This is the fourth in a series of four articles on how to manage new business development vs. day-to-day operations.
Along with a solid product or service, a company’s employees are crucial to winning and keeping new business. Each employee, even those who may not be on the front lines, ultimately influences customers’ impressions of the company.
Key to creating a positive customer experience is to invest in staff development. Training and development help keep employees’ skills sharp and their knowledge up-to-date. They supercharge staff proficiency and create an ideal atmosphere for attracting and retaining top talent, according to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
So how can a small business best invest in employee development? Start with the basics by ensuring employees understand and know how to best use the available tools, whether this involves a piece of equipment or computer software. To broaden skills, amp up training and development by allowing workers to attend tailored workshops and industry-specific certification courses.
One low-cost but effective tactic is cross training. The concept is simple: One worker learns the job of another. Employees have the opportunity to gain additional knowledge and valuable skills in different areas of the company. Cross training can be conducted within departments or across divisions.
Cross training gives staff members a more comprehensive view of how a company operates and can encourage innovation as employees coming from one area bring fresh perspective to another. Cross training pays dividends when someone calls in sick or is on vacation, helping to fill the void with minimal interruption in production or service.
Another way to encourage individual development is through mentoring, or pairing a more experienced employee with a junior worker. Experienced employees, including business owners, can provide valuable insight into business operations and help less-experienced workers “learn the ropes.” The most effective mentoring relationship typically involves a set of productivity goals to help the mentee move his or her career forward.
E-learning and webinars present additional cost-effective opportunities. These virtual learning tools may be online group workshops offered through industry organizations or an outside human resources (HR) consultant or self-paced course that can be done at an employee’s convenience. Virtual learning does require more self-initiative on the part of the employee, but it can be a great option for those who may be shy in groups or who have limited time to attend an off-site workshop.
Developing training programs does not need to consume a manager’s time. In fact, the end result should create opportunities for supervisors to innovate themselves toward building and developing business. An HR consultant can lead in-house training sessions or provide access to additional learning opportunities. Local and national professional organizations also offer workshops and webinars. And area community colleges provide continuing education courses in specific fields and on general business issues.
While it may be tempting to scrimp on employee training and development because of budgetary or time constraints, a commitment to employee development will ultimately help a business run smoothly and create opportunities for growth. The best performers often are more concerned about opportunities for growth and development than the size of their paycheck. Offering job training demonstrates the company’s commitment to employees’ success. Create a sound, results-driven training and development strategy to identify leaders, equip them to do their jobs and improve the performance of the company.
Efficient employees and managers equipped and empowered to handle daily responsibilities allow business owners to focus their attention on bringing in new customers – and to be confident that their team can then effectively service that business.