Employees play an essential part in the success of any small business. While leadership guides the way, they depend on the skills of individual contributors to carry out their vision. Attracting skilled talent to meet business needs is a top priority, but nurturing the skills and professional development of your existing employees is equally if not more important yet all too often undervalued. 

As a small business employer, the right training at the right time can pay off in ways you can’t afford to ignore. When you neglect skills training, it may contribute to missed opportunities or costly mistakes.

Building effective training and development programs is key to cultivating your most valuable asset — your human resources. It’s a critical component in aligning your workforce with your organization’s specific strategic needs and goals. 

Benefits of Quality Skills Training and Professional Development

A poorly trained workforce with few opportunities for growth breeds a low-morale work environment. Offering training and development is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you value the people who work for you. Top performers and leaders bring their A-game when they have access to both skills training and career development opportunities, and employees who are strong contributors appreciate being surrounded by teammates who have the skills needed to pull their weight.

Investing in skills training and professional development programs positions your people as one of your biggest competitive advantages. Here’s how:

1. Elevate Your Employer Brand

In a competitive job market, offering quality training and development opportunities will strengthen your employer brand and give you an edge. Not only will you attract the attention of high-caliber job candidates, but when you set employees up to do their best work, your customers will sit up and take notice of better products and services. The best places to work are known for fostering professional development.

2. Set the Standard 

Your employees should know what is required of them to meet baseline expectations and quality standards — and what it takes to be exceptional! Comprehensive new hire training, onboarding, and ongoing training on company policies, procedures, and overall requirements related to job duties, operations, and ethics ensures everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goals.   

3. Improve Workforce Weaknesses

Every employee and every team has weaknesses that can be improved. Strategic employee development planning allows leaders to identify weaknesses and skills gaps that are affecting the bottom line and put a plan in place to strengthen them. From basic operational know-how to mission-critical skill sets, training programs can lead to incremental or even dramatic improvements.

4. Leverage Workforce Strengths

If you focus all your training and development efforts on weaknesses, you will overlook ways to maximize and leverage existing strengths. Too many training and development efforts fall short when they don’t factor in employees’ existing talents and abilities. Studies have found that employees respond favorably to feedback and development opportunities that recognize and nurture their innate strengths, which leads to greater engagement, job satisfaction, retention, productivity, and innovation.

5. Reduce Employee Turnover

Savvy small business leaders know career development is integral to job satisfaction and retention. It signals that you want them to succeed and value their contributions. The relationship between workers and employers has changed in the modern workplace. Gone are the days when companies could rely on employee loyalty, and vice versa. Top performers are keen to manage their careers and go where they are best supported for growth. If your best and brightest employees are not getting the career development opportunities they desire, they will look elsewhere to meet their own best interests.

Addressing the Skills Gap: Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

Leaders often struggle to accurately assess skills gaps, identify areas for growth, and prioritize employee development. For small companies, especially, day-to-day business-critical operations take precedence while longer-term goals take a back seat. And, of course, training requires time away from other responsibilities, which can interfere with productivity in the short term. 

Ideally, an employee shows up on day one with the skills needed for the job. But sometimes the most high-potential talent is missing trainable skills that could turn them into rising stars. Offering upskill training is one path to better leveraging and retaining top talent. Remember, your most ambitious team members are looking to build a career that fosters growth and advancement.    

Not only that, but your needs will likely evolve over time. In the modern workplace, change is constant, trends come and go, technology falls out of favor, and your customer’s demands will differ. In some cases, this will require making new hires with the right skills in short order, but much of the time you may already have someone or some team that could prove to be the valuable resource you need with reskilling.

The World Economic Forum is calling for what they’ve dubbed a reskilling revolution. As technological advances are threatening to displace workers at a rapid pace, they estimate over half of the global workforce needs to be reskilled. While closing the skills gap is a global problem that world leaders are working to address, on a more micro level, small businesses can’t afford to wait. You may benefit from offering some form of reskill training to both existing employees and high-potential new hires.   

Creating or expanding training programs can set your company apart as a desirable place to work and boost your bottom line.  

An effective employee professional development plan starts with identifying the desired outcome, for both the organization and the individuals. This requires gaining executive support, involving the leadership team in the process, integrating development with performance management programs, and considering each employee’s needs along with the overall business goals.

FREE TOOL: Employee Professional Development Annual Plan 

Many leaders wonder if training employees is worth the expense, particularly if they are likely to walk out of the door a few months down the line. But quality training can actually help to reduce turnover. Onboarding can be stressful and disconcerting for new hires. Better training means a better experience; it helps to ease jitters as the new kid on the block and instill the confidence needed to perform at a high level. 

Small Business Customized Training Solutions

Your top performers and high-potential employees want to grow professionally and make key contributions that advance your company and their career. When you make room in your budget for smarter, happier, more productive and innovative employees, everybody wins.

A customized program to meet your organization’s needs could include a mix of virtual and in-person learning opportunities, one-on-one coaching and mentoring, job rotation and shadowing, and career enrichment programs, as well as workshops, seminars, and courses on specific topics. We recommend working with a training and development provider that offers cost-effective, customized solutions.

Explore the customized training and development solutions offered by HR Answers, including consulting, one-hour sessions, half-day learning experiences, and workshops.