10 Low Cost Ways to Develop People

Tight budgets, limited resources? How will you develop your future leaders, and make sure that people are ready to take on larger roles when the time comes?

Money isn’t everything when it comes to developing people. There are many low cost ways you can ensure that your people are still getting the development opportunities they need.

And of course, it’s not just the future managers and leaders of your organisation who need developing. Everyone wants to feel they’re moving forward.

Here are 10 low cost but effective ways to ensure that your people keep learning.

All of these approaches can be done in a way that keeps cash costs low. However, in terms of time, some require more investment than others. And of course, all of them require careful design and good communication in order to be successful.

1. New experiences

Giving people new experiences is one of the very best ways to develop them. A secondment or a shift to work on a project team will give them new skills and perspectives. Aim to move them around, give them exposure to other parts of your organisation and get them working with people who have different management and interpersonal styles. Cash costs may be low or minimal, but there will be costs in terms of management time while they get up to speed with their new roles.

2. New responsibilities

Similar to new experiences, the aim is to broaden people’s perspectives. This time, though, we’re assuming that they’re basically staying in their current role but with a shift in remit. New responsibilities are a good way to stretch people, but be careful not to overload them, or the experience may not be a positive one. Redistribute some of their existing responsibilities while they take on new ones. This may not be as refreshing as the complete change of scene that might come with a secondment or project, but it’ll probably be much easier to arrange.

3. Mentoring

If you haven’t already got one, then start a mentoring scheme  Pair people up with a more senior colleague and encourage them to develop a trusting relationship through regular informal one-to-one meetings. Not all mentors will be equally effective but this can be a development opportunity for both mentee and mentor. Agree and communicate some guidelines so that people know what they should expect from the relationship – and how to make the most of it. You may need to set aside some budget for this as you’ll probably want your mentor meetings to take place outside of the office, for instance over coffee or lunch.

4. Peer mentoring

If your mentors are overloaded or you’re looking for something different, you might try introducing peer mentoring. By pairing people up with someone closer in experience, seniority or perhaps age, you may find that they’re able to create those all important trusting relationships more easily. In a peer mentoring situation, the pair take it in turns to share, listen and encourage each other to work through to solutions and next steps. It’s important to set some guidelines and groundrules, for instance about confidentiality. Ask the pairs to report on progress from time to time.

5. Group learning

Get people learning together, around a low cost tool or program of your choice. You’ll probably want to focus on an online approach in order to meet the low cost criteria. For instance, there might be an online course or MOOC (massive open online course) in a field that’s technically relevant to a group of your learners. Sign them up so that they can all start learning together, with a clear end goal in sight and encourage them to meet regularly to discuss what they’re learning. The social aspect of learning in a group will ensure that they stay motivated and get a chance to reflect more deeply on what they’re learning.


6. Empower your learners

Empower your learners by allocating an amount for each person and getting them to work out the best way to spend it. Depending on the budget, they might choose some face-to-face training, an online course or a subscription to a publication. Some might decide to pool their resources and get a trainer in to address a particular shared need. Whatever, the outcome, just getting people talking – and hopefully taking ownership of some aspects of their own development – will be a positive result.

7. Promote informal learning

Encourage a social learning culture. Create a way for people to exchange information about resources that they like the look of or have found useful for their own development. Your approach will depend on what kind of communication systems you already have in place. You could maybe create a new message board on your intranet or learning management system. If your organisation is smaller, you could set up a What’s App group.

8. Offer flexibility

If you really don’t have any spare budget at all, then you could offer an equally valuable resource – time. Encourage people to identify free development opportunities such as free conferences, networking events or free online webinars. Agree with line managers how much flexible learning time to allow people. You can add other elements to this approach, for instance tying it to the informal learning approach, and getting people to share their experience with colleagues.

9. Empower your line managers

There are normally two key people involved in decisions about development – the learner and the line manager. Line managers are often constrained by lack of awareness of the opportunities they could be offering their people. You can help them be more creative by ensuring they know what’s out there, and specifically what any of their colleagues might be doing to develop their teams. Again, you might use a social tool like a message board, or find another way to ensure that information is shared, for instance putting this on the agenda periodically at senior team meetings.

10. Get people together

It might be a lunchtime discussion group, a book club or a club centered on some other kind of activity, but if you can get people together in a forum that’s a few steps away from their normal day to day tasks you’ll help them to see things with a fresh perspective. Some of the greatest leaps in creativity come when someone borrows an idea from one field and adapts it to a new one. So, even if the activity doesn’t seem directly relevant to your organisation’s day-to-day work, it may lead to a breakthrough. It’ll almost certainly help build relationships too, which should benefit the whole organisation.

Who are we?

Aptimore is a personalised online learning platform that develops a comprehensive range of emotional intelligence, collaboration, management and leadership skills. It can be used flexibly, as a tool for independent learning, blended training, group learning or peer mentoring.

Jump to our home page here to take a look around.

Sign up for email updates to receive insights and advice on leadership and management, emotional intelligence and personal development.

  • Monthly email with advice and in-depth analysis
  • Free resources and guides
  • Advice on how to maximise the effectiveness of your teams
  • Our business psychologists share their expertise in developing people

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We promise to treat your data with care. Please see our privacy policy.

Welcome to our community. We’ll send you monthly updates with advice and insights on leadership and management, emotional intelligence and personal development.

  1. Add info@aptimore.com to your contacts to make sure our emails reach your inbox
  2. Follow us on social or
  3. Check out our free guides and resources: