Back-to-school season is here—a time for not only students, but also employees to renew their focus on learning. Employee training and development is an increasingly popular employee benefit, according to human resource professional society SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits Survey, a survey answered by 3,490 human resources professionals.
What can business owners do to provide continuing education, training and development for their team? Here are seven ideas.
1. Sign your employees up for memberships in professional or industry organizations.
The number of companies offering professional memberships to employees as a benefit has increased 23 percent in the past 20 years, according to the SHRM survey. The cost of paying for employees' memberships can be offset by the potential value of keeping their skills and knowledge up to date on the latest industry trends and the smartest ways to do things.
Professional and industry organizations often offer a variety of training and development opportunities, such as online courses, in-person seminars or workshops, and certification courses. You can save money by having one person take a course or seminar, then coming back to your business to share what he or she learned with the rest of the team as part of employee training.
2. Organize lunchtime reading groups.
Consider finding a business book that's relevant to your business, buying copies for everyone on your team to read and then having a brown-bag lunch session one Friday a month where everyone discusses what they got out of that month's book. (Perhaps the book examines a trend in your industry or shows you how to do something better.)
Employees can gain knowledge not just by reading the book, but also by hearing others' insights about it. Consider wrapping up your discussion session by brainstorming ways you can implement the book's ideas in your business. You may want to then follow up and make sure it happens!
3. Have your employees educate each other about their jobs.
When employees learn exactly what other workers in the company do, they may be better able to see how their jobs fit into the big picture and contribute to the company's overall success. Think about bringing in lunch for the team once a month and having one employee do a presentation on his or her department's duties or his or her specific job. Employees may discover new interests in moving laterally or moving up into different jobs when they hear about what others are doing.
4. Sign employees up for classes.
Local community colleges, trade schools, adult education programs or even city recreation programs may offer classes that can be useful for your employees. Since these are typically low-cost programs, it may be affordable to subsidize all or part of the cost for an employee to take classes in things like learning to use Excel more effectively, the latest graphic design trends or how to market the business through social media. As with professional memberships, you can cut costs by having one employee take a course and then teach others what he or she learned as part of employee training.
5. Explore the world of online education for employee training.
Your employees can gain lots of knowledge online, whether it's free webinars sponsored by your vendors or full-on courses such as those at Coursera or Udemy. Your local college or university may even offer online courses. One of the benefits of making online education a part of your employee training? Employees can work at their own pace and at their desks instead of having to leave work to take classes or fit education into an already busy schedule.
6. Try cross training.
Having employees within a department cross train each other in their job duties can help expose your employees to new skills, which can benefit your business. If someone is absent or on vacation, another employee who's learned some of their duties may be able to take over some of the workload if need be.
7. Explore free resources.
Your local SBA district office, SBDC or SCORE office may offer free webinars, workshops or other training programs that will benefit your employees. If they don't offer exactly what you need, they'll surely be able to help you find it in your local community. (Disclosure: SCORE is a client of my company.)
Read more articles on building your team.