Training tips for small businesses
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face some real challenges when it comes to training their staff – the main hurdle usually being the cost. There are also problems with losing time, especially as there is so little spare capacity and inability to cover for absent colleagues, and with sourcing training providers.
Business owners aren’t training specialists (nor do they need to be) and often don’t know where to turn for advice. However, don’t despair: here are some simple tips to help you cope with these problems.
- Cost. When you’ve got little spare cash, spending money on training seems like a luxury. However, if you think about the expected benefits, it makes it much easier to decide whether or not to find the cash. It is important to evaluate the following when thinking about training your staff.
- What is it you want someone to do when they have been trained that they can’t do now?
- What business benefits will it bring? For example, will teaching someone to use an accounting package cut your fees to your accountants? How much will you save in the next three years?
- Make a plan.Discuss with the person you are looking to train. Make them aware of what you want to gain by the training and work out together how you will get those benefits, so that they are fully committed to them as well. Don’t be afraid to be open about it – they are developing new skills, which improve their career opportunities. And don’t worry about them leaving when you have trained them – there’s plenty of evidence that firms that don’t train have the highest turnover of staff. Investing in people encourages them to stay.
- Ask other firms about their experience of training in the same skill area – use your local Chamber of Commerce or trade association. You may find that there’s a training group you can join, which commissions bespoke training on behalf of a group of SMEs, ensuring you can get exactly what you want. If there isn’t one, think about forming one. It doesn’t have to be big, and each member can take it in turns to organise an event, which spreads the load.
- Do a bit of homework on training providers in your area. Try the local FE college, use Yellow Pages to find private trainers, or Google them. If it’s management training you want, try ILM – we’ll advise on what’s available in your area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online centre finder at http://www.i-l-m.com/learn-with-ilm/1873.aspx.
- Covering for someone missing for the day is difficult but not impossible – you do it when they are on holiday. There are alternative approaches to consider, such as e-learning or workbooks. People can do this in their own time or in small chunks that will be easier to cope with. However, they will need support. Providers might offer online or telephone tutorials or coaching, and you can help by scheduling in fixed times to do the work and spending a little time with them afterwards to see what they have learnt and how they can use it.
- Value qualifications! The big advantage of qualifications is that they prove someone has learnt something and, in the case of ILM qualifications, they can use what they have learnt in the workplace. Qualifications also motivate people to achieve, giving you a better return on your investment. These days, qualifications are like the Three Bears’ chairs – they start small (Awards) and are also available in medium (Certificate) and large (Diploma) size, so you pick what suits your needs at the time.