Training Newbie

10 Low Cost Training Ideas

10LowCostTrainingIdeasbyNelle

Low Cost Doesn't Have to Mean Low Value

When you think of the word, "low-cost" what is usually the first thing that comes to mind? Something that's cheap, junky, or bargain basement value? Maybe all of the above? 

Well through our personal experiences, we learn the hard way that usually when something is coined "low-cost," the product or service just doesn't deliver. It's either poorly designed, defective, or deceitful in what it really does or offers. And when we do find something low-cost that sounds half way decent, we start to hear our mother's voice in the back of our head reciting the popular adage, "You get what you pay for." 

So yes, we should use caution before making those kinds of decisions, but keep in mind that not ALL low-cost tools and services suck. You just have to really do your homework before you decide to buy. And when it comes to finding low-cost tools for training and development, it's no different. 

With the advent of technology, computer applications and digital tools have become much more affordable, and accessible to the everyman. You don't have to buy expensive software and learning management systems to create successful training. 

You can cut costs, save time, increase collaboration, and improve your productivity with emerging technologies and non-traditional training tools (which I will be mentioning within this article). Oh, and before you get started reading, I highly suggest you print out this post and use it when selecting the types of training you want to deliver, as I will be outlining lots of valuable information and pricing options. 

So sit back, relax, and get ready to find out how to maximize your training with minimal moola. 

Just as a quick disclaimer: Although I'm displaying a buffet of training options to you, make sure you choose the training option(s) that make the most sense for your business. Don't feel pressured to choose everything. Start small, check in with your employees (get their input), and build from there. 

 

Slide show presentations

It's no surprise that PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Zoho Show are the major players when it comes to presentation platforms. They offer lots of functionality for designing training for a variety of audiences... and they're pretty affordable compared to other high-end design programs. Plus, the learning curve isn't very big, so you can master the platforms fairly easily. 

Power to the Presentation

Before you fire up your computer and get to work, just remember: the key to creating effective training with presentation software is to avoid drowning your learner in a sea of text, poor images, and a clunky layout. 

The entire premise of presentation software is to present a story (or concept) in a compelling and interactive way that inspires, educates, and draws in the learner (or viewer). 

In the case of training, the more interactive, the better.

And while slide show presentation features vary depending on the program, most offer the ability to: 

  • Embed Web Pages, Documents, Blogs, + Videos
  • View Document Activity
  • Add Animation + Triggers
  • Share Across Multiple Platforms
  • Insert Charts + Graphs
  • Add URLs/Links
  • Collaborate in Real Time

So don't be afraid to use all of these features to your advantage, and when you design your slide presentation be sure to draw connections with real-world examples and use a healthy balance of humor for an enjoyable experience. 

So, What Will it Cost Me?

In terms of pricing, Microsoft PowerPoint (standalone, not including full Microsoft Suite) will cost you about $109, for 1 user (both PC and Mac) in the Microsoft Store, but you can shop around and check out other vendors such as Amazon, Overstock or Office Max/Depot. 

If you're looking for free alternatives, check out Zoho Show or Google Slides

case studies

Life is one big lesson, but it doesn't mean much if you don't learn and grow from it.

With that said, have you ever thought about using your real-life business experiences as teaching or training examples to your staff? Both the good, bad, and ugly, like the shipping issues or the amazing customer product reviews. These are are valuable learning lessons for your employees to study and learn from, and they shouldn't go unnoticed. 

To get the ball rolling, simply write down the scenario you'd like to address, transform it into a case study format and let your employees reflect on the outcome of the scenario. You can opt to review the case study in person with your staff (i.e. in a meeting or special training session), or simply use an internal blog/discussion board for employees to comment.  

So, What Will it Cost Me?

Aside from the time it will take for you to write up the case study, and the time you permit for employees to get together to discuss it (in person or online), virtually nothing. A priceless lesson, indeed. 

on-demand Webinars

On-demand webinars are a great and cost-effective way to train your employees - as they can access the content anytime, anyplace. You don't have to worry about getting all of your people in one room at the same time for classroom training or even to view a live presentation. Most importantly, once you put the time and effort into creating the webinar, (writing, narrating, and editing your script), you don't need to do it again, unless you want (or need) to update or expand the material.

So, What Will it Cost Me?

If you already have the slide sharing presentation software (i.e. PowerPoint or Keynote), you're good to go. If not, you can look into free options like Google Slides, or Zoho Show, if you're not trying to spend any money.  

These days almost all microphones are built in both PC and Mac laptops, but if you're working with a desktop computer, you can check out USB external microphones such as the Blue Snowball ($42) or the Yeti ($109). (I use the Blue Snowball for my webinars, and I love it. It's lasted me for a good four years, now). 

For the photos in your webinar, you can take your own (make sure you get permission before you start snapping away though) or look to free stock photo sites such as Pixabay, Unsplash, or RawPixel. If you want a more extensive collection of photos to choose from, you can check out iStock (which can run anywhere from $12+ per photo if purchased separately, but the price goes down if you buy the stock photo bundles). 

The only other additional cost to factor in is a video-hosting subscription such as with Vimeo PRO or Wistia, two very reputable companies that specialize in providing small businesses and professionals with video management and hosting tools. Vimeo PRO will run you $50 a month/billed annually, and Wistia cites $99 per month, but that includes an assortment of offerings like 10 free videos, no Wistia branding, and of course, standard features. 

A Quick Word on Hosting Sites: Now, you might be tempted to just directly upload your videos to your site, and password protect the area (or create an entirely different site to host them on), or even upload them to YouTube but DON'T DO IT. You'll put a burden on your bandwidth, put your proprietary information at risk, and slow down or potentially crash your site. With professional video hosting sites, you're paying for privacy and security, and reliability, unlike free services which only provide the minimum. 

It's better to just doll out the extra cash to be on the safe side.

Classroom Instruction

Instructor-led classroom training. It's one of the oldest forms of training around. It's easy to set up, can cater to large groups of people, and doesn't cost a whole 'lot. A great choice for a business of any size. 

So, what will it cost me?

For classroom training, I'm assuming you already have a location in mind to host the session - either at your own place of business or a somewhere you'd like to rent out. If you choose the latter, just make sure the chairs, and tables will be included with your reservation. 

Optional Accessories

  • Paper + Pens: Markers, Pens, Papers. Get 'em wherever it's cheapest. Big box stores, online merchants, or go deep in the depths of your storage supply closet! 
  • Flip Chart:  My go-to: the Post-it Self Stick Pad or the Self Stick Pad w/Markers
  • Mini Projector: The HYTT mobile projector allows you to project images, presentations, and video from your laptop, iPhone, camera, and other devices just like a regular full-sized wall projector with up to 120 inches of projection. It supports full 1080p resolution, wireless, Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity. 
  • Copies:  If you're not using your own printer, you can always opt for FedEx Kinkos or Staples. Printing prices will vary, but you can expect to pay as little as 0.11 at Staples. (I should know, I've been there enough!) Plus, each of these businesses come in handy if you have large quantities of handouts that need to be printed, or you want to print a professional booklet or workbook for your learners.
  • Internet Connection: An absolute must for incorporating interactive technology
  • Laptop/iPads/Tablets/Smart Devices: For hosting, presenting your PowerPoint or Slide Deck, and launching any interactive programs or applications. Don't forget to tell your learners whether the session is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) (or if you'll be providing them). 

And of course, don't forget the content. (Content is king, you know.) 

Now, go dust off the old whiteboard and put your instructor cap on. Your employees have some learning to do.

Interactive Docs + Flipbooks

Have you ever thought about adding a little kick to your documents? Maybe creating something a little out of the box, that adds more interactivity into the mix? 

Documents for Days

A great way to do that is by designing an interactive document that allows you to embed pictures, videos, fillable boxes, buttons and more. This can be achieved by using Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign to engage the learner. 

Flip for Fun

If you want to kick it up a notch, flipbook presentation software, can also provide a visually-pleasing and mentally stimulating experience for your learners while allowing them to deeply explore the concept in front of them. From demonstrations to in-depth storytelling, flipbooks have a unique personality all of their own. 

So, what will it cost me? 

For Interactive documents software: 

For Flipping presentations applications: 

  • PubHTML5: $25 a month/$299 billed annually; works with both Windows and Mac; Offers Animation editor (for interactivity), notes and annotation, video and photo slideshow, password protection and more
  • FlipSnack: $24 a month (when billed yearly); web-based; Offers full customization, privacy features, mobile-friendly, personalized branding, and ability to add links (internal and external), text, images, and audio 

DIY Videos

Video is one of the hottest training methods right now, and the good thing is you don't need an expensive collection of cameras and equipment to make it all happen. 

You can create solid rapid instructional videos that are quick and easy to produce, that still maintain professional quality. 

So, what will it cost me? 

To create a rapid training video you will need a few items: 

Blogs

You read them on the regular and subscribe to your most favorite ones, but blogs can deliver more than just entertainment value. If you're a business on a budget, one of the best ways to educate your employees is through an internal blog. But not just any blog - a special password protected domain where employees can learn: shortcuts, view demonstrations, read up  on new policies and procedures, and a way to connect and share information. 

Blogs are incredibly versatile and give you the option of: 

  • Adding pictures + audio 
  • Inserting videos, quizzes, podcasts, documents, + social media feed 
  • Using customized themes + plugins 
  • Building a database, directory, or discussion forum

and so much more! 

It's simply not enough to have a major website/blog only for promoting your business and attracting clients/consumers. You need to create a forum for facilitating learning and exchanging ideas. 

So, what will it cost me?

If you want to get up and running with ease, I suggest a website builder with integrated hosting and features to save you time, money, and the hassle of trying to figure everything out. 

  • Squarespace: $12 billed per month annually/or $16 month-to-month; Offers fully-hosted cloud based management, 20 pages, includes blogs, galleries, unlimited bandwidth, SSL Security and 2 Contributors and more 
  • Weebly: $25 per month (when paid annually); Offers no ads, unlimited storage, video backgrounds, HD video and audio, password protection, and much more. 
  • Wix: $7 per month (when paid annually) for entrepreneurs and freelancers; Offers unlimited bandwidth, 20GB storage, no ads, a free domain, and more. 

Before you decide on a blogging platform, think about how much you plan to use the blog, what for, and how often. It's better to have too much storage space and bandwidth, than too little. 

 

Screencasts

See it. Save it. Learn it. 

Sometimes it's better for learners to watch a task being performed rather than read about it. For your highly visual tasks and training, screencasts are a great option. If you're not familiar with them, screencasts are basically a digital recording of your screen in motion, usually with audio narration. They're very budget-friendly and easy to produce. 

So, what will it cost me?

Screen-cast-o-matic (suited for both Windows & Mac) and CamStudio (only for Windows) are both free. ActivePresenter Free Edition is available for both Windows and Mac users but only with limited functionality (only exporting in WMV, AVI, MPEG4, WebM video formats and the ability to produce JPEG and PNG images), plus all of your video output will have a watermark stamped on the front. To avoid this, you'll have to upgrade to the Standard Edition. 

Camtasia for Mac ($199), allows you to drag and drop edits, images, and special effects, insert background music, and share to a variety of platforms including YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook, and Screencasting.com. Screenflow offers a tiered pricing list. 

online Learning Platforms

With the expansion of various types of online learning applications, you can take even the simplest platform and use it for any reason - refresher training, tutorials, whatever! Also, the built in mobile functionality is perfect for your employees who enjoy learning on the go. 

Learning platforms and management systems are typically expensive, but the options below are packed with lots of offerings to help you control and create an environment your learners will appreciate and grow from. 

Learning with Mobility in Mind

One of the best things about online learning management platforms is that they are designed to work across various mobile platforms, including smartphone/tablets and other devices. With the rise of remote employees and contractors, it's a must in today's society.

  • Teachable: $99 per month/billed annually; Offers the ability to upload PDF, video, and audio, have 5 course authors, graded quizzes, drip course content, and advanced theme customization 
  • Thinkific: $79 per month (billed annually); Offers completion certificates, private and hidden courses, host video, audio and PDF, unlimited students and more  
  • TalentLMS: $99 Basic Plan (for up to 100 users), and $199 Plus Plan (for up to 500 users); Offers the ability to customize content (from documents to movies), add assessments, insert gamification options (i.e. badges, points, levels, and rewards), video-conferencing integration and more 
  • Moodle: Free, open source platform for creating personalized classroom-like environments with the ability to create a blog/wiki, forum, database, assignments, and more.  

 

On the Job Training

Guided instruction isn't going anywhere. Tapping the most knowledgeable person in the room to help lead a new employee is a smart and effective cost-saving strategy for training (especially in a highly technical field). 

So, what will it cost me? 

For on-site training where materials, content, and equipment are already supplied, your out of pocket costs are practically nothing. You will, however, have to invest time into creating an on-the-job training strategy, relevant materials, and any follow-up/evaluation criteria. Outside of the above listed, you're saving yourself hundreds of dollars by keeping everything in-house. 

 

Conclusion

I know I've thrown a lot at you, but that's because there are so many options that small businesses and start-ups need to be aware of before they toss the idea of training and development aside. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you'll be to make the right decisions for your business. 

How to Create an Awesome Training Culture

CreateAwesomeTrainingCulturebyNelle

 

It all starts with you... 

When you think of a strong training culture, what comes to mind? Top notch resources? Competent facilitators? Innovative training methods? All of the above? 

Whatever your answer may be, the way your training environment is packaged, presented, and perceived can make or break your business. And in a time when training and development is critical to supporting retention, competence, and productivity, you don't want to skimp on the details. 

But hey, at the end of the day, the choice is yours. You can opt to have a terrible training culture that's boring, ineffective and devoid of any kind of creativity, or you can work to build something both you and your employees would be proud to be apart of.

If you're ready to take the plunge, follow the next four steps to get going in the right direction: 

STEP ONE: Promote your training. 

If the training your providing is working, that's great! But if your employees don't know about how wonderful and effective your training is, how is the helping you? That's why you must promote your positive training experiences. 

This means taking advantage of those feedback surveys, and demonstrations used to gauge training competence, and turning those tools into narratives. If you've noticed that an employee has drastically improved their performance and they credit their use of the new self-paced ebooks or bite-size learning videos you've implemented, then let your other employees know! You've got to build excitement, and bring some receipts to the table. 

Most importantly, think about creating a system, or a way to publish or broadcast those "wins." No matter how big or small. 

You could try out the following, for starters: 

  • Interviews. Sit down with your employees and see what they think about the training they receive, and get them to write down what tools or methods have allowed them to succeed the most. 
  • Internal Social Media. Tap into internal social media applications and platforms for your business that allow your employees to exchange or post information. Start a discussion board for documenting and promoting training progress. 
  • Case Studies. Turn the experiences of your best training stories into case studies and use them as teaching tools. 
  • Videos. Use videos to capture or record "evidence of mastered training", then publish the training progression. As long as its okay with the learner, let them show off their skills and the tools that helped them to improve their performance. For the rest of your employees, this method provides visual proof or "receipts" for them to see how training really does work.   

STEP TWO: Brand It + Believe in It. 

One of the most important aspects of creating a kickass training culture, is developing one that is unique and reflective of your business. In order to do this, you must have a crystal clear understanding of your business (i.e. your mission statement, objectives, target audience, PR/promotion strategy etc.) and all of its elements. 

You will also need to conduct an assessment of your environment, and look for:

  • areas where training aligns with your business objectives
  • factors that drive your business
  • the value of learning, and training and development to your business  

And after you've evaluated your environment, you can dive into the stages of creating your branded training culture (i.e. the type of voice you'll use, the design of materials, and the type of content you'll deliver to your learners). Just be weary of gimmicks and fads, you want your culture to be authentic to your business. You've got to believe in what you're "selling" to your audience and it has to resonate with you as a business owner. 

STEP THREE: Include Your Employees. 

Training isn't about you. It's about your people.

You've got to rope them in and figure out:

  • what does training mean to them 
  • if they hate training, why? what were some of their past experiences?
  • how you can include them in all steps and methods of the training process
  • what training and development looks like to them and their expectations 

Now, granted, you won't leave the major decision-making up to your employees, but opening the doors to dialogue is the first step to getting them involved. And when they're apart of the process, they're more apt to be engaged. 

STEP FOUR: Commit + Don't Quit. 

You won't be able to build the perfect pro-training culture overnight.  

It will take a lot of hard work, employee buy-in, and a strong strategy to keep moving in the right direction. But you wouldn't have started your business if you didn't believe you could weather the storms, and reinvent yourself when necessary, right? So, keep working at it, retool and reassess your strategies if you have to, just don't let the training-phobes (those who hate training) try to overrun your business culture.

You have every right to take control of your business environment, and design a training culture that is true to your vision.