Samantha Caine, Client Services Director for Business Linked Teams provides a lowdown maintaining professional development, despite tight purse strings.

We all know that training budgets are under constant pressure. In global businesses where budgets are managed locally, it’s often the case that if business is tough and the market is difficult then the training budget is cut or at best diverted elsewhere.

As a result, many international businesses centralise the leadership training budget, meaning that they have at least some control over ensuring that appropriate leadership training is provided and to a standard that ensures the talent pool of future global leaders is full.

On the basis that the global leadership programme is being sourced and funded centrally, the following approaches will enable you to get the most out of your programme:

  1. Conduct some kind of training analysis

This doesn’t have to be an arduous task but is an essential initial step in making sure that the training solution you invest in can actually deliver what your participants need. This will save you time and money in the design phase and later on, when you come to repeat the training, you’ll be confident that you have a solution that is ‘good to go’ and isn’t going to require countless adjustments. Helpful analysis can include stakeholder interviews, review of appraisal forms or quick questionnaires. The approaches are endless – it’s just important that you do it.

  1. Utilise existing content

Leadership approaches and models don’t really change; they may be repackaged from time to time but the essence is the same. If your business has done leadership training before, take some time to trawl through the materials and key models and pick out anything useful.

  1. Enlist the help of a programme champion

When delivering a successful programme, half the battle is making sure that the right people want to go on it in the first place and that they are supported by their manager and peers. A programme champion, often someone in a senior position, will help to sell the programme from the top down, ensuring that everyone recognises the value.

  1. Use internal expertise to help with the design

Developing a successful leadership programme is more than just putting the right models and concepts together. Assembling a design team with internal expertise alongside an external consultant can make sure that content and approach are aligned to business requirements and training needs.

  1. Invite subject matter experts (SMEs) to contribute to session content and delivery

Internal SMEs can significantly improve the impact of your programme by providing content that is 100 percent business relevant and up to date. Leadership programmes can also benefit from external experienced facilitators who are supported by a range of guest SMEs on key specialist topics.

  1. Integrate e-learning

Many global businesses have their own banks of e-learning of modules. Where possible, use these as part of the pre-work, follow up or learning journey. If you don’t have these resources available to you, an alternative is to choose an external supplier that can offer you access to e-learning as part of the programme delivery package.

  1. Use virtual capability

More and more meetings are held online and people are becoming increasingly comfortable with collaborating online. Use these tools if available to save travel costs and increase the ways in which you can pass on information to your trainees.

  1. Incorporate real business challenges

Another way of maximising the impact or cost benefit of your training is to incorporate activities or challenges that participants must work on. Instead of working on generic, training room activities, participants should use their newly acquired skills to solve a real business problem. As well as having to collaborate with other people in the business, there is a clear benefit for the business to this approach.

  1. Fully involve line managers

We all know that training is most effective when it continues to be supported and developed in the workplace. Your programme should be accessible to line managers, enabling them to prepare participants for the training, support them during the programme and to coach and embed their skills afterwards.

  1. Enable additional support networks such as mentoring and peer coaching

Sometimes tricky to set up, but normally worth the effort, internal mentoring schemes and peer coaching can really provide a welcome addition to the development approach and have many benefits for both coach and training participant.

  1. Choose content and approach over logistics

In practical terms, when you analyse your budget post-programme, it’s not unusual to find that the practical elements, such as venue, accommodation meals and travel account for around 50 to 70 percent of the total spend. This is a huge part of your budget spent on things that don’t directly contribute to the development of your people.

Simple changes can make a big difference. For example, use an onsite meeting room, start training slightly later in the day so that people can travel in the morning and apply the same principles to the final day. Encourage shared travel and consider simple working lunches over full sit-down meals. All of these elements can make a huge difference on the overall spend.

When it comes to developing a new leadership programme, it’s easy to get swept away and to try to start completely from scratch. Take some time choosing an experienced supplier that you can work with you to develop a tailored solution that utilises the very best people and content resources that you already have in your business.