The days of "sheep dipping" everyone into the same full-day company courses on a wide range of topics are behind us.
For those who find it difficult to sit still and listen to the "chalk and talk" this will be welcome news. However, there is no substitute for a professionally delivered, artfully crafted, engaging exchange of information and ideas aimed at solving real business issues.
If you're going to take people off the job for learning and development, work out what's essential for delivery by this method. It might be leadership, team dynamics, sales or customer satisfaction, but make sure what you deliver or buy in really is top-grade with adequate follow-up.
For everyday development there are countless ways to deliver low-cost learning and development that bring about the change in attitude, skills or knowledge that's required. By adopting a holistic view of development and organising a method whereby people can help develop one another, great progress will be made for next to no investment. For example, you could consider secondments, job swaps, work-shadowing and projects. Or, how about in-house mentoring and coaching schemes, or knowledge sharing via "champions"?
Developing others is excellent development for the developer. It enhances communication and leadership skills as well as having a positive impact on employee engagement. Remember, though, that mentors and coaches do need to be properly trained.
People learn in different ways, and if you can unlock this information together with individual development needs, each team member can be developed in a way that will benefit them personally as well as meeting business needs. This is a powerful step towards employee engagement and will allow you to gain maximum return on any investment in development you make.
Talk to suppliers about how they can help with development. It's not unusual for the cleaning supplier to run sessions on the use of their materials, or for the wine merchant to run tastings.
There will be times when it does make sense to bring people together to learn, and by using really talented presenters it's possible to train large numbers simultaneously.
A day rate of, say, £2,000 may sound a lot, but if you're training 100 people, the per-head cost is minimal. Consider doing this at existing meetings such as the company conference. Think about using videoconferencing to cut down on travel and accommodation expenses and to save valuable time. Make sure there are guidelines so that people can get the best out of this approach.
A low-cost and high-impact way of developing people is to encourage them to read. Set up an in-house library of business books. Make your culture one of continuous self-development by leading by example. Encourage people to discuss the latest book that's doing the rounds. Send a book as a thank-you for a job well done. Make sure industry publications - starting with Caterer - are available so people can keep informed.
Jane Sunley, chief executive officer, learnpurple
FIVE TOP TIPS FOR DEVELOPING THE TEAM
1Ban the word "training" among your employees and talk about learning and development instead. Develop a culture of learning so that people can help each other and self-improvement becomes the norm.
2 Maximise the benefit of any development activity you undertake. Work out what you want to improve and exactly what this will look like. Put metrics in place to ensure a proven return - understand how your improvements will affect top and bottom lines.
3 Develop creativity and leadership skills by setting team tasks, such as making a short work-related film, completing a community project or designing a new product or service.
4 Make the development you do fit the individual as well as the business. This is very motivating and helps with employee engagement.
5 Set up a well organised mentoring scheme with trained mentors - knowledge sharing is a powerful and often underutilised tool.