These days, training is an expensive commitment and yet remains a key activity to ensure sales success, staff retention, and growth of the organisation and many other critical aspects of the development of any business.
As an alternative, you might consider formalising a coaching program in your business.
To put it simply, coaching is on-the-job training. Anyone can be a coach - from a PA providing some quick computer training at the desk, to a manager receiving help on something from a more junior colleague who happens to have greater in-depth knowledge on a particular subject or piece of software. But the essence of coaching is really to bring out the best in other people. It does not replace classroom training altogether but is a great complement to it.
There are a number of different reasons for using a coaching approach. It is actually a more versatile approach than formal training for that reason as it can be directed to many different scenarios; to correct poor performance, (it is one-to-one which is usually more effective), improve morale and motivation, encourage employees to find their own answers and also has the spin-off effect that the "coachee" becomes a coach themselves as they have seen it in action.
Other positive side effects include motivating staff, it's quick and a wise investment! Paying personal attention to people creates a positive environment. They gain newfound confidence from reaching their own conclusions and progress to tackling problems on their own initiative. People who are coached regularly, and are used to having their manager take an active interest in what they are doing, will be more willing to raise concerns at an early stage and feel more comfortable asking for help. In addition, when you are on the receiving end of some coaching, it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge or skill to your manager that may otherwise go unnoticed. So, staff you coach will enjoy the chance to 'show off' a little and perhaps earn some praise from their manager. It's all motivating stuff.
It's quick as you can offer coaching as and when the staff require, it will have an immediate impact on their skills. The retention of that information will be higher than if the employee has to wait for a place on a course. Time spent on coaching is money saved on training. However, don't substitute coaching for training as a cheap option. Training has benefits for your staff in different ways. Think of your coaching as refining the skills training has provided.
Successful coaching is a skill you can learn. Some people are more adept at coaching than others, but everyone can learn the art of effective coaching. As a manager, being asked for help or advice can be a boost to your ego. The natural temptation is to illustrate your knowledge by dictating the answers - it's certainly quicker! However time saved here is counteracted by the increased time you will end up spending with that individual. They may have to ask again and again. Through coaching, you really can bring out the best in your staff and allow them to acquire skills you have, more easily and on a lasting basis.
The ideal time is to coach people who need coaching when they need coaching! If you don't know somebody's skill level it can have a detrimental effect when you coach him or her in a skill they already have! That's why coaching is often the most effective tool to use "on-demand" - when a problem arises. That way you are dealing with a real problem that has impact on an employee's day to day productivity - a positive thing.
Overall, it is a great management tool and a very enjoyable way of learning - quite good for the employee too!