We need to take a systematic approach, identifying skills that we need to develop and finding ways to fill these gaps. Start by doing a needs analysis, then identify what you will gain from each training opportunity. Training does not have to cost a lot - look for night classes, CILIP groups, workplace and other sources of cheap/free courses. Courses could be planned internally for staff and using staff skills and knowledge, meaning that the learning is much more specific to the needs of the organisation. Skills can be exchanged with another authority. Special interest groups looking for a venue for training courses will usually be happy to reserve places for your staff in exchange.
If planning a course, don't start from scratch – tweak to make more relevant, but don't reinvent the wheel. Consider how long the training needs to be - a shorter course may be more economical and more focussed. If trying to convince employers to allow staff to attend, highlight the risks of not having the training. Consider the various learning styles in developing the course.
There are lots of opportunities for CPD on the job, from shadowing and secondment to mentoring and coaching. Induction training is the most important opportunity for an organisation and doesn't cost much. Everything the new employee learns during induction will be specific to your organisation. Never underestimate it and never cut it short!
I liked the suggestion of mystery shopping as a tool for customer service training. Other good methods include learning hour (colleagues come together to hear about something you've been working on), learning sets (topic brought in by one person, everyone in the group contributes questions/solutions to the problem) and shadowing programmes (either at own level or more senior level).
- web2 applications – e.g. using facebook for learning sets
- web-based emails
- rss, discussion groups, blogs, twitter
- professional press: read it, but also consider writing an article
- professional networks: make friends and contacts
- Forums: contribute and share ideas
- committee work: attend meetings, perhaps take on a role
- organise meetings, fund-raising events or training courses.