Summary: You can stretch your training dollar by carefully analyzing and choosing both internal and external tools and programs.

Training departments should always maintain a certain budget-consciousness – in both good and not-so-good financial circumstances. You can stretch your budget by examining needs and being aware that a mix of external and internal resources are available. Here are some ways to do that.

Your first step should be to conduct a thorough needs analysis annually. Remember to get your stakeholders’ and senior managers’ input, as a part of the process. What programs or tools are going to be absolutely necessary in the coming financial period? Is it absolutely time to build that Learning Management System (LMS) or is a new product launch going to take precedence? Is there a need for recurrent training, such as compliance, that is always a priority from year to year? In your needs analysis process, be sure to divide the “must haves” from the “nice-to-haves”. This way, you can prioritize easily and work toward the tools or programs you don’t absolutely need.

Once you’ve determined your priorities, look at your current resources. Many training departments have instructors who double as course designers – if this is the case, do your instructors’ schedules permit them to take the time to design or redesign courses? If you need a Learning Management System, do you have someone that can efficiently take that responsibility? What about your current programs? Are they meeting the needs of the audience in their existing format? Examine your course materials thoroughly – do you have informational courses that could be transferred into an online course, a PowerPoint accessible by all employees, or a paper-based quick reference guide? In other words, are you bringing employees to the classroom when the same purpose could be served while they’re sitting at their desks? Examining your resources, both human and otherwise, is a great way to help you decide new ways to deploy them.

Before you make a final decision, review your available external resources. In training and development, outsourcing can cover just about every need. You can hire contract instructors and course designers. If you need to purchase an LMS, providers will be more than willing to examine your set-up and make recommendations – and help you bring the system online in an expedited manner. Courses are also available for outsourcing – purchasing a “canned” course does not always involve customization. Many outsourcers provide specific courses for specific industries in compliance, customer service, human resources, management, and leadership – you simply have to search for them. Many of these courses run from the outsourcer’s website, so all your employees need is Internet access. In fact, some outsourcers offer classroom training, including design, delivery, and training for your instructors. A thorough search for external tools and costs will give you an excellent comparison of your resources versus the outsourcing channel.

Now that you’ve created and ranked your list, you must come back to the reality of cost. A price tag is a good place to start, but the physical price of a course or an LMS should not be your only consideration. Let’s say you need at online compliance courses. Do your in-house resources have the expertise to develop the curriculum? What is the cost to have that person at the desk for the next few months to write it? Look at the person’s salary, down to the hour. If he or she is not teaching classes, what will the loss be in classroom training? How many classroom courses will you forego and at what employee cost? But don’t forget to look at long-term needs, as well. Once the compliance courses are written, who’s going to update them appropriately? If you outsource the courses, your provider will probably update them for you as part of the cost of the training. Is that cost worthwhile to your organization and its current resources?

When you’ve fairly evaluated all of the criteria, you should be able to make a more informed decision about the effectiveness of internal development versus purchasing external tools or programs. You will have also determined what items are priorities and can focus on those. Remember to thoroughly examine your current resources, external choices, and cost for each decision – by doing so, you will be able to stretch your budget and meet the needs of your stakeholders and audience.

Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.