Affordable Small Business Employee Training Tips

A manager leads a small business employee training session.

There is no doubt about it: properly onboarding and training employees can be quite expensive, particularly for small businesses. Thankfully, there are some small business employee training strategies you can use that won’t break the bank.

Knowing how to train employees effectively is key to your company’s success. Consider the following strategies to tap into your current workforce to foster employee development and productivity, without significant impact to your bottom line.

  1. Cross-training
  2. Mentoring
  3. Brown bag seminars
  4. Remote conferencing

1. Cross-Training

It’s a situation small business owners know all too well: extended employee absences can impact business productivity. Still, you need to provide for vacations and be prepared for unplanned absences. Some businesses have chosen to add cross-training to their small business employee training strategy.

This training plan is simple. By sharing their techniques and knowledge, employees show their fellow colleagues how to perform their most significant tasks, so their responsibilities are fulfilled during work absences. To successfully implement cross-training in your business, follow these steps:

  • Propose. Suggest the program to each of your employees and determine which employees are interested in contributing their time and knowledge
  • Choose. From there, decide which employees are the most adept to training others. Generally, senior workers are more willing to train others, but this may vary according to your specific business and industry. Encourage cross-generational training among your employees.
  • Confirm. Once you have determined which employees will cross-train their colleagues, ensure they are prepared for the training process. You may have to offer guidance, especially as the training first begins.
  • Balance. Always provide trainers and trainees a proper with a balance between their own job responsibilities and the training itself.
  • Practice. Provide trainees with an opportunity to actually apply their new skills prior to employee absences. This will reduce the likelihood of future and often avoidable mistakes.
  • Motivate. To increase employee participation in the future, reward all participants by offering incentives such as gift cards or casual dress days.

Through cross-training, you can develop an integrated workforce that is prepared for long-term absences and is more knowledgeable of your business’s operations. As an added bonus, your cross-trained employees can help fill in the gaps after an employee leaves, before you’ve had a chance to hire their replacement.

2. Mentoring

Far too often, employees are offered additional responsibilities with little or no direction. Even worse, they can be hired without receiving any formal employee or management training. This is especially true with respect to small business employee training programs, which may lack formal processes or ample resources.

However, these issues can often be addressed or even eliminated via a mentor-protégé training program. Many small business owners have successfully helped new (or promoted) employees get up to speed through this approach. The following suggestions may help:

  • Pair mentors with protégés. Discuss your idea with senior employees for their feedback. Match interested employees with protégés, according to similar career paths, interests, and goals
  • Familiarize. Before training begins, ensure that mentors and protégés have an opportunity to meet, become acquainted, and identify their goals. Failure to do so may result in unsuccessful training.
  • Create an agreement. Mentors and protégés should consider developing an agreement that includes the duration of the training program, goals that should be fulfilled, and follow-up meetings.
  • Offer opportunities. Perhaps your mentor-protégé pairings would be interested in attending networking events or listening to guest speakers. If so, enable them to advance their learning. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions.

Once implemented, it’s important to meet with the partners to ensure that both the mentor and protégé’s interests are being fulfilled. Also, be sure to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the training program so you can make improvements in the future.

3. Brown Bag Seminars

A more informal method of small business employee training is the “brown bag” seminar. Typically offered during your employees’ lunch breaks, they are so-named because you would encourage your employees to bring their lunches to these sessions. They’re best kept voluntary and, for the most part, casual.

Brown bag seminars may be held on a monthly or weekly basis, or as often as you wish. These seminars are beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Intimate and interactive. Unlike other training options, brown bag seminars allow employees to interact with one another on a wide range of training topics, from customer service to marketing. These interactions increase employee bonds and, ultimately, improve teamwork.
  • Timely. A majority of brown bag sessions are an hour long or less, so as to avoid taking too much time away from employees’ busy schedules.
  • Leadership. Give all your employees the opportunity to lead a session. The result is a more confident and team who can practice their leadership and communication skills.

4. Remote Conferencing

Remote conferencing using video or just audio technology is a great way to incorporate small business employee training, especially for hybrid workforces. This approach to training programs is especially useful for small businesses whose employees frequently travel or have different schedules.

Since most employees have grown very accustomed to Zoom meetings and other remote work technology, it shouldn’t be difficult to get buy-in from your staff. Just be sure you’re able to ensure that everyone involved is getting what they need out of the sessions.

Employees should notice the following benefits with remote training programs:

  • Connecting capabilities. Whether employees are at your company headquarters or traveling, they can effectively communicate with one another. Users can watch (or listen to) training presentations and communicate with trainers post-session.
  • Organized. Most conferences are clearly-structured and easy to follow, giving employees the ability to take notes and prepare questions. They also allow presenters to share worksheets and other documentation.
  • Question and answer sessions. The most successful distance training sessions include Q&A sessions, allowing employees to communicate with trainers and resolve any issues.

Make Your Small Business Employee Training Program Successful

Even if you have a smart business plan and go out of your way to hire the best people, you’ll ultimately fall flat if you don’t learn how to train employees properly. Small businesses need all the help they can get. Get an edge today by signing up for expert advice and new developments in recruiting and management.