Professionals:
For Budget and Program Analysts:
For Supervisors, Managers, and Executives:
- Government Executive (free)
- The Public Manager (subscription)
- Governing (State & Local) (free)
- PA Times (available with paid membership in the American Society of Public Administration)
- On-the-job training
Hands on learning for the employee utilizing the required equipment and resources as they are learning the job. This method of training would be the most effective learning environment for an employee due to the fact that the employee is demonstrating transfer of learning simultaneously as they are gaining the knowledge and skill through instruction.
- “Train the trainer” programs
Due to expensive price tags on training events, organizations will send one or two employees to be trained on a particular topic. The employees will return back to the organization and be expected to train other employees that need the same particular skill or knowledge. The employees are labeled as the trainer with subject matter expertise for the particular topic in the organization, and will train other employees in the future.
- Cross-training (e.g., Details, Developmental Assignments, Special Projects)
Training that covers several tasks within a department or office. Employees in a particular department will master their own tasks of responsibility and the tasks of their co-workers in the event that extra help may be needed and different areas require coverage. Cross-training can typically be accomplished internally with the more senior employees being the trainers. Cross-training is appropriate when turnover is high, and headcount cannot be filled immediately due to budget cuts.
Coaching is a thought provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential. This is a method of instruction where the desired outcome is to obtain a certain level of knowledge or skills.
- In-house Training and Brown Bag Lunches
In-house training is an excellent way to provide training to a large portion of the workforce without a hefty price tag. Facilitators for in-house training must be the subject matter expert of the training topic. The majority of organizations identify employees as candidates who have demonstrated outstanding knowledge and skill on the training topic through work tasks and competency levels. Brown-bag lunches are a good way to recruit individuals to training events where they can come voluntarily for one hour during lunch time, and bring their lunch to eat while participating in the training.
Join your local Toastmasters International group to help you or your employees develop presentation skills, which can be essential to briefing executives, presenting important material and conveying the value of your training programs to stakeholders. There is a minimal fee for this group.
- Invite a manager or executive into a meeting to explain how a huge success was accomplished.
- Organize a cross-agency meeting of people who do similar jobs in different bureaus (e.g. grants management) to share their thoughts on best practices.
- Invite employees to listen to a webinar together, and lead a discussion afterward.
- Organize a book club by inviting an author to come speak about their newest book.
- Vendors such as Hooks Book Events will identify authors that fit your requirements. Contact: Perry Pidgeon Hooks, Hooks Book Events, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-229-1128 or Loretta Yenson, email@example.com, 301-229-1128. Note: they charge a nominal fee.
- The Treasury Executive Institute also hosts 2-hour book discussions with well-known authors on a wide variety of topics. Agencies can participate for a nominal fee.
- Agencies can also create their own book clubs by simply following these simple steps.
- Host interagency events to promote dialogue and deepen relationships for future collaborative efforts.
- Invite the Federal Executive Board or DHS Fusion Center Directors to visit, so prospective leaders can find out how agencies are collaborating in the community.