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‘People leave managers, not companies’, says Victor Lipman, management coach and author. Businesses looking to ramp up employee engagement, happiness and productivity need to invest in good leadership. But when the purse-strings are tight, are free management courses the answer?

Cards on the table. At Me Learning we offer paid-for courses about a range of subjects, including leadership, management and communication. What we wouldn’t do is offer these courses for a fee if we didn’t think they were worth it. We understand that there are pros and cons to our approach, and the same applies to free courses.

Here are the reasons you might be considering free management courses. Let’s put them to the test.

They’re free – but are they any good?

With blogging, videos and other online content out there, you have loads of resources to choose from, some of which have even been collated into courses. For free.

How can free be bad?

Honestly, it’s not. But there is certainly a connection between time, effort and quality. Something that has had more investment (a.k.a. hired working professionals providing expert knowledge and skills) will normally be of a higher quality. Not always, but it is more likely.

The ‘worth’ of a management course is subjective. You decide the value of good leadership.

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No need to commit, but we’d suggest to do your research first

If a free course doesn’t turn out to be helpful or is poor quality, then you and your team haven’t lost any money. You can simply look for an alternative.

You need to take a slightly different approach with paid courses. A paid course will normally have a cooling off period or free or discounted tester modules so you can get a feeling for the product. It’s not the same as full flexibility, but, this is why doing your research and looking up reviews and case studies in advance will help you get a better understanding of the course quality and relevancy.

They’re not much different to paid courses – are they?

With an eLearning course there are two factors to consider: content and the LMS (learning management system). A good LMS gives you a standardised, consistent, easy-to-use experience. Even if the content is fantastic, a poor framework can ruin it. Free management courses with poor content or a confusing or dated LMS could leave trainees disengaged and frustrated. We’re not saying there are paid courses out there that don’t also have this issue, but the quality there is less variable.

You think: ‘Do people really care about management training?’

Maybe you think: ‘Management training doesn’t matter, really. In fact, people don’t pay attention to these kinds of courses, so what’s the point in investing in this area when there are other priorities for the business?’

Humbly, we disagree. Every business has at least one manager, and that role involves a lot of practical and people skills. It’s worth some care and attention, especially when a new manager is just starting. Managers account for at least 70 percent variance in employee engagement scores, and the main factor in workplace unhappiness – which affects productivity – is the boss. It’s clear bad management makes a huge impact to the business.

To make the most out of management, you need effective, comprehensive courses that engage the user. Where bad managers cause problems, good managers solve them.

Management is an ‘on-the-job’ skill – or, that’s just part of the puzzle

Even if you agree that having great managers in your business is important, you might not feel like courses are the best way to train managers. Free courses tick a box if the real training doesn’t happen until you’re ‘on the job’.

However, in most industries, managers face complex or unique challenges. These could overwhelm anyone who is unprepared. But, a manager who has skills, resources and expert knowledge to draw on will be proactive in their role, rather than reactive. And, everyone’s preferred learning style is different, so catering to that fact with a range of learning paths will give you better results.

Free management courses are like cheap shoes. They might look good on the outside, but they won’t last in the rain.

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