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training and development

Creating Your Program

When creating a training and development program, it’s tempting to dive right in and assemble all the necessary application tools, such as training classes, workshops, and timelines. But it’s critical to your employee training program’s future success and longevity to resist that urge and take a step back. Training is at the root of all employee development, but developing your team is more than just a few training modules and coaching sessions. Designing an employee training program from scratch can be challenging, but when done thoughtfully and right, it can set your small business up for success for years to come.

Types of Training & Development

Professional development programs are a wise investment for all small business owners, from improving employee engagement and retaining top talent to productivity and achieving your small business goals. It’s important to review a few types of training you may wish to consider offering your employees because not every program works for every team.

  • Onboarding and Orientation – This is an organization’s first opportunity to train its new employees and set the tone for this new relationship. A standard orientation program should include the following:
    • New Hire Paperwork
    • Review of available benefits
    • Company culture, Mission Statement, and Core Values
    • Introductions to organizational structure and the leadership team
    • Company policies and procedures
    • Future training opportunities, your company’s continuous learning model, and mentoring program
  • Employee orientation begins on day one and continues until team members have settled into their prospective roles. It’s important to remember that the onboarding timetable can vary depending on an employee’s duties, experience level, learning style, and pace.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Training – More and more organizations are seeing the benefits of prioritizing equality, diversity, and inclusion training in their company culture. Diversity training encourages employees to unite, navigate differing opinions, understand and respect each other’s perspectives, and minimize prejudice and discrimination.
  • Compliance Training – It is helpful for employees and is required by law. Compliance training should teach employees about your organizational rules and their legal obligations. Compliance training covers business ethics, safety training (OSHA), cybersecurity, anti-harassment, diversity, and local, state, and government regulations.
  • Product and Services Training – Just as it sounds, products and services training teaches new hires and current employees about the products and services they represent. You may wish to include some or all of the following in your training plan.
    • Product and service offerings
    • Prices
    • Warranties
    • Instructions
    • Product/Service benefits
    • Specific incentives/promotions
    • Marketing strategies
  • Soft skills training – Common or core skills. Soft skills are relevant for all professions and organizations. Helping employees develop their soft skills is an essential component of any training program and can directly correlate to increased productivity, efficiencies, job satisfaction, and engagement. Here a just a few elements:
    • Active listening
    • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
    • Conflict resolution training
    • Negotiating
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Decision making
    • Communication skills and styles
    • Organizational skills
    • Time management
  • Technical skills development – No matter how experienced an individual may be, everyone, including your senior employees, can advance their skill set, improve their performance and benefit from advanced training. Because different roles and areas of responsibility may require specific training methods, consider offering a mentoring program, in-house training, or online courses tailored to your employees’ particular skills and your business’s needs.

Essential Elements of a Training & Development Program

Now that we’ve examined the different types of training and development, let’s talk about the essential components of creating an effective, successful, and long-lasting training and development program.

Leadership Team Alignment

Ensuring your leadership team is on the same page and aligned with your strategic vision, budget, and priorities will help to ensure a continuous learning environment is fostered within your organization’s culture.

Needs Assessment

This is a systematic process that measures discrepancies between current and desired work performance by addressing organizational needs or skills gaps within the company. The results from this review may identify areas needing improvement, correction, or even creation. Follow these four steps when performing a needs analysis assessment:

  1. Identify the necessary skills within your organization
  2. Review any available courses that meet the skills needs
  3. Evaluate the capabilities of employees
  4. Determine the next steps for improvements.

Employee Surveys

One of the best ways to know what type of training is needed for your team’s professional development and advancement is to ask your employees. Asking employees for their feedback fosters a positive work culture and helps them feel empowered and confident that they have a voice within the organization. Be sure that your training program reflects some of the results from your employee survey, and you’ll be amazed!


What is benchmarking? Simply put, it’s knowing the what, when, and why of what others in your industry are doing and how it’s working for them. Benchmarking can be done through something called a SWOT Analysis.

Strengths – These are things you do well, the qualities that set you apart, your tangible assets, any capital and intellectual property, and internal strengths, such as your skilled and knowledgeable staff.

Weaknesses – These are areas where you may be lacking, or your competitors do better. It may also look like resource limitations or unclear marketing strategies.

Opportunities – Where are your growth opportunities? Are you in an underserved market for your specific product or service? Do you know of any new competitors in your area? Do you see an emerging need for a new product or service? And last but not least, consider media and press coverage opportunities for your small business. You can’t sell your product if customers don’t know about it.

Threats – This could be the new competition that just moved in down the street, any negative press or reviews that would negatively impact a customer’s satisfaction or attitude towards your company, or a changing regulatory environment that may require sudden adjustments to your business plan.

Armed with this information is essential for building your internal program.

Company Culture Integration

Creating a culture of continuous learning throughout your organization is critical to your program’s success. Here are some tips to achieve a harmonious company culture integration:

  • Lead by example – If you and your leadership team are only talking the talk and not walking the walk, your employees will see through this immediately, and you will lose any possibility of success. It’s unfair to expect your employees to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
    • Hire the right people – This sounds like a no-brainer, but today’s business climate can be tedious and tricky. You’ll want to hire people who understand and can explain what a continuous learning culture means. This will ensure that your training program remains relevant and successful for the long haul.
  • Give continuous feedback – This is a crucial step, and its importance cannot be underestimated. This is not the same as an annual performance review. Continuous feedback and coaching help establish a trusting relationship between you (and your leadership team) and your direct reports. It encourages individuals to learn new things, accept responsibility for their work performance, and participate more actively in their day-to-day work activities and company culture.
  • Reward for asking questions and continuous learning – This can come in many forms, such as public recognition for a job well done, a cash bonus in a paycheck, an extra paid day off, or a simple handwritten note of thanks. As a leader, it’s important to learn what makes your employees feel appreciated and incentivize them accordingly.

Training and Development Results Measurement

If you see happier and more productive, engaged employees and a lower attrition rate over time, that’s a clear indicator that you have created a winning training and development program. As environments change and markets shift, so too do the needs of today’s workforce. As individual employees grow and employee performance improves, the individuals on your team will inevitably need more training opportunities to advance their skill set further. So, it’s important to continually monitor and measure your training program’s effectiveness, introduce new skills, and provide the proper training to your team. Re-evaluating, re-structuring, making improvements, and sometimes even course correcting are all essential to keeping your program current and effective.

Why you should have employee training and development for your small businesses

To remain competitive in today’s workforce, companies must invest in employee training and development. A formal training program can improve employee retention, attract new talent, save time and money, future-proof your business, and decrease safety-related accidents.

Improve employee retention.

Many companies find that employee turnover is the greatest among new employees. This is why it’s important to set them up for success and give them the tools they need to flourish right from the beginning. When employees are clear about their role within the organization and feel fully supported, you will be more likely to retain them for a more extended period.

Future-proof your business

Future-proof your business by first getting management buy-in. This goes back to leading by example. If you make training mandatory, ensure your leadership team is present and fully supportive. Next, create a formal program and establish your metrics. How much will it cost? What is the completion rate? How does it impact employees’ individual goals? And finally, offer different types of training and measure employee satisfaction through employee surveys.

Save time and money

Investing in the training and development of your employees is investing in your business. Read that again. By providing employees with training and continuous learning, you are allowing them to have a vested interest in your company. They have skin in the game and are more proactive and productive. Alternatively, employees who are not provided with the proper training can go on to make ill-informed decisions, their work performance suffers, and mistakes are made. This leads to poor customer satisfaction and bad reviews. Employee turnover is high, costing the business thousands of dollars in lost productivity, revenue, and the costs associated with hiring and training replacement staff. Save yourself the time, the money, and the headaches by thoroughly investing in your company’s training and development program. In time, you’ll look back and be proud and grateful that you did!