Keep training the brain, keep it cost-effective

Published January 27th, 2016 - 11:04 GMT

Q. Hi! I’m the HR director of a management consulting firm in Riyadh that employs more than 100 people. In 2015, our company did not grow as expected and cash flows were thin. We had projected a full training package for every employee in the company this year, but in light of the current situation, I am afraid that those plans will have to be frozen for now. My company cares a lot about the growth and development of employees, so are there any other methods for training staff for free or on a limited budget? Thank you! Ahmad K

A. Hi Ahmad. In an ever-changing job market, it is essential to your company’s growth and success not only to hire top talent, but also to retain your best employees and cultivate their skills. According to a recent survey by, career development is important to 85% of professionals in the Middle East region, and the great majority (82%) would leave their current company for better training opportunities.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can ensure that you are providing your employees with a satisfying and effective training while keeping costs to a minimum. Here are 6 ideas from the HR experts at

1. Mentorship programs

The most basic and most used training method is the mentorship method. Mentorship includes pairing up employees who can learn from each other and can hold one another accountable for success. Junior employees can gain knowledge by shadowing more senior employees in the company, while senior employees can get unbiased feedback and new perspectives from fresh graduates and other junior-level employees. By allowing employees to train each other, not only are you nurturing learning within the company, but are also promoting teamwork and camaraderie among employees, which will eventually reflect positively on your company. In the Middle East, 6 in 10 respondents believe that there are opportunities to cross train and learn new skills in their company.

2. Job rotation

Job rotation is one of the most effective training methods. It widens employee exposure and allows them to gain a more complete understanding of the company and how it is run. Give your employees new roles and responsibilities, have them shadow someone else for a few days, then put them up to the challenge to perform the job themselves. Job rotation helps your employees overcome boredom; it keeps them motivated and encourages learning and interaction among different departments and individuals. By rotating your employees frequently, you can ensure that they are continuously learning and are constantly challenged to achieve more. In the Middle East, 29% of respondents believe that company rotations are the most effective training method.

3. Online courses

It’s 2016, and the Internet has successfully integrated itself into every aspect of our lives, connecting us to the entire world with the simple click of a button. So why not use this to our advantage? There are entire databases of paid, as well as free, online courses that employees can take online. With so many options to choose from, employees can pick the method which best suits them. Courses, for example, are tailored to a wide cross section of professionals within an organization. These courses aim to provide professionals with the tools and techniques to improve their efficiency and that of their organization. While the courses cover a broad range of topics – including customer service, sales leadership and public speaking – the interactive material is designed to enrich employees with cutting-edge and relevant information to guide them in their lines of work.

4. Trainers from within the company

Every company has star employees. That person who not only can do their job well, but also has great communication skills and is knowledgeable, patient, and liked by everyone. So why not utilize the talent you already have to everyone’s benefits? Send your top employees to conferences, seminars and courses, and then allow them to use that newly-acquired knowledge to train their colleagues in form of lectures, presentations or group discussions. 40% of respondents believe that company training by internal teams is the most effective training method.

5. Games

Are you looking for ways to enrich your employee’s soft skills, such as their teamwork skills, creative thinking and innovation, communication or even leadership skills? Try introducing these skills in the form of office games and challenges. Split employees into groups, and then give them challenges to complete, with the promise of a reward to the winning team. The challenges can be anything from presenting business case studies, to playing games that require critical thinking. The increased popularity and usage of gaming techniques can be attributed to the spirit of competition; it not only makes learning more enjoyable, but also increases retention. Here’s why you should supercharge your workplace with gamification.

6. Guest speakers

Every month at we invite experts and business leaders to speak on various topics as part of a monthly Brownbag session. Topics presented range from personal development to skill development and more. Guest speakers provide an important perspective on your field of work, and such sessions are good public relations both for the speakers and for your company.

So if you know a captivating, dynamic speaker who would inspire employees and make their work easier and more interesting to do, then by all means, extend an invitation. This type of guest can be of great service to the students by providing an additional way to consider the primary topic and its central principles and issues. For example, having a charismatic conductor speak about conveying emotion in music would help enrich students’ thinking in a class on emotions; an influential gallery curator speaking about the portrayal of depression in art could facilitate students’ development beyond the boundaries of their discipline. In the Middle East, training by external professional trainers was identified as the most preferred method of training for 47% of respondents.

Of course, organizations differ, and so do their needs. The best approach would be to use more than one method and see how each method works. Customize the training plan according to your needs, and remember that your employees have needs too. 31% of professionals said they are very dissatisfied with their supervisor’s efforts to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and 29% are extremely unhappy with the quality of orientation and training they receive. We encourage you to sit with your employees and discuss what they are looking for. Set goals and schedules, and be sure that everyone communicates openly and freely, and give continuous feedback to help employees understand what they need to improve, and how they can reach their goals.

By Shobha Jaison

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