A version of this post was origially published on January 22, 2018 in HR News.
Being a small or medium-sized business can make it difficult to train employees to the level of efficiency that bigger, more established companies are able to do. Quite often, budget and resource constraints stop them from investing in external training that bigger enterprises are able to utilize in order to create a culture of learning within the company.
However, it doesn’t always have to be a costly investment to get good results; there are also small (and mostly free) steps that small businesses can take in order to develop a culture of learning from an early stage, to help them reap the benefits in the long-run.
Upskilling staff is important for a number of reasons, not least to keep skills current and to motivate and inspire employees. This in turn allows them to continually aim for better achievements within the company which is so important in order for small businesses to grow. With the competitive nature of the economic forecast, staying ahead of the game with effective training and a culture of learning enables the company to move onward and upward.
So how can small businesses do this effectively, and why is upskilling so important, if not more important to a smaller company, and how can they create an attentive culture of learning?
Cross train departments
Firstly, make use of the talent in the room! If you can spot the experts in the company, you can use this to train others within it who may lack the expertise and knowledge that this one person has about a specific topic. For example, if you have someone who is particularly knowledgeable in digital and social media, it would be useful for other members of staff to receive training from them on topics such as how to effectively use various online platforms.
Sharing this expertise and tips can then mean that more employees are able to promote and raise awareness of the company or the brands it works with on a much larger scale, maximizing resource rather than having to rely on one person.
While external training can be very effective, quite often it can also be very expensive. Therefore to maximize budgets, it might be wise to send one employee to a specific training course which they can then feedback on in the form of a staff presentation or training session covering what was learned. Not only does this reaffirm the employee’s knowledge on the topic, but it is a more cost-effective way of upskilling more employees.
Personalize the learning
Another great way to encourage a culture of learning may be to personalize learning to the needs of each individual employee. During performance reviews, or even on a monthly basis if you’re a smaller company, identifying each employee’s objectives for the upcoming months and then working out where they might need training to support these objectives will in turn help you to choose the courses or programs that will be most beneficial to them and to the company.
A learning management system may be an effective tool in order to tailor training to each employee. For example, each employee could have their own homepage within the LMS that tracks and logs any training that they complete.
An LMS is also extremely useful for a small business to generate training specifically for the business. For example, if you’re a small tech start-up, such a system can make it an easier process to create training modules on specific topics like coding or effective use of internet searching — anything that can be accessed and learned by all employees, which will ultimately save you money as well as providing opportunities for your workforce to upskill and refresh their knowledge on a regular basis!
Small and medium-sized businesses can also make use of the resources already in the office. The internet can provide varied tutorials, lesson plans and up-to-date knowledge on a subject at the touch of a button.
This information can then be easily inserted into an LMS and accessed by all staff, so they have the opportunity to upskill in that particular area if they want to. As with most free access materials, this is a cost-effective method of training.
In educational technology jargon, micro learning is a learning module that spans between 3 to 6 minutes. These tiny “nuggets” of information can be connected to each other or even stand alone, and accessed by anyone within the company at a time that suits them through a learning management system or even an online tutorial.
Micro learning modules have very specific learning outcomes due to their immediacy and accessibility through technology including mobile devices. They aim to provide employees with quick snapshots of information that can be learnt on the spot or even revisited should that be required for a specific task.
It has been suggested that this approach to learning is very well suited to millennials and other digital natives who will soon be joining the workforce. Even if the modules are part of a more extensive e-learning course provided via an LMS, the short snippets of information are easily digested, and due to the ‘micro’ nature of the learning, can be revisited and thus the learning further entrenched in the mind of the employee.
Another great benefit of this may be if an employee is short on time, they may find it difficult to attend an external or offsite training course or even spend time searching for a bigger module or an online tutorial, and this short snippet of information may be all they need to help them complete the task. Again, this can be tailored to the needs of the company and your employees, saving employees the time that would otherwise be spent searching the internet for valid materials.
All in all
Creating a culture of learning for small and medium-sized businesses can be tricky, with the priorities of such an organization differing from a bigger company, but if you can use the resources and talent that you already have within the company, with the help of technology, you can reap great benefits for the company and for your employees.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and MATRIX. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.