Are You Wasting Your Learning And Development Budget?

How can you recognise the employee’s lifetime value, ensure that your team are still fit for purpose and still keep control of the training purse strings? This article looks at how you can be smarter with a leaner budget.

As the economy struggles more and more the squeeze on budgets inevitably hits training and organisations find themselves with less and less budget at their disposal. Clearly 2023 is going to be a difficult year, both for individuals and organisations but how can you still ensure your teams get the development that they need whilst keeping the budget under control.

In our view there are three things that organisations need to pay attention to in order to really make the most of what they have and below are some suggestions of how you can work smarter:

94% of employees will stay with their employer if they invest in long-term training

Staff turnover is more expensive than development – replacing a person can cost anything up to double their annual salary to get them up to the same effectiveness of the departing colleague

Unless you are paying huge attention to training design, people may only retain 25% of learning from a training programme

Below are some of our thoughts and ideas to counter these:

Learning Retention

If you are in L and D, you will not doubt have been exposed to the Learning Pyramid (by the National Training Laboratory) which is sometimes referred to as the “cone of learning”. This helps us to understand what activities encourage the maximum learning retention i.e., stretching our ability to take in new information and transfer it to our long-term memory. Once this process has occurred it means that information is now in an easily accessible place and has been fully filed. If we don’t go through the full retention process then our short-term memory releases information after a brief period of time. Statistically, this could mean that people often forget somewhere in the region of 70% of new information within the first 24 hours. The Learning Pyramid demonstrates that 5% lecture, 10% reading, 20% audiovisual or watching, 30% demonstrations and 50% discussion, 75% practice and 90% teaching others and yet we still often see programmes that don’t take this into account.

So how can you be clever about the way in which we implement training to ensure the highest retention? Particularly with on-line webinars as there is potentially only 5% retention with lecture style activities – yet many organisations are relying on short webinars to plug the gap.

Minimise Reading. Remember that only a small amount of information is retained through reading and overload happens quite quickly so break anything needing to be read down into smaller chunks.

Build in short tests and assessments so that people can see how far they have come.

Use storytelling and analogies. The brain interacts in a different way with stories and creating something people can see and feel in their mind can help reinforce learning.

Engage people. The more interaction people have the more likely they are to remember learning so any form of simulation, interactivity or virtual reality will ensure that the learning sticks.

Build in repetition – we have many programmes designed around repetition and used appropriately, it can really enhance long-term recall. There are often different ways to repeat information and that might make it stick more effectively.

Ensure that it is easily transferable – if people can immediately take learning and put it into practice, they won’t forget it!

Encourage people to break things down on their action plan and focus on applying one thing at a time.

Passing on information – if people know that they have to teach others they will definitely pay more attention to learning!

Encourage mistakes – in our sessions, we always set exercises up as “Learning Labs” and ask people not to get things right as making mistakes are so valuable to retaining lessons.

What Else Can You Do to Maximise Your Training Budget?

Needs Analysis

Be really clear on development needs – not training programme needs and ensure your managers are good at identifying them

Focus on ‘must have’s and really understand what your priorities are

Have strong processes for people applying for programmes and the managers nominating people

Be Smart with Blended Learning

Minimise downtime on training programmes and replace with virtual work i.e., practice sessions can be really effective online for topics such as coaching or interviewing skills as the facilitator can observe with their camera off

Ensure people are well prepared and committed with blended learning and have done any prework

Use micro learning i.e., we developed a product called Development Bytes where each week we drip feed content and tasks through to a learner and then they meet once a month for a Zoom coaching session

Host monthly larger events to reach a wider audience which can be followed by manager activity and blended learning to ensure webinars don’t happen in isolation

Clarity on Outcomes

Give the training organisation the best briefing. Give them access to managers to ask the right questions

Be absolutely clear how the L & D activity supports organisational strategy

Manage costs by doing only what you need so that you are really clear on what is essential.

Stop teaching people the same thing over and over again – get to the bottom of why they are not applying it!

Utilise Internal Resources

Developing a Coaching Culture – ensuring that managers truly have a coaching mindset (as opposed to knowing how to coach) will reap massive rewards in the workplace

Look for SME’s internally that can be trained to train others

Train internal mentors

Get people to share learning objectives on returning from courses

Find Freebies

Association or Trade Groups – you will often find the trade associations provide free training, particularly on technical issues

Freebies – ask training providers what is available. For example, we have a whole host of blogs and short videos that we have made that we are happy to give to clients. We also sometimes give them free slides for them to use themselves from programmes we have already designed. We work on the basis that if we support our clients when they don’t have budget then they will remember us when they do have budget.

Free introductory sessions – we don’t expect clients to work with us without having some experience of us so we are always willing to offer a short training session either for staff or for HR so that they can experience our style. You just need to ask!

Free Webinars – there is a whole host of free content online – I get hundreds of offers for free webinars from organisations so get on some mailing lists. Even if you can’t actually attend the date, they often offer to send you the recording.

Involve Employees

Make people more accountable for identifying the impact of the training

Ask people returning from training courses to train or familiarise other people

Ask those who have attended training to present back to your team what they learnt

If you are offering an investment in training then ask for a commitment to stay for a certain period of time

Manage Your training providers

Stop paying ridiculous design fees! Ask your provider to be honest with you. At Emerge we have 28 years of experience of designing programmes and we have a huge amount of content. We still need to design bespoke packages but often we have something that we had delivered before that will take a short amount of tailoring – and that is what we charge for!

Ask training providers to do a management briefing to get further support – we know that training will stick more effectively if managers understand the role that they need to play

Ask Your Provider for Admin Support. We are always happy to send out joining instructions and collate information and deal with hotels or venues. So, if you are short of admin resource it is always worth asking.

If you would like to reduce your costs, offer to print materials

Service provider packages – all providers want deeper relationships with their clients and may be willing to put together cost-effective packages.

Be aware of cheap alternatives – whilst you want to save money, if the training is not going to be effective then it really is counterproductive.


The less you have to spend the more you need to be sure it has worked so identify clearly the ROI

Ramp up evaluation at all levels

Ensure that every person finishing every course is asked to report the impact it will have on them and the business

Applying even just a few of these will make a massive difference to the effectiveness of your organisation.