Employee Training and Learning for Small Businesses
It may be tempting to cut employee training when the company budget is tight, but well-trained employees are vital, if you want your small business to flourish. The short term savings aren't worth the future losses the company may suffer from the resulting decreased productivity. Lack of training can result in inefficient business procedures and employees with outdated skills. It can also lead to a high-turnover rate, as employees lose motivation and feel undervalued when the company doesn't reinvest in their career. Training is also a worthwhile investment when you consider the process of recruiting and replacing an employee can actually cost more than the employee's annual salary. To prevent these long-term problems, find effective ways to train employees, without breaking the bank. Not only does your company likely have untapped internal resources, but there many budget-friendly training options for learning new skills and keeping current skills up-to-date.
Trade Group and Association Memberships
Trade groups and associations are a great way to stay up to date on new developments in your industry. Review your membership benefits to see what training opportunities are included. These organizations offer training opportunities through seminars, online courses, industry certification courses, and more. Schedules and sign-ups for these training opportunities can typically be found in the organization's newsletter or website.
Internal Training Resources
You don't have to bring in an outside professional to teach training seminars. Consider sending an employee with stellar communication skills to a training course. You can then equip this designated employee with the appropriate training materials and task them with leading a training session in-house. You may consider sending someone from the human resources department, marketing department, or any employee who excels at communication and interacting patiently with co-workers. Your internal trainer also benefits from the additional presentation and leadership experience.
Brown-Bag Learning Sessions
Encourage brown-bag learning sessions during which you can have each team or department explain their function and goals. Employees may be uninformed about business activity outside of their team or department, resulting in misunderstandings and inefficient communication. This open dialogue helps employees clarify why they do things a certain way, or a new procedure they hope to implement. In addition to internal topics, employees can also be encouraged to present on industry news or business books they think will benefit other employees.
Online Training Tools
There are a large number of online training resources and classes that are free or reasonably priced. Webinars and online courses are a great way to let employees choose their own training topic and training schedule. There are a large number of organizations that offer these resources including private companies, government small business resources, and university online open course initiatives.
Create an agile workplace by cross-training employees. Training employees for other roles within the company benefits both the employee and the company as they will be prepared to shift roles if company needs change. Encourage hands-on learning by having employees shadow someone in a different role. After training, they can take on new responsibilities until the next rotation. These rotations allow employees to learn about all facets of a business and challenge them to continuously develop new skillsets.
Establishing a Mentor Network
Often the best training comes from a more experienced employee in the same field. A mentor allows experienced employees guide newer team members in understanding the company and the businesses. The newer team members can observe high level meetings or client discussions and receive practical advice on growth and performance.
Finding Cost-Effective Consultants and Courses
While budget-friendly general development programs are beneficial, there are some occasions where you're better served by contacting a specialist. If you need to address a specific or difficult issue, an intensive training course may be a better investment. These targeted programs can address the issue quickly and effectively. Off-site course offer the benefit of a distraction-free classroom environment while on-site trainers are better equipped to efficiently handle large numbers of employees at a more reasonable cost.
Optimize Training with Goal-Setting
No matter what type of training program you decide to implement, remember to establish achievement goals. Employees get more out of training when they have clear goals and a plan for how to meet them. They are also more likely to be motivated when training meets real needs. Instead of signing everyone up for the same programs, have employees establish what they would like to learn to improve their job performance. This can be determined through performance reviews where you can mutually determine what skills they would like to, or need to, develop.
- Training Tips
- Improving Employee Training Procedures
- Benefits of Employee Training
- Department of Labor: Employment and Training Administration Grants
- Directory of Trade and Professional Associations
- California: Free and Low-Cost Employee Training Information
- Employee Training: Government Funding and Resources by State
- Free Management Webcasts: American Management Association
- Implementing Mentoring in the Office (PDF)
- Cross-training Case Study
- Motivating Employees through Goals and Performance Management