9 Free Resources That'll Help You Create a Culture of Learning

July 31, 2017

These are nine free resources for learning and development professionals looking to build a culture of learning.

Do you know the single biggest challenge facing learning and development professionals today?

Well, recently we asked 500 L&D pros that question. Their answer: having a limited budget.

That’s frustrating; it’s difficult to create a culture of learning when you are confined by a small budget. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In her course Creating a Culture of LearningL&D Leader Britt Andreatta outlined ways L&D teams can overcome a small budget. Specifically, she listed four internal resources and five external resources L&D teams can leverage to create that culture of learning, which are free (or, at the very least, mostly free).

4 free internal resources L&D teams can use to build a culture of learning

Let’s start internally. Some free resources L&D can use within their organization to build a culture of learning are:

1. Repurpose what you already have.

Andreatta suggests starting with what you already have. You’ve likely already created or curated quite a bit of great content: presentations, exercises, articles, etc. Create an easily accessible repository of these, Andreatta said. The next time you need to create something new, you can likely repurpose or customize what you have, as opposed to reinventing the wheel.

2. Share best practices from across your organization.

When you see good learning happening in one department, share it across your organization, Andreatta said. Maybe a department ran a successful learning challenge or built learning paths around core competencies.

You can save budget by creating a similar program in other departments. Additionally, you increase your chance of getting buy-in, as you’ve already shown success with one group.

3. Look for experts within your organization.

You don’t always need to bring in an outside expert to lead a training. There are likely experts within your organization who are willing to share their secret sauce.

Andreatta recommends putting out a call to your employees and see what happens.

4. Share costs across departments.

This technically isn’t free, but L&D should not bear the full cost of all L&D offerings. For example, if you are running a communications course for the sales team, the sales department might help contribute to that.

Not only will this help you get more budget, but it’s also a great way to collaborate with other departments.

5 free external resources L&D teams can use to build a culture of learning

Internal resources are often the easiest to leverage, but there are also many free external resources L&D professionals can use to build a culture of learning.

Five examples are:

1. Partner with local academic institutions.

“From elementary schools to universities, local schools are filled with experts able to teach others,” Andreatta said. And these groups are often eager to partner with the private sector.

For example, you could have a communications professor come in and teach a class on working together. In exchange, you could offer students at that college the opportunity to shadow employees at your organization, something most colleges are hungry for.

2. Work with local government and nonprofit organizations.

Along those lines, local governments and nonprofit organizations are often eager to partner with the private sector. Andreatta suggests working with these groups because many of them have educational programs that can boost your own catalog of offerings.

3. Make connections with your sister cities.

Nearly every city has a sister city and Andreatta encourages L&D pros to explore potential partnerships. For example, I used to live in Waterford, Connecticut and we partnered with Waterford, Ireland. Each year, we’d exchange students and host visits for a mutually beneficial partnership.

So find your sister city and see if there are partnerships available. Not only is there the chance to share resources and experts, but it also could provide a unique travel opportunity as well.

4. Ask vendors for creative options on their solutions.

Say you are interested in a vendor’s learning solution but don’t have the money for a full-fledged offering. Sometimes the vendor will be able to work around that, Andreatta said.

For example, maybe you’re willing to pilot one of their new solutions, which many vendors often offer at a discount, as they are hungry for user feedback.

5. Utilize professional networks.

Finally, Andreatta recommends exploring professional networks for your employees. These networks generally offer ongoing professional development for people in the field and there are ones for nearly every industry.

While there’s usually a cost to joining these networks, it can be a cost-effective way to give your employees access to highly relevant learning opportunities.

Tying it together

These are just a few of the free (or mostly free) resources available to L&D professionals, which can help you build a culture of learning. Andreatta suggests getting more people involved to help you uncover even more free solutions.

“I encourage you to form a cross-organizational committee to explore and build on these ideas,” Andreatta said in her course. “That way you harness their collective wisdom, and they're also likely to have connections that might open doors to unique possibilities.”

Looking to create a culture of learning at your organization? Watch Andreatta’s course today on how to do exactly that.