Building Employee Training in a Growing Startup

To transform your staff into a dream team of innovation, you need your players to be in top form. And, just like in sports, there are three things that will get them to peak performance: training, training and training. 

Why Training Matters

Hiring people with the right background is important, but what’s critical is their willingness—and ability—to learn, adapt and grow. After all, every business is different, requiring its own special cocktail of skills that no one can be expected to fully master beforehand. When you’re onboarding new recruits, it’s your job to ensure they receive the training needed to fully maximize their roles—and their potential. Training never ends. Even the most seasoned employees need training and career development opportunities to maximize their potential and feel satisfied in their job.

“Just as employees invest themselves in a company to make it better, the best companies also invest in their employees to make them better,” says Brad Geddes, trainer, author and founder of Certified Knowledge, a company that trains businesses to do their own online marketing.

According to Geddes, “When a company openly invests in its employees, it can help with recruiting top talent and then keeping that talent.” This is because while training serves the practical end of enhancing employee performance, it’s also seen as an intrinsic reward that increases job satisfaction, leading to higher productivity and lower turnover.

Taking Time to Train

For startups, the greatest enemy of workplace training programs is time. In the fast pace of conducting day-to-day business, risking operational delays in the interest of training may feel like an impossible proposition. But, if implemented properly, training frees up employees to integrate more innovative thinking and implement new processes in their work. With insights on up-to-date methods or technologies, they may also find ways that certain tasks can be completed more efficiently, freeing up time to focus on other high-value areas.

Training also provides employees with the tools, competence and—crucially—the confidence to innovate, rather than relying on a standardized method or procedure. Finally, training builds up a valuable store of in-house knowledge, which has a positive multiplier effect: an enterprise full of trained employees creates an atmosphere of excellence, which in turn leads to higher levels of productivity, which in turn creates greater possibilities for training. And so on.  

For these reasons, Geddes recommends offering training or education as a workplace benefit. “Just as employees accrue vacation and sick time,” he says, “so should they be able to acquire training time.” For businesses on a budget, a bonus is that this benefit can be a free or low-cost option—an easy way to make you look great in your employees’ eyes.  

Tips for Training on a Budget

Speaking of budgets, the absence of funds should not deter you from offering your employees training and education. If you’re looking for low-cost options, Geddes offers these six inexpensive ways to get knowledge flowing:

  1. Online courses. Many of these are free or inexpensive, and can be fit into the most diverse schedules. Check out The Learning Tree, BizLibrary, or the Business Training Institute
  2. Continuing education. Local colleges, schools and libraries offer a variety of courses in practical skills applicable to the business world, including accounting, marketing and software.
  3. Industry Groups and Associations. For a small fee, trade groups open up a variety of training-related and networking options for your staff. As a side benefit, attending these groups can also leads to new sales or partnering opportunities.
  4. Mentoring. By pairing up an experienced hand with a fresh face, company-specific skills can be shared, creating an in-house store of knowledge and encouraging team bonding.
  5. Cross-training. When employees train each other in how to do their jobs, each person learns new skills while making the company more resilient. Cross-training also allows employees to practice taking on leadership roles—an important step in their career development. 
  6. Lunch-and-learns. Break out the pizza each month and have one member teach the group a skill or explain how their department operates.

Training for Profit

Training need not be an expensive proposition. By means of the above methods, small businesses can harness a range of inside and outside resources for effective employee training—before even turning to outside consultants. And for small-business owners who might still be wondering whether training is worth the cost, Brad Geddes is clear: “Employees are hired to make the company more successful; in the end, they are the ones who make a company great. Investing in employees has direct corporate benefits.”

Low-cost employee training that helps with both talent retention and profits? That’s what we call a homerun.