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10 Low (Or No!) Cost Employee Training Programs That Really Work

Michael Hansen
5 min read

There’s no getting around it: regardless of industry or size, your employees need training. Whether your staff is mostly veterans with years of experience or workers fresh out of high school or college, you need to deliver low cost employee training that helps them hit the mark. Here are ten low- or no-cost employee training options that really work.

1. LinkedIn Learning

No sense in reinventing the wheel, especially when LinkedIn Learning offers tons of online classes and seminars for free, covering topics that range from managing conflict to learning SEO. These courses are led by well-known CEOs like Sheryl Sandberg and successful company founders that include Danny Sullivan, co-founder of Search Engine Land and content strategist at Third Door media.

LinkedIn Learning has over 13,000 courses to choose from, and each one has at least a partially free option. Subscriptions for individuals cost around $30 a month, but you may find that the innovative training ideas presented in many of the courses pay for themselves. LinkedIn can also provide team pricing options.

2. Mobile mentor coaching

Mobile mentor coaching may be just what employees need to do their jobs (and stick around). Put simply, mobile mentors are senior employees who agree to be available on demand via text for employees when questions or issue arise.

Research suggests that mentoring is especially valuable for diverse employees entering the workforce, with caveats.

  • Mentors need to be seniors at the company
  • Mentors and mentees work best when paired using shared values and experiences
  • Direct managers make great mentors

3. Lunch and learn

Employees have to eat, and although training every day on their lunch hour might prompt some complaints, a regular monthly lunch-and-learn to deliver new information or discuss changes to regulations, research, or procedures is generally accepted by employees.

Or consider a more informal gathering where everyone is invited to share something: a book they read that is relevant to their job, new insights into projects, or anything that builds a shared bank of knowledge and promotes collaboration.

4. DIY professional development

If your company fosters a culture that encourages employees to not only celebrate their accomplishments and skills but also identify growing areas for improvement, consider giving employees the opportunity to design their own professional development.

Sessions for personalized long- and short-term goal setting, mission statements, and identifying skills in need of development make employees more invested in their own training. If you have a training development expert on staff, they can help employees articulate where they want to go and the skills they need to get there.

5. Recorded video training

The bigger the company, the more complex (and potentially expensive!) your training needs can be. Innovative training ideas still need to be streamlined enough to cross continents and meet the needs of employees in different roles.

Enter recorded video training. With this type of training, employees can access it quickly by phone or laptop.

For example, recorded video training worked for Bloomin’ Brands, a global casual dining company with over 100,000 employees in well-known restaurants like Bonefish Grill, Outback Steakhouse, and Carraba’s. This low cost employee training solution used existing training materials to design and shoot recorded mentoring modules from their leadership to emerging leaders across the company.

6. Apprenticeships

Maybe the idea of apprenticeships is daunting because it feels like you are pulling an employee off their regular duties just to follow someone around, but it’s time to update that thinking.

Apprenticeships can function in a variety of ways – as cross training and as a mentorship, to name two – and they deepen the knowledge, commitment, and capabilities of the mentee (while reinforcing and deepening the knowledge of the mentor).

Apprenticeships can be set up in any way that makes sense to the people involved, too.

This may mean regularly scheduled meetings every day, once a week, or once a month, with text check-ins or chats periodically. Yes, this is low cost employee training in that it does cost the time of the mentor, but learning directly from an experienced person who is committed to another employee’s professional (and personal) development is priceless.

7. Free training materials

Free training materials are everywhere. Vendors, federal training programs, and other online materials can provide training, even if you have a tight (or non-existent) budget.

8. Online team trainings

If your company has a Slack channel, you are already set up to collaborate online!

Why not use that space to deliver online team trainings and webinars? Slack lets team members lead Q&As, share documents, and otherwise coordinate across the office (or across the globe).

When Slack-ing isn’t an option, there are other ways to deliver affordable employee training online with free learning management systems. You will still need to design your training, but you’ll be able to save on the delivery and tracking.

9. Identify homegrown experts

The most valuable asset in your company is the people. From the newest hire to the founding executive, each employee brings talents and knowledge that you can tap into.

Do you have employees that design and build video games in their spare time? Maybe they’d like to help develop a training that uses gamification (as long as you compensate them for their time!). Is your CEO an exceptional leader, widely recognized in the industry? Tap them for a training session on how to solve problems and overcome obstacles. When you start looking, you may be shocked to uncover the variety of skills and understandings employees have.

Even better, ask if anyone on your team has fun training ideas for employees that they would be willing to share. This can be part of your regular lunch-and-learn, or it can be a standalone training.

10. Make training social

The lines between work and play are increasingly blurry, with millennials and Gen Z demanding more personal fulfillment and engagement from their work. Any time you can add a social element to the learning environment, do it.

This can include field trips, volunteer opportunities to build newly learned skills, or anything that promotes a collaborative, engaging opportunity to learn new skills and apply them.

As fast as the world is moving these days, you cannot afford to skimp on training, but this doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. These low cost employee training options focus on personalized learning opportunities that capitalize on what your employees already know and shares it with your wider team. Done well, it can engage and connect a team like nothing else.

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