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How to Manage A Training Budget: A Guide for HR Leaders

In people ops, we're often the backbone of an organization's growth – the spinal cord of the business, if you will. If an essential part of your role involves managing a training budget to ensure staff are sharp, skilled, and ever-improving, then this guide is for you.

And also in people ops, it's often assumed that HR includes employee development (they're actually totally separate and entirely different skill sets, but that's an article for another day). Over the past few decades, these roles have been assumed to be one and the same. However, it's not easy to go from editing contracts to teaching a manager how to coach. So let's cover how you can get there.

We're diving into the nuts and bolts of how to expertly manage your training budget, empowering teams and propelling your organization forward.

Understanding the Training Budget Game

It's not just about dollars; it's about creating a smarter, more capable workforce. When managed well, a training budget leads to engaged employees who are ready to conquer new challenges.

  • You may find that your leadership is asking you to do more with less, like many organizations that are tightening their belts.

  • It sounds nice to say, "Everyone gets $2000 per year," but the reality is when staff starts submitting requests for MozCon, you'll start hearing "cha-ching" in your ears. Honor your commitments and be intentional about what you tell the staff. Going back on your word will feel like taking away part of their total comp.

  • Group events and training can stretch individual budgets.

Align Training Goals with Business Objectives

Hold up! Before you start throwing money around, take a moment to understand your company's goals. What's your organization aiming for? Increased sales? Better customer service? A comprehensive management training program?

Make sure your training initiatives align with company objectives.

Slice and Dice: Setting Priorities

Your training budget isn't an endless pit of gold, sadly. So, you've got to decide which areas get the lion's share of your training funds. Pinpoint the departments or roles that urgently need a boost. It's like prioritizing veggies over dessert – it's good for everyone in the long run.

Evaluating Training's Impact

You've invested your budget, so let's see the returns. Allocate a portion of your budget to evaluate training effectiveness. Regularly check if training efforts are being applied within people's roles. Knowing what's the most effective and the most cost-efficient; will help you streamline your choices every year.

A Sneak Peek: Sample Training Budget

Here's a peek into a sample training budget for a medium-sized company (~25-75 people) with a $100,000 annual training budget:

External Workshops and Conferences: $40,000

  • Leadership development: $15,000

  • Technical skills workshops: $10,000

  • Industry conferences: $10,000

  • Diversity and inclusion training: $5,000

Internal Training Initiatives: $30,000

  • On-the-job training: $10,000

  • Online learning platforms: $5,000

  • Soft skills workshops: $8,000

  • Compliance training: $5,000

Certifications and Skills Enhancement: $20,000

  • Reimbursement for job-related certifications (EG: Lean Six Sigma): $12,000

  • Skills enhancement courses: $8,000

Employee Growth Programs: $10,000

  • Mentoring initiatives: $4,000

  • Learning circles and book clubs: $2,000

  • Health and wellness workshops: $4,000

Putting Together a Holistic Set of Resources

Make the Most of Internal Resources

Before you start calling up external training gurus, consider the gems within your own organization. Your experienced employees love to share their expertise.

  • Start a monthly masterclass and rotate the role of trainers. It's a win-win: your budget stays happy, and your employees feel valued for sharing their wisdom.

  • Ask folks to share their tests, experiments, and narratives within your documentation program (like Notion) so you create an open-sourced knowledge base of what everyone knows.

Online Learning: A Treasure Trove

In the digital age, online learning platforms are like libraries of knowledge. They offer budget-friendly, top-notch courses that cater to various needs.

Research the best online management training platforms that suit your industry and employee needs. Remember, you're hunting for quality content, not fancy labels. Here are five examples of places to start:

  • SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management): SHRM offers a range of free resources including articles, templates, webcasts, and tools on various HR topics.

  • HRDQ-U: HRDQ-U provides free webinars, podcasts, and articles on HR and training topics, helping professionals stay updated with the latest trends.

  • HR Open Source (HROS): HROS is a community-driven platform that offers a collection of open-source HR resources, tools, and best practices.

  • HR Bartender: HR Bartender is a blog run by an experienced HR professional, offering insightful articles, resources, and practical advice on HR matters.

  • U.S. Department of Labor - Resource Library: The DOL's website provides access to a variety of free HR resources, including guides, posters, and tools related to employment laws and regulations.

Remember to verify the credibility and relevance of the resources you find to ensure they suit your specific HR needs.

Individual Development Plan Budgets

Hold on tight! We're diving into individual development plan (IDP) budgets. These are like mini budgets within the bigger picture, typically around $2000 per employee per year.

  • Set Clear Guidelines: Communicate how much each employee gets for their IDP. Clear guidelines prevent confusion and set expectations.

    • Always require folks to submit a "training request" form.

  • Encourage Ownership: Empower employees to decide what skills they want to develop. This personal touch boosts engagement.

  • Discuss Goals: Have regular chats about employees' career goals. Align their IDPs with their goals, and the company's needs.

  • Flexibility is Key: Life happens! Be flexible if employees' plans change mid-year.

  • Mix and Match: Use a blend of internal and external training for IDPs. This keeps things exciting and budget-friendly.

    • Group trainings can save on per-person costs, and stretch your individual budgets.

Flexibility and Open Communication

Remember, no budget is set in stone. As business demands shift, be ready to shuffle funds around. Communicate changes transparently. Nothing reduces trust like denying a training request but not offering a good reason, or an alternative option.

The Feedback Loop: Seek and Embrace

Don't work in a vacuum. Get feedback from employees on training initiatives. Send out a 6-question survey at the end of each training:

  • What did you like?

  • What could be done better?

  • Should we bring this facilitator back? Y / N

  • Rank the training on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest: useful and applicable to your role.

  • What was your biggest takeaway?

  • How will you apply these learnings in your role?

Weathering Storms and Celebrating Sunny Days

Challenges are like thunderstorms – they happen. But they also bring growth opportunities. If a training plan hits a rough patch, use your best judgment to adapt and overcome. And when your training initiatives lead to success, shout it from the rooftops!

Share the wins with your team, post pics in the chat, and even share to the company blog... Cement the experience as a positive one, and folks will be more apt to practice what they've learned.

Wrapping it Up

Managing a training budget is like steering a ship. When you navigate smartly, it takes your organization to exciting destinations. Aligning with business goals, smart allocation, and fostering individual growth are the wind in your sails. Embrace challenges, celebrate successes, and remember – you're shaping a brighter future for your organization, one training dollar at a time.

Two HR pros work on their annual training budget allocation.

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