Businesses are facing tough decisions. In an uncertain market, organizations have to make cuts to keep costs and processes efficient. Often, money set aside for employee development has to be applied to other areas of the company. One recent survey even found that half of UK organizations plan to reduce their L&D (learning & development) budgets because of economic challenges.
While the reality of cost-cutting is never easy, there is a way to reduce learning budgets and still facilitate upskilling among teams. In fact, upskilling is even more important during difficult times. It can motivate employees, contribute to greater innovation, and boost employee satisfaction and retention. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either – there are a number of affordable tools and self-led pathways that empower staff to grow.
Here’s how to make your corporate L&D (learning & development) budget go further.
Reduce (but don’t deprioritize) learning & development budgets
L&D budgets are the fuel behind a more knowledgeable and resilient workforce. These budgets purchase resources and experiment with new educational tools. They also pay experts to speak and mentor employees, and provide hardware for employees to access digital classes.
In the current climate, conditions like inflation, mass layoffs, and supply chain disruptions all mean that businesses have had to lower spending on L&D. These measures aren’t ideal but they are necessary.
Yet L&D has to remain a priority for corporations. Especially in the unfolding digital realm, companies that commit to L&D (even with a smaller allocated budget) will foster a workforce that knows how to use the most up-to-date technology. L&D equally accelerates critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Not to mention, it can reveal potential new leaders in an organization, and can contribute to improved compliance and safety. All of these qualities give corporations a competitive advantage in their sector – and that ultimately means being better prepared in the present downturn, plus for inevitable future ones.
Commit to DIY learning tools
‘Do-It-Yourself’ learning is a great way to bridge education gaps when readjusting L&D budgets. The strategy gives employees a self-directed approach to learning, where they take the initiative to acquire skills, knowledge, and expertise on their own. DIY learning lets employees take control of what they study, when, and how, and enables them to tailor the experience according to their needs.
Examples of DIY learning could be learning a language with an app, getting a business qualification via tutorials or learning to code through open-source projects. The core elements of DIY learning and tools include:
- Self-led – individuals’ personal interests and goals drive them to utilize DIY learning tools.
- Autonomous – employees are responsible for setting their own goals, tracking their progress, and making decisions to advance their learning.
- Flexibility – users access tools when they choose, aligning their schedules with their optimal moments to learn.
- Diverse – DIY tools can be apps, books, tutorials, podcasts, social media, and much more. Materials are varied and cater to all types of learning styles.
- Hands-on – learners develop through experiential, practical learning. They have to complete tasks and apply takeaways to real-world scenarios.
- Personalized – experiences are customizable based on individuals’ strengths and weaknesses.
From a business perspective, DIY learning makes financial sense. These types of tools are more cost-effective than in-person sessions or corporate learning packages. Moreover, they don’t compromise the quality of learning that employees have.
Integrate DIY learning with care
Like any change in a corporation, DIY learning should be introduced gradually and with excellent communication. Organizations need to prepare employees for the shift, and explain why it’s been adopted and how it benefits teams.
Start by creating a buzz around employees creating their own independent learning roadmaps. Encourage people to speak to their managers and the HR department for support, and to use any existing company resources. It’s wise to have all these resources in one, easily-accessible place so employees can leverage them at any time.
Be sure to specify times during the week that employees can focus on DIY learning. This step has to be intentional – employees need to know how long they have to integrate DIY learning within their standard work schedule, and how best to build it as a routine habit.
When selecting DIY learning tools, opt for ones that are user-friendly. For instance, they should have a clear navigation, and accommodate employees who are not tech-savvy or who have a disability. They should also incorporate gamification and other engagement tactics to increase the likelihood that employees complete the classes/levels. Additionally, tools should have dashboards or reporting functionality for teams to track their progress.
After implementing these tools, organize regular meetings for employees to share their experiences and discuss what is and isn’t working about DIY learning. Thus, enabling peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges, where individuals can showcase what they’ve accomplished and what they would recommend to others.
ELSA as a DIY learning solution
ELSA is an AI-powered language learning app and DIY learning tool for business teams. The app also uses proprietary voice recognition technology for more than 100 accents to deliver precise, tailored feedback for employees. Users can upload speech recordings of them to the app or participate in role plays with ELSA’s Generative AI chatbot.
ELSA is accessible from a phone with an internet connection at any time, and from anywhere. Employees can easily practice speaking English throughout the day, without disrupting their workflows, and enjoy contextualized, scenario-based English assessments that further their proficiency. An impressive 90% of users say that they have witnessed an improvement in their English pronunciation with ELSA.
For corporations, ELSA offers large teams unlimited speech practice and tutoring at a fraction of the cost of in-person teachers. Managers also have a concise overview of employees’ performance with the app, which can influence decisions about staff promotions and 1:1 support. And, because ELSA is readily available, it can be scaled up and down relating to team size and budget changes – agility that is extra valuable during a market downturn.
Learning & development budgets will always be essential in business. They may have to be adapted in different conditions, but they must continue to push education and innovation in the workspace. DIY learning is a smart strategy to lower budgets and maintain curiosity and creativity among employees. Just as the remote revolution is crafting the next generation of work, DIY learning can curate the next generation of workers.