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  • jamesanstee

How can small businesses maximise staff training?

For many larger businesses, the implementation and completion of employee training can often seem like a tick boxing exercise and something their staff may see as an added distraction or pointless task, detracting from their day to day work. This is a perception and too commonly found routine that needs to change in order for the UK to close the current skills gap. However, there is naturally less of an urgency to change this process as for many large businesses training is a minimal cost and therefore the motivation to ensure it is maximised can be lacking, not only from those in charge but from employees too. Small businesses however don’t have the same luxury. For a smaller business to engage in training it is arguably a bigger decision due to the more notable financial repercussions and the desire to waste less money. This can cause SMEs to shy away from staff development due to the fear of not achieving the desired value for money. There are however many ways that training can be more beneficial and impactful for small businesses when compared to larger ones some of which we have outlined in this article.

Create a plan Where you want your business to be will be one of the biggest definers of your staff training strategy moving forward. Start thinking less in terms of the actions required to get to where you want to be and start thinking about the skills required to perform those actions on both a team-wide and individual level. By taking this approach you’ll be able to prioritise your spend more effectively, focussing on developing the skills you need short term while making more holistic, longer-term plans for skills you will need in the years to come. The key part of this plan is to understand the key objectives of the training and how these will be measured on both a short-term and long-term basis. The best way to achieve this is to align your staff training with your overall business plan. Where do you want your business to be in 2,5,10 years and what skills in the team do we need to add or improve to get us there.

Improve soft skills It is not only industry-specific skills that need to be worked on but also important ‘professional life skills’ as well. These can be anything from communication and IT, to problem-solving and working well under pressure. Businesses can miss out on some of the best young talents in their sector if the individual seems too raw when being interview, rather than focusing on how the individual can be developed. Of course, everyone wants to hire the finished article but for businesses, on the smaller side, a combination of individuals with great potential combined with effective training can be the answer. One thing to consider is that soft skills tend to be more difficult to measure but giving your employees the added confidence of knowing they have worked with a professional on these skills will undoubtedly help with their development. It’s important to strike the right balance between working on soft skills and industry-specific training but even the most highly trained person will add less to your company if they are unable able to communicate their ideas effectively and work in a team.

Where are your weaknesses? For small businesses a starting point for implementing staff training could be to consider where you are weak, this could be at an overall business level or on an individual level. If marketing is your weak point, then you could look to diversify the skillset of someone in your team by developing their marketing skills and incorporating them as part of their day to day role. This can a fantastic way for small businesses to get by or indeed plug gaps during times such as Covid where some teams have dramatically reduced in size. The other way you may choose to implement training is by empowering your employees to choose a particular skill they would like to develop or a particular weakness they would like to overcome and have training that is on an individual basis. This often boosts job satisfaction and gives employees a sense of achievement as they have more control over their professional development.

Involve your team Ultimately if you don’t develop your employees in ways that are amenable to them and their career aspirations, they are far more likely to simply leave your company, meaning any money you did invest in their training has gone with them. Once you’ve established your long-term skill needs, be sure to consult your employees on what skills they would like to gain. See where your priorities match and invest accordingly. This will also let the employee know you value them in the long term, meaning they’re much more like to stay and develop a sense of loyalty to your company. Unlock the potential of your employees by speaking to our learning and development team who will assist you in devising a plan to suit your objectives and budget. Get in touch here.

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