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With summer behind us and cool weather approaching, back to school time is here. While the term “back to school” typically conjures images of school-aged children, high school or post-secondary students marching off to school with backpacks, employers can also jump on the back to school bandwagon and provide continuous learning opportunities for their employees to further develop their knowledge and skills. Besides being an effective retention tool, training and development, along with cross-training, creates confidence, aids in career growth, and increases employee engagement.

Training and development creates confidence, aids in career growth, and increases employee engagement. Twitter_logo_blue

The good news for employers is that an internal training department or a large budget is not required to encourage a culture of continuous learning in organizations. Here are some cost-effective ideas that can be implemented to provide learning opportunities for your employees.

1. Formal Classroom Training. If it’s in the budget, formal classroom training can provide great opportunities for professional development. In Victoria, local institutions such as Camosun College, Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria have released their updated continuing education calendars and there are some excellent leadership, management, supervisory, and technical courses available. These courses are an affordable way for employees to gain knowledge and skills which will support them in carrying out job duties and in their careers for years to come.

2. Broaden Your Horizons. Education doesn’t have to take place in a classroom. In fact, there are many opportunities to foster learning and growth in an informal setting. One low-cost idea is running Lunch & Learn sessions, where experts are brought in to educate employees on hot topics related to your field, or other areas of interest for your employees. Some ideas? Why not try health and wellness initiatives, how to write a will, or how to set up an educational RRSP for children.

3. In-House Development with Subject Matter Experts. Create a Professional Development hour each month where team members can share their expertise with the rest of the team. Topics can include staying up to date on technical skills, providing cross-training opportunities, or sharing areas of expertise or unique projects they’re working on. Cross-training is a valuable tool that allows employees to put themselves in each other’s shoes to understand processes and gain a better understanding of how their contributions fit in with the big picture.

4. Micro-Learning. We’ve talked about Micro-Learning previously, and it’s a good reminder that learning opportunities don’t always have to take a long time or be a big financial investment. In fact, some of the most impactful sessions are short and sweet, and demonstrate a concept that can be applied immediately.

5. Cultivate a Continuous Learning Environment. In school, teachers used to say, “there is no such thing as a dumb question.” So, make sure that you are available to your team to answer any questions that they have. Creating an open and collaborative environment allows the sharing of knowledge among peers and across all departments. Sharing tips with each other, whether it be an interesting article, books or thought-provoking news pieces, can also encourage continuous learning and curiosity.

6. Online Resources. There are countless training and how-to videos available on YouTube along with free webinars that can be viewed from the comfort of your employees’ workstations. Lynda offers thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills with flexible, convenient and cost-effective group memberships for businesses. Mindtools is another online platform that offers personal development resources that can build skills, increase productivity, improve management and leadership skills, and support organizational development initiatives.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

If your organization’s employee professional development opportunities are lacking (or non-existent), it may be time to put into place some of the ideas that we have outlined above. If you don’t have a big budget, consider implementing a monthly knowledge sharing session with your employees to get creative juices flowing and foster a learning environment. As always, if you have a question, we’re here to help!

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