We have all at some point heard the axiom ‘knowledge is power’. What does this mean in a business context? As a business owner, you need to start with understanding what your core skills and knowledge are, that drive your business bottom-line. Many small businesses are often heavily reliant on a core team’s knowledge and skills set. This team may be responsible for either directly or indirectly driving the business performance and growth. Enhancing their knowledge and skills, not only serve as a potential motivator for your employees, but can also assist in boosting your business.
Equipping employees with the necessary knowledge and skills, to deliver an excellent service or produce a superior quality product, is thus crucial. However, many small businesses have limited spare time and a tight budget. Some businesses cannot afford to have an employee away from work, for even a full day of training. The good news is that “out of the box” methods can be extremely effective, and this article explores a creative approach to training employees in small businesses. A few tips are shared below to assist you.
Identify the critical core business skills and knowledge needed
Identify the critical core skills and knowledge needed to generate the income in your business. Hold discussions with your employees to help identify this. A job description would also contain the skills and knowledge information for each position. If you do not have a job description, then search the internet for the skills and knowledge required per job. There are usually many free examples of job descriptions available online, which you can access. Extract the relevant skills and knowledge information to create your business’ critical skills and knowledge list, for each position within your company.
Identify the skills gaps
Sending an employee on the wrong training course costs both time and money. Instead, conduct targeted training. How? Ask your employees about what skills and knowledge they do have. Your employee may have undergone a number of training courses at their previous employer(s) that you may not be aware of. Compare the actual knowledge and skills with your business critical skills and knowledge list, for the respective position. The shortcomings are the skills gaps that require attention. Training needs may also be obtained during performance appraisal discussions. Now that you know what training is needed, you will need to look at your training options.
Research training options to suit your business needs and budget
The selection of the appropriate training, will depend on what learning outcome is to be achieved. This could be for example: to update your employee’s product or industry knowledge, to remain abreast with technology trends or legislative changes, to acquire a new skill, self-awareness but to name a few. Be mindful of this, before doing your training search and selection.
Let us explore your 12 training options:
Free seminars are useful, as they are presented by field or subject matter experts. It would give an employee an opportunity to gather and share information that is relevant to your business.
Free online training
Online training is convenient, especially since it can be done at a time that is suitable to your business and employees.
Not all expos cost. They usually include presentations by subject matter experts linked to the theme of the event. You are able to attend presentations that are relevant to you, which may only be a few hours.
Free training hosted by governmental institutions
Government institutions host a number of free information sessions. Details are usually advertised on their website. For example: The South African Receiver of Revenue (SARS) hosts tax workshops and the Department of Labour hosts a number of roadshows, especially when there are changes in labour legislation. You are able to make contact with them to request that they add you on their mailing list, so that you can be notified, when training becomes available.
There are a number of companies that sell off the shelf training videos. You are able to preview, to see if the content, would meet your needs. This may be useful and a cost effective option, as training can be slotted in when there are quiet operational periods.
In-house training can be valuable, especially when there are unique processes within your business. Identify an employee who communicates well and is a role model in terms of the skill or process you are wanting to teach. Send the in-house trainer on a training facilitator course. This will assist in facilitating the transfer of knowledge and practical application on the job.
Training providers usually require a minimum number of participants to attend a training course. If you only have one or two employees, then this can be problematic and can be quite costly. Request where possible that the training provider, pairs your company with other smaller companies also requiring the same training, so that you can reduce by sharing the costs.
Training grants – Sector Educational Training Authority (SETA’s)
Training grants are available for training interventions locally in South Africa, that is focused on closing the scarce or critical skills gaps in a particular sector. Examples of training interventions are: learnerships, apprenticeships, bursaries, skills programmes, intern placements. Check what SETA you are affiliated with. Make contact with them to ask what training interventions your business could qualify for. Then request when the training grant funding window will open for applications. The SETA representative will also be able to guide you on the training grant application process. Alternatively, they can direct you to Skills Development Facilitators (SDF’s) or companies that are able to assist you with your training grant application.
Business or professional body networks
Being a member of a network or a professional body, has an added advantage. They often host events, where there are key note guest speakers, addressing topical issues that serve their members interests or needs. The costs are reduced for members and it is usually not a full day.
There are a number of business incubators that offer valuable training to emerging companies. The added advantage would be possible access to market linkages and mentors, who have built many successful businesses.
A number of training colleges and tertiary institutions offer distance learning and short courses that can be done after hours. This would benefit the employee in terms of their personal career growth and the business operationally.
There are a number of events hosted by business schools, as well as online training, which may be useful.
There are multiple options available to improve the skills of your employees. Never be afraid to ask for advice from others and choose the option that best suits your business needs. Once you have selected your training option, then start your training search online.
Review your return on training investment
In closing remember to, ‘inspect what you expect’ once your employee has returned from training. Remember that the value of the training, is in sharing and applying the knowledge and skills gained. Ask your employee(s) to summarise their key lessons and share it with the team. Review your employee(s) application of their newly acquired knowledge and or skill in their next performance appraisal discussion. Training is of outmost importance, for both the growth of your employees and your business. A culture of continuous learning should thus be harnessed.
All of the best!