Professional training and development can be costly and time consuming. Regardless of the fact that there is no quick ROI on education, it should not be seen as an optional expense in business, but rather as an essential step for long-term business progress. According to Entrepreneur, “in today’s economy, if your business isn’t learning, then you’re going to fall behind.” In fact, an American Management Association (AMA) survey of 2,115 managers demonstrated that the typical skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic are no longer sufficient in the workforce. To succeed, businesses must foster the following in their employees: Critical thinking/problem solving Communication Collaboration Creativity Due to the increased pace of business and the movement toward global competitiveness, 75% of those surveyed believed that these four skills would become increasingly important in years to come. Related Article: How to Avoid Pricing Based on Cost: You Could Be Losing Money In today’s conservative economy, it remains difficult for businesses to prioritize the cost of professional training. However, employee revenue can increase by as much as 26% from utilizing inexpensive development techniques. Here are four ways your business can revolutionize its professional training programs without breaking the bank: 1. E-learning Replacing traditional instructor-based training with e-learning courses can be a valuable way to cut cost and time. In fact, it’s been reported that e-learning saves businesses at least 50% on training costs and cuts instruction time by up to 60%. Indeed, 41.7% of global Fortune 500 companies now use some form of educational technology for employee instruction. For employers looking to target a specific content area, The Muse offers a comprehensive list of cheap e-professional development classes. Content ranges from design to entrepreneurship to social media. For those looking for a more comprehensive e-learning solution, many consulting firms offer targeted professional e-training programs based on your business’ needs. 2. Public forums for communication Although businesses are shifting to mostly online interactions, this doesn’t mean that public speaking skills are any less important. On the contrary, 95% of HR officials rated oral communication as a very important skill. In fact, it is considered the highest of 13 entry-level workplace skills. Several e-learning platforms, such as Lynda and Udemy, offer public speaking tutorials. For those wanting a live audience, community public-speaking forums can offer opportunities for growth. Toastmasters International, for example, has over 14,650 public speaking clubs worldwide that help participants hone their public-speaking skills in a no-pressure environment. There is no instructor, so members rely on self-paced speaking assignments and feedback from their peers. 3. Social learning No, we’re not talking about social media here (although only 25% of companies currently offer social business training). Social learning, or collaborative initiatives in which employees learn from one another, is revolutionizing professional training. Social learning allows employees to connect or share knowledge informally. According to David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst of the Brandon Hall Group, this type of training is emerging in high-performing companies. Once a company makes the investment in providing social learning tools and platforms, such as purchasing an employee blog or discussion board, employees will learn naturally through interaction and sharing. 4. Train in groups Taking a training course with a group of similar, like-minded professionals is an easy, often-overlooked way to reduce costs and develop your business team. There are many options available even if you’re in a niche industry with a very specific training need. For example, a consulting firm like TekStream Oracle Solutions offers a one time seminar training program for teams looking to expand their WebCenter knowledge rather than sending individuals off to a variety of different conferences. Their “university” is a fantastic professional training program for Oracle WebCenter classes. Classes can be taught onsite or online and are instructed by consultants with over 10 years of product experience. Of course, this is an example of a very specific type of group training. Typically, no matter what business you are in, group professional training is available for a number of industries. Related Article: The Pros and Cons of Working in a Shared Business Space By implementing these four low-cost strategies, companies can improve their professional training program without increasing their budget. To determine if the learning strategies are driving business outcomes; however, companies must have methods to track training effectiveness. Currently, most companies are relying on soft data such as employee engagement and satisfaction. Wentworth recommends a shift toward concrete metrics including retention and turnover rates, and revenue per full-time employee. This way, companies can target and improve upon strategies that work in their business environment.