Although the economy is picking up ever so slightly, IT departments remain on the lookout for ways to do more with less -- fewer people, fewer resources, less money. That's why learning how to stretch the training budget as far as possible can pay significant dividends. This is true both for those organizations seeking to develop employee skills and knowledge for the least expenditure, and for employees looking to improve and enhance their career potential and longevity.
Below are tips to help you provide the best and most training with the smallest overall outlay.
Partner with Employees: Split Training Costs
If an organization can get its employees to buy into training and career development, they can literally double their dollars when costs get split 50-50. This is already an implicit aspect in many tuition support programs, where employers offer a partial stipend or payment to help cover the costs of academic coursework. Why not make it a part of how IT training dollars get spent, too?
Some IT departments offer their employees a menu of courses or certifications from which employees can choose, coupled with (partial) reimbursement plans to help defray their costs. By offering more support for those credentials it needs the most, and less for those credentials outside the "must-have" list, organizations can steer employees in the directions they want them to go.
Negotiate Discounts to Control Costs
Times are tough for training companies, too. If you do want to buy into online or classroom training, you'll get a better bang from your budget if you negotiate a "group rate" of sorts to cover some or all of your training needs.
[ Related:IT Pros Get Training on Their Own Dime]
Although online or virtual classes may not be as popular as instructor-led in-class training, remote offerings usually cost less to begin with; obtaining additional discounts will help leverage such spending even further. Some training companies offer subscriptions to their entire training libraries on a per-seat, per-month basis.
Pluralsight offers its extensive training catalog to individuals for about $50 a month, for example, and its business offerings include progress tracking and assessments for enrolled employees, as well as library access for some number of individuals. A 10-user license costs about $25 per month, per individual user for a Basic package, and double that for their Plus package, which adds exercises, assessments and offline viewing to the basic ability to watch courses online on a PC or mobile device.
Purchase Key Items in Bulk
If you know you need to run a team of system engineers or senior tech support staff through a specific curriculum that includes certain certification exams, and you can hold those people to a schedule, then you can purchase exam voucher or training/voucher bundles at a discount. As the purveyor of many popular and high-demand cert exams, and a publisher of copious related training materials, Pearson VUE/Pearson Education offers much of what employers need for such programs. Contact the Voucher Store to inquire about volume purchase pricing and arrangements.
Assemble Employee Study Groups and Resources
Just a little added support for employees involved in training, or preparing for certification, can help organizations realize better results from (and returns on) their training investments. Consider some or all of the following strategies to help employees make the most of their training experience and get the best value for your training dollars
- Set up a wiki or online forums/chat rooms on a per-topic or per-exam basis for employees to use and share.
- Encourage employees to share their best resources, learning materials, study techniques and so forth with one another. Build compendia of such materials and pointers for ongoing sharing.
- Provide access to practice tests, exercises and simulated or virtual labs for hands-on work so employees can check their learning, buttress their weak spots and develop a well-rounded understanding of training materials, exam objectives and coverage.
- Identify local subject matter experts to whom training and certification candidates can turn for added information and explanation when the going gets tough.
Because many employees will be interested in these kinds of things, you can find volunteers to help create and maintain these kinds of low-cost but high-value training and prep tools and resources.
Provide Recognition and Rewards to Those Who Succeed
Sure, it would be nice if everyone who earns a certification or masters some new body of knowledge could get a 25 percent raise and/or a promotion as a consequence of completing a program of some kind. In some cases, such rewards may even be required to retain employees who earn coveted credentials such as the Cisco CCIE, (ISC)2 CISSP or the ITIL Master Qualification.
However, even small rewards, such as a $100 gift certificate for a family night out or a gift card to a local department store can communicate your appreciation to those employees who manage to chew, swallow and digest what they must bite off to pursue training and certification. A public pat on the back in the employee newsletter or at a period employee meeting doesn't hurt, either. Recognition provides added impetus for employees to finish what they start and shows them that you value the time and effort they must expend in pursuing training and certification.
Ask for Ideas and Suggestions, Then Act Upon Them
Beyond the various methods to stretch your training budget outlined here, you can also turn to your target audience to ask how it thinks you can maximize the return on training and certification. You may be surprised by the quality and quantity of resulting feedback. Most employees respond positively to on-the-job opportunities for career and professional development. They, too, understand that the likelihood of continuing support rests on the outcomes of their training and certification efforts. In the end, they know full well that, by helping the organization excel and improve, they too will benefit from improved job and pay prospects.