How to… deliver high-quality staff development with less money

With major reductions in spending affecting social care providers, many in the sector fear that training budgets will be among the first targets for cuts. However, it is still possible to deliver high-quality training with less money. Sarah Knapp, former local authority training manager, explains how.

Online assessments

Only train people to meet their knowledge gaps. Use an online assessment system to assess knowledge against national standards, ascertain the gaps and focus your resources on these identified development needs. Don’t make people repeat training courses they don’t need. It is too expensive, especially the cost of worker and replacement cover time. Instead, generate evidence of knowledge quickly and easily.

Workers must demonstrate evidence of competence

Combine knowledge assessment, learning and observation. Managers are responsible for checking workers’ knowledge and that they put it into practice. Evidence of competence must be robust. A training certificate from a simulated training environment does not prove that a worker is competent or that the principles and person-centred values are integrated into workers’ practice.

Set clear targets

Ensure workers are clear about what they need to learn before they undertake any learning. Make them accountable for gaining the required knowledge. Ask workers to undertake learning activities with a purpose, making them more effective.

Putting it into practice

Workers must return to supervision describing what they have learned and how they will use this knowledge. If learning is not achieved, evaluate the learning activity you selected because it might not be adding value.

Cost-effective solutions

Consider cost effective development activities, eg. mentoring, internet research, coaching discussions, shadowing and e-learning. Use free resources provided by the Social Care Institute for Excellence.


Provide career progression and enhanced pay for achievement of milestones and standards. Clearly state the standards for each level. This incentivises workers and rewards their achievements.

Support managers

Insist managers continually develop and ensure they support staff development by understanding workers’ standards and competencies. Skills for Care’s management strategy includes competences, supervision and induction standards for managers, providing benchmarks to assess managers’ knowledge and skills.

Train workers as qualified instructors

Train workers as qualified instructors in core subject areas. This saves money and provides flexibility. In-house trainers can report performance issues discussed during training. Use knowledge assessment results so trainers can target learning to focus on identified knowledge gaps.

Assess recruits

Assess workers’ knowledge before they join your organisation as part of the interview process to find out the level of knowledge qualified and experienced applicants have against national standards, and tailor the induction process accordingly. It costs about £5,000 to recruit and induct an employee. This is a huge investment: save money by making informed recruitment decisions.


Never compromise on the quality of learning activities. Test e-learning products before buying, and make sure in-house and external trainers are qualified and experienced in each subject. Use Skills for Care’s training code which sets out questions, values and issues to be considered when buying training. Institute for Learning membership is recommended for trainers. Training is a profession; trainers should be professionally qualified if delivering more than one session a month.

Sarah Knapp is operations director and company secretary of CIS Assessment, which provide online assessments to help professionals evidence their knowledge against national training standards.

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