New year, new goals.
If as the owner of a business you have resolved to put a sharper focus on training this year, we have some advice for you.
Small businesses, of course, don’t have the luxury of the large training budgets that bigger businesses have. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get started putting training procedures in place and making it a priority. This is particularly important if you have a rapidly growing business, frequently adding new personnel.
Start by prioritizing your training to your front-line managers, said Kiomara Hidalgo, a consultant with Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within FIU’s College of Business.
“Front line supervisors are going to make you or break you,” said Hidalgo, who specializes in staffing and training. “They control the employee experience that has to do with retention, and the productivity — the ins and outs. They can also say the wrong thing and create liabilities and risk exposure for you if they are not properly trained.”
Training Doesn’t Have to be Formal
Depending on your industry, training doesn’t have to be formal. But you have to be willing to pull an hour or so out of your schedule as needed to train supervisors properly and teach the do’s and don’ts, or even hire someone to do it, Hidalgo said. “That’s a couple of hundred dollars well spent because it can alleviate a lot of headaches and liabilities.”
Once your supervisors are well trained, you can then continue with the rest of the team, she added. “If you have supervisors who lack leadership skills, you have a lot of turnover, and turnover has a cost.”
Hidalgo said companies can see a positive return on investment from their focus on training. “They see the numbers – at the end of the day numbers talk – and they start seeing the differences when the supervisors are now more equipped to lead teams and are starting to create standard operating procedures and formulating processes.”
A well-trained front line sets the tone and helps to stem turnover down the ranks.
Tips to Improve Training
Here are some more tips a small business can use to create or improve their training processes:
- Assess your training needs. Start by writing out everything your employees should know. What skills and knowledge do they need to successfully do their jobs and grow? And equally important, ask them what they want to learn.
- Regularly hold training sessions for your employees. These could be bi-weekly or monthly brown-bag lunches, where employees can share with their colleagues new skills they have learned or experts can be brought in to discuss a particular topic.
- Train the trainers. Strong front-line managers and highly-skilled employees might be your best trainers. Consider offering incentives to employees who step up to train their co-workers.
- Don’t do it all yourself. Bring in an expert for the morning or send employees to training programs, if the budget allows. Industry associations and trade organizations offer a variety of training options, including seminars and certification programs. Organizations such as SBDC offer workshops on topics such as marketing and social media, operations, finance and operations. Online courses, particularly for tech skills, are often free or low-cost.
- Can’t afford to send several people to a course or conference? Send one and have that person report back to the team, maybe in one of those brown bag lunches.
Once your training programs are in place, set goals and track whether or not they’re being met. Training is a continuous process. Keep asking your employees how they are doing, what they are struggling with and need more training on and what they’d like to learn.
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