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Training on a Shoestring

Updated on March 23, 2012

From time to time, I am asked by clients, “How can I train my people when I am on a tight budget?” Good question. Most businesses today are tightening their belts and some view training, any type of training, as a luxury. This is sad because continual training during the tough times makes for sweeter returns when the economy completely recovers. Since it is obvious by now that most sectors of the economy are in a recovery mode, business leaders should be looking at ways to add continual training to their list of business tasks.

I’ve worked with businesses in many industries, but I get a lot of repeat business from the construction and manufacturing sectors. These types of businesses often have to meet specific safety training requirements. Some are monitored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and require that some businesses send their employees to an annual or semi-annual training based on their work practices. For example, fork lift operators must complete a safety course because, according to OSHA, “Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur in US workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines…”

Most of the training requirements for forklift operators are directed through OSHA State Plans. My state, the state of Florida, does not have to meet a specific State Plan, but contractors do have to keep on file up-to-date OSHA required training records. Other businesses must meet ladder training, lifting techniques, blood-borne-pathogen, and other government mandated requirements.

Aside from the required training, business leaders must consider individual skills and knowledge training in order to advance and compete within their market niche. If the business is code-writing for websites, that language is always changing and updated training is a necessity and not a want. Sales training, customer service training, employee relations training, leadership training, and more is required for the smart businesses that want to get and stay on top.

Back to the opening question: How do you do training if you are on a budget and money is tight? Here are three ways to tackle it without busting the bank. You will probably notice that as you begin to implement these tips, your mind will jump into the creativity mode and begin coming up with even more ideas to train on a shoestring.

First, utilize your existing workforce. Look for those team members that are well-versed in a specific discipline that you need to tap. For example, if you hired an employee to do data entry, but she worked as a human resources generalist for several years, use her strengths to begin training others in how to set up a compensation plan or how to better organize employee’s vacation hours. Perhaps you have a sign shop with employees that use to create neon signs. Have them train others in the art of neon sign making. You get the picture.

Next, if you have to have specialized, but not required training, consider sending only one employee to the training site. Require that employee to train others when he or she comes back. It is as if you sent your entire workforce to the training.

Finally, use all of the free resources you can get your hands on. OSHA’s site offers tons of training online and ideas for training. Use local resources that might offer safety courses such as fire stations or building code enforcement departments. These are abundantly available, but you have to do your homework. Perhaps you could delegate this task to an employee and make that person your official trainer. Most employees will be honored to take on the task and proudly find resources to benefit your business without busting the budget.

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