How to Train Employees in a Small Business Setting

Training employees can be a formidable challenge for any small business. No company wants to invest in an employee’s training, only to have them quit. On the other hand, there’s only so much they can do without training, if they decide to stay. While training can be a costly endeavor, there are some things you can do to ensure that the benefits of your program outweigh the costs.

Have a Plan Before They Start

Before you create any type of training program, you have to decide what skills you want your employees to learn. Not every skill is worth investing in a training program for, so you’ll need to make a list of the most critical skills. Create a structure that begins with the most basic, foundational knowledge and progresses to more advanced training. Each skill should build upon the previous one. Be sure to identify and fill any gaps, so the course you’re designing won’t confuse your employees.

Have Videos or a Complex Training Course

Videos and courses have long proven to be effective training tools. There are numerous online courses for basic skills used by virtually all business, such as those involving IT, or even common computer programs like Excel and PowerPoint. Equipment manufacturers may also have special videos to teach employees how to use their machinery. You might even find it helpful to create some of your own. While it may take some time, there’s no reason you can’t film your own instructional videos to train employees in key positions. The advantage of this is that you can tailor the training to your company’s exact way of doing things.

Multilevel Training

Training should be divided into various levels that have clearly defined goals. Consider implementing rewards at key levels to increase the incentive for mastery. Examples of such perks might include additional vacation days, flexible hours or leadership opportunities tied to specific training achievements.

Set Measurable Goals

Setting and tracking specific goals can help you determine whether or not your training program is working. Some goals may be simple, such as making sure everyone reads a specific manual for a certain piece of machinery. A more complex goal might require employees to learn how to operate a piece of equipment without supervision within a specified period of time. You’ll probably have to set different types goals for departments and individuals.

Have Continual Training Sessions

Training should be continuous, in order to help employees retain what they learn. Keep in mind that technology changes and at some point they will probably need to learn additional, or even more advanced skills, in order to keep up. Consider providing brown-bag lunches as a way to help maintain interest in the program. Note that you may have to break up these sessions into different shifts or schedule them by departments, if large sessions become a disruption to normal operations.

Use Good Employees as Trainers

Sometimes the best way to learn is from an individual who knows every detail of the job. For this reason, highly-skilled employees are often invaluable as trainers. The best candidates are those who always complete their work on time and with great precision. Some of them might be in management, while others might just be long-term employees. They’re often the best choices for training new employees or teaching courses on the side. You can either provide them with a course of standard information or allow them to create their own program and provide them with financial incentives for passing on their skills.

Train on Multiple Positions

Cross training involves teaching employees to do other jobs in addition to their primary ones. One example might be training a cashier to stock inventory. One key advantage is that if you’re ever short a key employee, you’ll be able to draw from other departments and minimize the impact. It also gives them a better understanding of the big picture, which may help them do their own jobs better. In learning other jobs, they will also know what they can realistically expect from other employees they interact with daily.

Mind the Generational Gap

Your business is likely to have people from different age groups working together, across different departments. Aside from their daily duties, they may have little else in common. Younger employees might enjoy spending their break times taking selfies and interacting on social media, whereas older workers might prefer to crack jokes or read the newspaper. This generational gap means employees of different ages will learn differently. When addressing gaps in training, keep in mind that a more individualized approach may be necessary.

Set Up a Mentor Program

Sometimes the best way to teach less experienced employees is to team them up with a competent mentor. This can be either a formal or informal arrangement. Informally, it might involve letting the up-and-coming employee sit in on meetings and planning sessions with their mentor. A more formal approach might involve an actual apprenticeship program with a potential career path. If you decide to go this route, you should first train your senior employees on how to best work with an apprentice, since it won’t come naturally to everyone.

Remember that a lack of training can severely impact your company’s success. It’s hard to keep employees interested in their jobs, if they’re confused about the tasks they’re given. The tips above should help you gain a better understanding of where to begin when designing a program that will serve your business for years to come.

Joe Humphries is a contributing writer and media specialist for Training Network. He regularly writes for safety blogs.

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