Train, Develop Your Team, Before you go broke!

As a small-business owner, you probably are bombarded with hundreds of direct-mail pieces and e-mails that promote upcoming training seminars and conferences. You might glance at the titles and think, “So-and-so could use some training in that,” but the thought goes no further.

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But, training your employees is an important issue that deserves your time and consideration. After all, when you invest in employee training, you are investing in your employees – and your company’s future. Providing employee training and development can provide a valuable return to your business in both the short-term and long-term.

As many of you currently are preparing your budgets for next year, don’t forget to include employee training. Oh, you say you can’t budget for training? Let me guess why:

1. If I train people, they will become more valuable and want more money to stay.

Actually, wouldn’t it be worse if you don’t train them and they stay? Do you want your employees to be “just dumb enough to stay?” Remember, you don’t own your employees – some will stay and some will go. Investing in training and development makes them more valuable for the time they are with you. And, since you spend so much time with your employees, make sure they are as knowledgeable and effective as possible. By investing in training the ones that do stay will be more effective and capable.

2. Training takes away from productive, billable time.

If you are in a professional-services business, knowledge is your inventory. Just through the course of normal business, some of that knowledge gets transferred from your company to your clients. So, if you don’t renew that inventory through training and employee development, your company will become stagnant and your work may lose its value. So, while you may get more billable time now, there will be a diminished need for your service in the future and much less billable time.

3. It’s not my responsibility to teach my employees.

Your best employees will always learn on their own, which is great. But, most employees are busy and engaged in their client work, internal initiatives, as well as their home life, hobbies, etc. If you believe gaining new skills and knowledge is important to your business’ continued success, then you and your management team must take the necessary steps to ensure training takes place. Many businesses tie acquiring new skills and knowledge to promotion because, as your business grows, so too must your employees. Don’t leave their development to chance. Consider it an employee bonus for them and a fringe benefit for you.

4. Training is a drag for employees. It’s just one more thing on their calendar.

Recent surveys of employees have shown that employees are more likely to leave a job that doesn’t provide training or challenge them. Not only does training provide employees with new skill sets, but it serves to rejuvenate employees and reignite their creativity and drive. Training does not add one more thing to their calendars – it adds one more thing to their resume – and yours. Failing to train your employees is the only drag.

5. Training is too costly.

Business owners are more than happy to buy a new piece of equipment or invest in a process to make their business more efficient. Well, training is no different. Training makes your employees more efficient and effective, which in turn makes your processes and machinery more efficient. Keep your employees well-oiled and fueled with knowledge, and your bottom-line will appreciate it. Training is an investment in your business’ future and in its most valued, and often under-valued, commodity – people.

Now that your excuses for not training employees have turned into reasons for investing in training, I challenge you to allocate to training an amount equal to at least 3% of your salary expense in next year’s budget. Then, tell your employees (or at least the managers) that you have budgeted for training and challenge them to find cost-effective and appropriate training activities (conferences, classes, books, tapes, DVDs, etc.) that would benefit and assist them. And, give them some criteria to judge training, like its relationship to their job descriptions or those for jobs one- to two-levels above them.

It’s time to make an investment in and recognize the value of your employees. When they return from training, ask them to share what they learned with you and others throughout the company. Recognize them for their abilities and put their new skills and abilities to use. Today’s employees are tomorrow’s managers, and they are the future of your business.

Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives