May 18 / Helen Bryant

No Training Budget? Do This

Are you frustrated by the lack of training budget at your workplace? Do you feel like you're responsible for building your own skills and those of your team, with little to no support? 
The tightening of budgets is affecting many managers who are unable to get the training they want, but the good news is that there are ways to create a learning environment that works without a big budget.

Identify What You Want to Improve

So, how can you improve your skills without a big training budget? The answer is to get clear on what you want to get better at or more confident doing and then create specific, achievable goals. 
Instead of saying, "I want to be a better manager," focus on a particular skill set and describe the outcome you want. 
For example, you may say, "I want to improve my influencing skills" or "I want to be a better coach." This is a good starting point but then drill down and focus on the outcome and describe what success looks like for you. What will you be able to specifically do? 
The more clear you can be on your learning goals the easier it is to create a plan to work on it, and you will know when you have achieved it.
You can help your team by asking questions to help them get super clear on their learning goals themselves.

It's Not All About Courses

Learning doesn't always come from courses. While they're great for sharing theoretical knowledge, the most valuable training and learning often come from practice and experimentation that comes from the action plan. And do you know how often these are completed? As a trainer, I can tell you not that often! In my experience, only about 20% of people take accountability and actively follow up on their own learning. Be one of them!
The 70-20-10 learning framework states that only 10% of a person's learning comes from formal training (i.e. courses), while 20% comes from reflection, practice, feedback and experimentation, and a whopping 70% comes from continual doing and refining.
Here are some free activities that will make all the difference in building your skill sets and capability.
- Seek feedback and coaching from a mentor or colleague. Be open to learning from failures and successes.
- Participate in a peer group or community of practice to give you new ideas. Not got any? Form one with a group of like-minded people. Have a monthly lunch where you discuss progress and share ideas.
- Ask your manager if there is a challenging project or assignment that you could take on that tests your new skills. If this is your team, delegate a learning-rich piece of work.
- Read more widely on the topic you are focusing on to broaden your understanding and give you ideas. Listen to podcasts, but remember to experiment with the insights you gain.
- Practice, practice, practice. The Art is keeping your practice as a conscious activity. Frequently ask yourself what went well and what if you had your time again would you do differently. It is in this reflection that the true value sits. These are also great questions to ask your team members to keep their learning front of mind.
- Add a learning topic to each team meeting agenda. Work with your team to identify 3 topics they want to improve. Delegate the task and topic to different team members, so your team can help each other learn and get better, and it becomes part of how you work, not a separate activity.

Schedule Time for Your Development

It's essential to schedule time each week to focus on your development, just 10-15 minutes can make all the difference. 
I understand that you are busy, but taking a few minutes out of your week to keep focused on your development plan, or learn something new can make a significant difference in your professional growth. 
Treat it like a meeting with yourself and review what you've learned, what is going well and what you need to focus on next. Look for micro-practice opportunities in your diary the following week. Little and often is the way to go.
By scheduling time for yourself, you're making a commitment to your learning and development.

Find an Accountability Buddy or Mentor

We learn more when we learn with others. An effective way to keep yourself accountable is to find a buddy or mentor. 
Connect with someone who's trying to improve a similar skill set and work together. You can have a lunch once a month to check-in and provide feedback. Look for mentors at work whom you admire and schedule a meeting with them to understand how they go about doing a particular activity and what their advice is for you. 
Talking to your manager and seeing how they can support you is also a great idea. Be clear about the help you need and ask for feedback and new ideas.

No Budget Doesn't Always Mean No Budget

Many employers are open to supporting their people but want to be sure of an adequate return on investment and can find an ‘extra’ discretionary budget. If you are a highly valued employee, you will automatically set yourself up well to get the investment, but these steps will help you increase your chances of getting a yes. 
1. Identify why you want to do this training/coaching.
- What are the benefits to you?
- How truly committed are you to following through and completing the learning activity?
- Make sure you can commit the time to the programme and implement your plan. If you are only 50:50, you will almost definitely fail, and you may waste your employers' investment. The clearer you are on your ‘why’, and the benefits you will get as a result will help you commit and prioritise the time.
2. Identify the benefits to your employer/ manager.
- What will you be able to do for your organisation as a result of this training/coaching? What extra value will you be able to add?
- Be specific. What specific things will you be able to do as a result of this course that will help you do a better job? Which skills will your manager find helpful within the team?
- Align where possible to your agreed personal development plan. Show how this activity will be best placed to help you achieve your personal development.
- How could you leverage what you learn within the team so there is a broader team benefit?
- The more value your manager sees for the organisation, the more likely they are to agree to fund your development.

3. Identify why they might say no, and plan your response
- Think about their objections.
- What could you offer as a response that would help you overcome their objections?
- Are there any creative solutions that could be achieved? A financial contribution to your training, if not the total amount, or a payment plan to help them manage their budget. Are there other funds or bursaries within the organisation you could tap into?
At the end of the day, investing in yourself and your team is always worth it, and learning doesn't have to come at a high cost. Applying these tips allows you to create a learning programme to help you and your team grow and develop, even without a significant training budget. 
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning and scheduling your personal growth today!

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