When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it’s no secret that companies — much like our families — were blindsided. Most reacted by tightening their budget, which resulted in more conservative spending toward big yearly goals and virtually anything to avoid closure, including eventual furloughs and layoffs. “Running lean” took on new meaning and became a necessity. While everyone struggled to shift, the silver lining was learning to pull together while creating interdepartmental synergy to keep output (and morale) high.

But it doesn’t take a quarantine to put resources under scrutiny. Unforeseen circumstances can cause companies to trim back even during a “normal” year. Regardless of the reason teams are asked to do more with less, here are a few ways to trim back when time and money are on the chopping block.

1. Be Honest

Firstly, being honest with the leadership team about your goals will help you clarify the short- and long-term wins that will demonstrate training return on investment (ROI). Decide together what makes the biggest impact on learners while solving the biggest pain point for the leadership team; then, focus on that initiative first. Small wins go far during times of turbulence, and, by translating yearly goals into quarterly, monthly and even weekly actionable milestones, you’ll undoubtedly showcase the value training brings to the larger organization.

2. Be Creative

With these goals in mind, be creative on how to execute. Doing so means leveraging the most creative people within the organization. Chances are you know who these individuals are, and they may not necessarily be in your department.

Hosting a mind-mapping session with this “think tank” can stir up leads for you to explore. What you’re looking to achieve in this session are fresh perspectives on delivery and simplicity of messaging. Inviting your brainstorm participants to take cues from “edutainment” like advertising, board games and documentaries can serve as inspiration to engage audiences in new ways while offering relatable content. Rest assured, creative ideas are often the most straightforward, so cutting back on quantity and instead focusing on high quality, goal-oriented training can be a great strategy to save time.

3. Be Efficient

Once you have distilled the best ideas from your think tank, pursuing the ones that meet your budget and time constraints is paramount. What does your team need to create, what can you repurpose? Often, sales and marketing teams are siloed but contain a treasure trove of deep psychographics and resources that can help enrich training.

Functionally, this process means borrowing excerpts from existing copy, print and video assets to construct content steeped in company culture. What assets have teams already created that may be new to other departments? Can you use any of them as they are, or would editing them be simple and help put you a few steps ahead? Not only can reusing material help distill a training message, but it can also close the cognitive dissonance employees might feel between company culture and external branding.

In our personal lives, we’ve been cleaning out closets, redoing pantries and going through old junk drawers. If you’ve built a deep library of training assets the size of the Library of Congress, it might be time to do the same with your training content. Sometimes, less is more, and making the learning ecosystem easy to navigate by shelving irrelevant curricula can make a big impact by saving in-seat learning time. When we think of time, we often think of not having enough of it ourselves, but saving learners valuable time by restructuring their user experience is a win for them — which means they’ll become advocates of training.

Of course, there are instances when the “reduce, reuse, recycle” method won’t work. A new product launch, for example, requires creating some content from scratch. To conserve time and money, there might be free assets you can bring in from around the web that trade training creation time for training curation time. Linking to videos or white papers or citing studies that illustrate your topic effectively can help add real-world context.

For the rest, be sure to operationalize how you work with subject matter experts (SMEs) by creating a schedule that involves key decision-makers to help course-correct in real time. This strategy will help you protect precious development time and give you a sense of your stakeholders’ expectations around training deliverables. From there, you can decide which high-production elements to splurge on and where something more stripped down is acceptable.

4. Be Communicative

Communication is the secret to protecting the blurred line of work/life balance while staying connected with co-workers and company culture. At a time when many people are upskilling, training teams are stretched thin and learning is on the rise, working with and through others can keep output high during these unprecedented times and beyond. While we can’t be under the same roof as our colleagues this year, the slogan that has now become an anthem of 2020 — “apart but together” — reminds us that cross-functional teams foster the magic that protect our most valuable resources.