How to upskill your team on a budget
As a small-to-medium business, you know the importance of getting the best out of yourself and every single member of your team. Training fulfils legal requirements, motivates your team and keeps fresh ideas coming into your business. Your budget only stretches so far, though. Amrit Sandhar, founder of The Engagement Coach, offers his advice for identifying and meeting your training needs on a budget.
Deciding what your team need to learn and providing them with the resources to undertake this might sound like a good idea, but for learning to be impactful, it’s got to be relevant to the individual. Therefore, we need to let individuals take ownership of their learning, whilst providing them with some tools and signpost resources, allowing them to learn their way, on the skills they believe they need.
Understand your team's training needs
How would anyone decide on their areas of upskilling? If it is technical training in areas such as new software or a product, that’s straightforward enough. But how do you decide on the broader areas you need to develop? After all, we all think we’re fairly good at what we do, it’s everyone else who needs developing!
360 feedback has been used across larger organisations for a few decades now. This approach is great as it allows you to see what others may see, that you may not necessarily be aware of. I would suggest three simple questions that your team could use to send to you (their manager), their colleagues (peers), and their team (any direct reports):
- What should I do more of to be more effective?
- What should I do less of to be more effective?
- What should I change to be more effective?
These three questions will allow your team members to gain feedback from different perspectives. Once the feedback comes in, it’s important that it’s used to help shape their development, not to question why people said what they did.
The questions are written in a manner that makes the feedback constructive, and the feedback should be taken as a whole. What is the common theme coming out of the feedback? Have your team think about their role and what’s expected of them. How important is the feedback in the context of what they do? How critical is it to the role?
Prioritise the feedback in the context of their role and performance expectations. This should form the basis of development, but it doesn’t mean the team member themselves has no say. They can add in whatever they believe they need to develop, but it’s important to do it taking on board the feedback from what others observe.
Access training resources to support your team's career development
Now that your team members have established areas of focus, the next step is to think about sources for the development of these skills. The following is a brief overview of some of the free and low-cost resources I recommend:
The Business Balls website contains videos, templates and information on topics ranging from change management, SMART objectives setting, personality tests, time management, managing stress and so much more. There’s a wealth of information, all free, and the focus is on the practical application of the knowledge to develop skills, with the ability to track your learning.
Future learn is a resource that has a combination of free and paid-for courses. The free courses contain the same content as the paid-for courses, but you don’t receive a certificate of completion, so provided evidence of learning isn’t important to your business (I would encourage you to be recording your own learning anyway), this is a great resource.
The courses are put together by academics prominent in their field and are in the form of text, videos and downloadable content.
Unlike Business Balls, the content is made up of courses which extend over a number of weeks. This allows for learning to be reflected on between the sessions and allows time to apply and experiment to see how it worked.
The courses cover content such as business management, creative arts and media, IT and computer science, psychology and mental health and science, engineering and maths. The course content is created by universities across the UK and is a great way to access some free learning.
The Open University
The Open University was the trailblazer in distance learning and their site has a range of courses that are free to access.
Whilst the courses can be completed without an account, there’s more value to be gained from creating a free account.
The courses are made up of text content, video sources from experts in their field (as well as from external sites such as TED Talks) and quizzes.
As you would expect from The Open University, the content is based on academic research, sharing tried and tested models and theories. There are additional paid courses that cover greater depth in some of the content covered in the free courses, but still a great resource to go and explore.
The Open University allows you to download the course content for free in a range of formats such as PDFs, Word documents or Kindle, all available to read offline. The video content is also available to download too.
So far, I have tried to focus on free content knowing the constraints many SMEs will have and especially during the current climate. My last recommendation,Udemy, doesn’t offer any free content, but it has regular sales which means that courses are reduced in price up to 90% of their value. Rich courses by experts in their field can be purchased from as little as £9.99.
You can pick the course that most interests you and each course has a rating and reviews from other learners, so you can make an informed decision about the course and its relevance to your needs.
One word of warning: it’s easy to think of a course as only costing £9.99, but this can soon add up! Think carefully about the free content available on other sites and compare it to what’s available on Udemy.
Every course is accompanied by short videos showing you a trailer of the content. This will help you decide if the way the course is presented will keep you engaged.
Finally, it’s easy to miss all the learning that goes on in daily moments of life. Learning the skill of reflective practice, will allow your teams to realise how much they’re learning every day.
Simple questions such as ‘what did you learn today that you didn’t know before?’ Or ‘what would you change/ do differently?’, can help people realise the value of learning on the job, provided we are aware of the learning occurring.
Learning from situations doesn’t require access to any tools, just to take a little regular time out to think and reflect.
It’s easy for many SMEs to think developing your teams involves expensive learning programmes which aren’t viable for them, but with a little research, you can find a world full of rich content, ensuring your teams are getting as much development as their counterparts in larger organisations.
Amrit Sandhar is the founder of The Engagement Coach. He has worked with a number of well-known brands across the UK, to improve employee engagement/experience, ultimately to improve organisational productivity. With a particular passion for neuroscience and psychology to drive behavioural change, combined with his experience in employee engagement, he uses a data-driven approach to identify the issues organisations are struggling with, and to work with them to create solutions leading to drive sustainable change. Amrit is a values-led individual who has a passion for developing people, as he believes highly-engaged leaders drive better business performance by getting the best out of their colleagues.