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Encouraging employee learning on the job

It's important for small businesses to invest in training, and it can be done even on a tight budget, experts say.

Businesses that want to join the learning curve

Businesses that want to join the learning curve by investing in employee training can do it even on a tight budget, experts say. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/fizkes

Businesses that want to join the learning curve by investing in employee training can do it even on a tight budget, experts say.

Small businesses may not be able to invest as much as 400 surveyed organizations— most of them in the United States -- that spent $1,296 per employee in 2017 , up 1.7 percent from 2016, according to research released last month.

But there are ways they can still promote employee development.

There are a lot of free or low-cost resources, says Maria Ho, associate director of research for the Association for Talent Development in Alexandrea, Virginia. “You have to be willing to explore them and vet their quality and make sure [they’re] the right fit for your needs.”

Supporting employee learning is important for several reasons, she says. “It can help you retain and attract the right people who are enthusiastic about learning and self-improvement.”

According to the ATD survey report, the top areas of training content were managerial and supervisory (13 percent); mandatory and compliance (12 percent); processes, procedures and business practices (11 percent); and interpersonal skills (10 percent).

Instructor-led, face-to-face training was favored for more than half of the class time. .

While some organizations cannot afford live training with instructors on-site, ATD has found it effective to use your own leaders or executives as teachers or to encourage employees to share their knowledge with each other in person or via technology, message boards online, for example, says Ho.

There are more options if you can’t afford live on-site training.

For example, Melville-based Dale Carnegie & Associates offers virtual instructor-led live online training, which can cost from $99 to $1,600 per participating employee depending on the length of sessions, which range from one hour to 12 hours, says Jonathan Vehar, vice president of products at Dale Carnegie.

Less expensive than that are e-learning courses online that aren’t live, but are recorded and can be watched via a web portal, he says.

You could also encourage ongoing coaching/mentoring within the organization or establish peer-coaching opportunities. This might involve a handful of employees meeting, say, monthly to address a question/issue or seek guidance, says Vehar, noting you can also create a book club to read and discuss relevant business topics.

Another free resource are TED (technology, entertainment and design) talks, which are influential online videos from expert speakers, he says.

Remember, too, that you may not need a program, per se, says MaryAnne Hyland, a human resources management professor at Adelphi University in Garden City.

“In my opinion, some of the most valuable learning opportunities for employees aren’t the ones that come from a formal training program,” she says.

Informal coaching and mentoring can happen simply by giving employees stretch assignments, says Hyland. This is where they would be matched with someone with more experience and perhaps put on a project they’ve never done before learning while they’re doing, she says.

You might even consider cross-training employees in various jobs, she says.

Other low-cost or free avenues to explore are local learning seminars or opportunities in the community, says Jose Santiago, a human resources compliance specialist at Alcott HR in Farmingdale.

For example, Fred Pryor Seminars, which offers business training, usually has a calendar listing of local fee-based seminars on its website, he says.

If you can’t afford to send your whole staff to a seminar, you can designate a person who has good teaching skills to attend and disseminate to staff what he or she has learned, says Santiago.

Libraries often offer free programs as well, he says.

Make it clear to staff from the top down that you encourage learning, says Hyland. “You need to have your top leadership committed to the importance of employee development.”

On the job training:

 59%

Percentage of organizations where learning that occurs during work was a key part of employees' development

Source: Association for Talent Development  

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