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How to Encourage a Culture of Continuous Learning on a Shoestring Budget

April 17, 2017

Every organization needs to develop a culture of learning to continually innovate and improve its products and processes. If that’s not enough motivation by itself, consider this: Your competitors are already doing it. “Without a development program, your competition is learning and leaving you two steps behind,” says Regina Leingang, leadership development consultant with Baton Rouge General Medical Center and president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the Association for Talent Development.

Also, not only will learning keep you at the top of your game and ahead of the competition, it can be a retention tool for employees. “People want to see their companies investing in them,” and they feel special when chosen to attend classes or get additional skills, Leingang says.

And the best part? All this training doesn’t have to be expensive, she says. Here are some tips Leingang uses to provide high-quality learning on a budget.


Encourage Peer Learning


Peer learning is an easy and inexpensive solution to upskill your employees. This can involve a formal cross-training program in which employees train one another on their specific jobs, or less formal options, Leingang says.

“Make learning a part of your culture by having learning moments whenever anyone gets together,” she says. At the hospital where she works, each unit has a daily huddle, Leingang says. They share patients’ stats and changes, but also anything new they’ve learned about specific processes, including ways to improve and mistakes to avoid.

Email is also a way to share knowledge, even if just virtually, Leingang says. A few people on her team have subscriptions to email newsletters like Harvard Business Review’s. They pass along time-management tips and interesting articles. Her office is also taking part in the #BRRespect campaign, and they share motivation and interesting experiences they had while doing their good deeds.

A company library is another inexpensive resource, she says. Some organizations will reimburse employees for business or industry-related books if they can then be donated to the office library once the employee is finished. Some organizations will also pay for an employee to get a certification, and those often come with study materials. “Those materials can be kept on hand as reference books or to help others get started with their learning or certification,” she says.


Investigate Online Options


There are many free or low-cost options online for both learners and educators, Leingang says. One option she likes for learners is massive open online courses, or MOOCs. One free site she really finds useful is Khan Academy. Coursera is another option for inexpensive but top-quality education. All courses there are taught by top universities. Lynda.com is another inexpensive, more informal option for online learning — and it’s free if the learner has a library card with East Baton Rouge Parish Libraries.

Since she’s a learning and development specialist, Leingang often designs courses to deliver to her company. If your peer learning becomes more formal or your organization wants to hold routine training, these tools may come in handy for you, too.

Poll Everywhere helps Leingang see where everyone is in their learning. Kahoot is a gamified learning platform that she uses frequently. “If I’ve just finished teaching Behavioral Learning 1 and we’re about to move on to Behavioral Learning 2, I can use the Kahoot system to do a quick refresh of the prior course’s material before we start,” she says. She also uses Visually for infographics and Prezi as her presentation format.


Join Professional Organizations


Membership in professional organizations often comes with additional educational tools. For example, Leingang says, a national membership in the Society for Human Resource Management comes with access to many online message boards, document templates, a magazine subscription, webinars and discounts on conferences and certification opportunities.

Membership in the local chapter of SHRM includes monthly meetings with speakers presenting on a number of topics. “And there are organizations like this in virtually every industry. Even if only one person joins, they can share the online information with others or attend meetings and come back and share what they learned,” she says. This holds the member accountable for not only their learning but others as well, and gets greater value out of the cost of membership.

Other professions have similar associations, with comparable educational opportunities for members.