Small business owners already trying to stretch limited resources may view employee training as expendable. But investing in the continuing education of your team is not only good for morale, it’s good for business. Providing staff with opportunities to learn new things keeps them engaged and demonstrates your commitment to their growth, both of which aid in retention. And the knowledge gained can make them better, more productive workers.
Fortunately, employee training doesn’t have to be expensive. Start by assessing what staff members want to learn and what you feel would benefit your small business. Random training that neither side particularly desires wastes money. Then, consider these low-cost ways to fuel professional development and help team members improve their skill sets.
Vendors, the local chamber of commerce, and even your community library may conduct training sessions on how to use particular products or improve certain skills. Likewise, paying employee membership dues becomes quite cost-effective if professional associations and trade organizations they join offer free or inexpensive seminars, conferences and the like. And with online education becoming more sophisticated by the day, options such as Coursera classes can expand horizons without draining a small business’s budget.
Buddy up with another small business.
Footing the entire bill to bring in an expert instructor may not be possible, but what if you could share the cost with another small business that would like its employees to receive the same training? Combining forces in this manner also might help you qualify for group discounts when signing up for conferences and other educational events. Discuss possibilities with other entrepreneurs in your network. You might even find opportunities to “trade” services, such as your IT expert presenting on the latest cybersecurity measures in exchange for your acquaintance’s social media guru helping your employees learn how to maximize the impact of Twitter.
Start a lunch club.
Gather the team twice a month for a brown-bag (or lunch supplied by you) get-together on a topic of interest. Watch a pertinent TED Talk followed by a discussion on how to apply the lessons learned to your workplace. Or perhaps choose a thought-provoking, business-related book or article for everyone to read beforehand.
Turn your employees into teachers.
When funds are limited but you want multiple people to become versed in a new technique, opt for one staff member to be trained. (Rotate your rep to avoid hurt feelings or charges of favoritism.) This individual can share information with the entire staff upon his return.
Similarly, remember that each person on your team possesses unique strengths. Employees can learn a great deal from each other. Encourage shadowing, mentoring and direct teaching. The instructor will develop pride and confidence, the learner will be challenged, and you will have multi-talented workers with a better understanding of your small business.
Want more advice and resources for building your small business? Learn about the essential elements of a standout recruitment strategy.