Most small-business owners recognize the value of employee training, but many feel it is beyond their means to provide it. Training, after all, involves a great deal of expense and takes employees away from their work for hours, if not days. However, for a small business to operate efficiently, stay current with best practices, and create an environment where innovation is possible, training must be part of the equation. Here are tips for developing a training system for your small business:
Developing your own internal training program is a good option, provided you have true experts in the given area of training who are also effective trainers. This combination can be hard to find. For instance, your star salesperson may be tremendously talented, but not particularly good at helping rookies learn the ropes. Or, you may have an IT manager with tremendous teaching skills who is a little out of date on industry trends. However, if you’ve got the right personnel, internal training is highly effective, since it is perfectly customized to your business.
Off-site training facilities
Many times it’s the lack of facilities, not the lack of qualified trainers, which stymies small businesses. Great off-site training facilities are available in many areas, and are economical to rent. Using an off-site facility is conducive to effective training, since it enables you to configure the space properly and take advantage of whatever technical requirements you need, including Internet access and projection options.
Off-site training, especially when conducted in a facility with nice amenities such as work stations, lounges and gourmet refreshments, improves morale and allows employees to concentrate more fully on the training at hand. On-site training may be convenient, but employees are easily distracted and lured into “putting out fires” and dealing with other work issues rather than focusing on the important training subject matter.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a variety of training options, from online webinars and videos to mentoring and full-blown in-person training and counseling. The SBA has a long track record of providing assistance to small firms and has the advantage of being a one-stop shop. The SBA can assist an organization on a wide range of topics, from management to finance to legal to marketing.
The SBA provides local training through Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), which provide low- or no-cost training conducted by qualified professionals from the business, education and government sectors.
Your local community probably offers a number of training resources that are affordable and effective. Among the options to explore:
• Community colleges and local trade schools offer advanced training and technical skills training for people who work, with classes offered at night or on weekends.
• Chambers of Commerce and other local business organizations often provide training or sponsor training. These events are also terrific networking opportunities that open doors and help your business get noticed and develop sales leads.
• Consider teaming up with another small business(s) for training. While a single small business may not have the talent to train employees across the board, a small group of companies very well could.
To succeed at employee training, small businesses must be both creative and aware of all the available options. With a bit of investigation and planning, your small business can train just as effectively as a large organization with the luxury of ample training budgets.
About the author:
Hugh McCullen, president of MicroTek (mclabs.com) is responsible for expanding the customer services portfolio and global presence while accelerating the company’s ability to provide best-in-class training solutions designed to enhance the learner experience. He strives to position MicroTek as a trusted partner, focusing on providing speed and flexibility for training, meeting and event management to help customers evolve non-core services into strategic assets.