When your business is just getting started or still struggling to gain an edge, it’s quite likely that the budget you can allocate to training is close to zero. What’s worse, you can’t even think of carving out time for training – you need all your employees to stay focused on their jobs. As is usually the case, new hires are warmly welcomed yet they are often left to themselves to figure out where and how to get started with their new jobs. Not knowing where to start also means new employees never know how much they need to learn and what is expected of them which can cause a lot of frustration.
Any SMB owner would tell you how hard it is to run their business – with limited resources, time, and budget it is always a challenge to keep your employees happy and their expertise up-to-date. When the budget is tight, it may be tempting to cut employee training, even though well-trained employees have always been the key differentiator between the average performing companies and the exceptional ones. Short-term savings on training can later lead to costly mistakes, inefficient business procedures, and processes, employees with outdated skills, eroded motivation, and increased attrition rate. In the end, it turns out it is times cheaper to invest in people, then to do the whole recruitment and replacement process all over again. So, if you want your small business to flourish, and you are the sole trainer in a limited-budget organization, you have to focus on effective ways to train employees and initiatives that yield results. A recent report found that although 91% of business owners recognized the value of investing in staff training and development, only 43% said they did so. Your company is likely to have untapped internal resources. There are also various training options that will go easy on your budget.
Here are several ideas for creating a quick and effective training system for your small business.
Prep phase: putting together an employee training program
Start by detailing each job’s day-to-day tasks, skillset, and knowledge required to successfully complete those, and throw in some notes on general company processes and culture. Such a comprehensive list will not only help you outline the training schedule each new employee would need to go through to be successful at their job, but will also prove to be an essential tool when assessing employee performance down the road.
Once your training outline shapes up, you can decide how much of the learning content the employee would need to go through can be done on their own. Provided that you have the necessary teaching collateral ready to be consumed, you can have employees do part of the learning independently, at their own discretion.
Set aside time for recurring meetings (on a daily or weekly basis) to teach the skills that need to be taught one on one. Be sure to start with the introductory content that will form the knowledge foundation and will help employees digest the more complex information that will follow. Gradually lead up your employees to more advanced training by building upon the foundation you’ve already laid down.
Free training resources available online
Today, the new level of customer-centricity demands that software tool vendors provide an always positive customer experience by going the extra mile to ensure their customers are successful with the tools they have purchased. Hence, they offer a wide variety of training options for their software in the form of free webinars, e-books, videos, and what not. These are all a great way to provide self-paced training to your employees.
An hour or so spent on watching a webinar or an on-demand video is certainly less time consuming than taking the day off to go to an offline seminar or a workshop.
Professional groups and associations
Encourage employees to join their respective trade associations: in exchange for a small yearly membership fee they will stay up to date on new industry developments, new tools launched, and will be able to get early access to a variety of training opportunities such as seminars, conferences, certification courses, and more.
In addition, trade groups on social media such as LinkedIn have become increasingly active and therefore turned into a popular way to network with like-minded professionals, share new resources, and altogether get updates on the state of the industry.
Cross-functional employee training, in-house
It’s often the case that each functional area in an organization has a role model who’s not necessarily the most senior in terms of job title but is definitely highly regarded and praised by his team members. Handpick your ‘stars’ and put them in charge of training for each job role. Not only will their teammates benefit from learning from the most seasoned professionals in their functional area, but other teams can get a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities too. Later on, you can start rotating roles so that employees are continuously learning and get hands-on experience with new things. This way, in the case of a staffing shortage, you can always fill in the position with a trained employee from another team.
Coaching and mentorship programs
An excellent way to provide guidance and advice to new hires and less experienced employees alike is by pairing them with more experienced team members. Knowing that there’s always someone to ask for help, opinion or simply talk to when there’s a decision to be made helps budding specialists gradually gain the self-confidence they need to become outstanding professionals.
If possible, incentivize your mentors to encourage them to take on new mentorees, so that they’re motivated to carve out time from their day-to-day responsibilities: being available for your mentoree is a top prerequisite for being a successful mentor.
Cultivate a love for learning
Be sure to identify your employees’ interests: where do they see themselves in a year or two? What new skills would they want to acquire? Weaving their interests into your training program will help them stay engaged, pay attention and master new skills quicker. Studies confirm that having a culture of learning in an organization is the top driver of both engagement and loyalty among employees.
Last but not least: measure results from training
Yes, we know, measuring the outcome of training programs is easier said than done. The ever-so-popular eLearning solutions, however, offer a way out: they help you understand how trainees are performing. Using an LMS solution helps you conduct regular assessments and get instant access to trainee results from the centralized assessment and reporting system.
eLearning solutions like Melon Learning will help you spot actionable knowledge gaps which will tell you where your training program could be improved. Use quarterly performance reviews to identify gaps in training, set goals and track achievement. Ask employees how they’re doing, what they’re struggling with, and what they’d like to learn.
Before you scratch out employee training altogether, because you don’t find losing a day’s productivity feasible, check what eLearning options you might have. Each employee learns differently, at a different pace. Skillsets vary and the training will need to be very much adjusted to each employee’s level. An eLearning solution will also help you easily customize each learning plan to fit each skill style.
Ready to give Melon Learning a try? Not only does it help your sales force accelerate product knowledge while minimizing cost and time spent on training, it accommodates ongoing training and helps sales reps increase revenue through repeated learning.