Tips For Successful Small Business Employee Training

By James Mellor posted 03-17-2019 19:00

Training employees is a big part of running a successful business. Large enterprises invest billions of dollars a year developing their talent because they know how important it is for the long term success of their organizations. 

The research is clear. A huge part of retaining good employees is developing them. There's a popular saying these days that goes something like this. What if we train our employees and they leave? Well, what if we don't train them and they stay? 

Unlike large enterprise companies, small businesses often can't afford the time or money to invest in large scale training operations like big businesses. So how can a small business effectively and efficiently develop their employees? Here are a few tips to implement a training program that's practical and realistic for a small enterprise. 

Importance of Good On-boarding 
Chip and Dan Heath recently wrote a book called the Power of Moments. In that book, they laid out research that suggested the vast majority of the memories of a season of life comes from the beginning. 

For example, it's reported that most of the memories we have of our college years happened in the first 6 weeks of freshman year. The same goes for new employees. Most of their significant memories will come during the new employee on-boarding phase. That is why it is critical that they have a great on-boarding training experience. 

Make sure you have a highly structured, detailed plan for training in the first week. Even if it's a combination of classroom and on-the-job training, make sure every detail of it is planned and there are no gaps. The last thing you want, or your new employees want, is to have lulls and downtime where they have no idea what they are doing. 

Schedule Regular Training Sessions 
Even if it's an hour every week or a couple of hours every month, make sure you schedule in regular training sessions. It doesn't have to be function-specific. There are areas that everyone can always get better at. 

You can pick broad but important topics like communication, productivity, time management, customer service, leadership or well-being. Those are all topics that everyone needs and can improve your business. 

Leverage Online Training 
There are a ton of online training classes that you can put your employees on. These classes are relatively inexpensive and many are short in duration. 

For example, if you run a small public accounting firm and you need training and information for a CPA exam, there are a ton of resources online to pick from. Instead of offering training internally, you can farm it out to an online training company. 

Turn Employees Into Trainers 
You may not have full time trainers on staff, but you can have your staff become trainers. There are multiple benefits to this. 

The obvious one is that you don't have to hire trainers. You're using the people with the skills, experience and know-how to teach your new employees. 

In addition, there's a lot of research that suggests people can improve their learning by teaching. It's a method called Learning by Teaching

It basically says that when a person teaches, it requires them to understand the material enough to impart that knowledge to someone else. But there are other neuroscience processes that happen in your brain to reinforce the knowledge when to communicate it to someone else. 

Cross-Train Employees 
No matter how solid your team is, it's important to cross-train employees. Especially in a small business where everyone is running a critical function, it's important to have redundancies in your systems and processes. 

In a small business, if one critical employee is sick or has a family emergency, it usually falls on the owner or manager to fill in because they're the only ones who know how to do that specific job. If you cross-train employees, it gives you a lot more options in shuffling functions around when there's a unforeseen gap. 

The other less obvious reason is that cross-training helps employees understand each other a lot better. When the employees understand what it takes to do someone else's job, it creates a new level of respect and empathy. And when conflicts or misunderstandings arise, that respect and empathy can be invaluable. 

Set Training Goals 
Training can be a difficult priority to keep in a small business. Given it's importance, you should set specific training goals beforehand so it doesn't get lost in the day to day busyness of running a small operation. 

Training is not an option, even for small businesses. But these are just some of the ways you can still make it work and provide training that will keep people engage, developed and competent.