Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Give your employees the education and development resources they need to succeed. From learning new technology solutions to updating industry knowledge or employing new marketing methods, there are lots of options for educating on a small business budget.
But first, why is employee education important in the workplace?
Employee education is valuable in the workplace for a few reasons.
- It supports employee engagement.
- It can reduce employee turnover.
- It can drive productivity and innovation.
Education matters in the workplace because educated workers are engaged workers. When business owners give employees opportunities to expand knowledge of a job or industry, they show they care about professional development. It stands to reason that when employees feel their development matters, they’re more likely to stick with a job and experience more job satisfaction. And although not all options are free, small business owners don’t need big, corporate budgets to make education happen. Course fees or related expenses, either reimbursed or paid directly, could be tax-deductible.
1. Capitalize on software education tools
No matter what tools your employees use, chances are there’s a robust group of learning materials and help articles available for it. In some cases, that might be live webinars or on-demand training videos. Encourage your team to go beyond basic how-to’s and uncover the full range of learning opportunities for everything from word processing to payroll. And the best part? Many educational materials for specific tools are available at no additional cost.
2. Encourage employees to learn from each other
What better way to flex your team’s native genius than by challenging them to teach one another? Not only will they gain new skills, but they’ll gain a new appreciation for each other’s strengths and roles in the business.
Other options might include:
- Hosting a business book club where employees can discuss new ideas.
- Bringing in an industry expert or vendor who can share insights and answer questions about products and services.
- Setting up a mentoring program for senior employees to new hires.
3. Attend events in person and online
Industry conferences, seminars, and workshops offer valuable opportunities for employees to learn new things and make new connections. If you can’t afford to send all your employees to an event, have one or two attend and report what they learned to the rest of the team.
If going offsite isn’t an option for anyone, on-site learning can be just as beneficial. You can often learn more about different business topics just searching YouTube videos. But if you want a more structured experience for your team, consider these popular online learning programs.
- Coursera offers courses on thousands of subjects, including business. Students can even finish professional certifications. Some courses are free. Others have a one-time fee or are available in a monthly subscription.
- Udemy has a wide range of business-relevant courses. Some are free. Fee-based courses start at $10.99.
- LinkedIn Learning provides access to unlimited courses to improve your business skills for $19.99 per month, with the first month free.
- EdX offers courses from leading universities like Harvard and MIT, as well as professional certifications. Some courses are free, but certifications typically cost a few hundred dollars.
4. Access free services from business organizations
SCORE is a nationwide organization that supports small business owners with free mentoring and services.* Local SCORE chapters often host events on topics such as accounting and marketing. You can also take online courses for free.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) are located nationwide, typically on college campuses.* They can connect small business owners with experts for free or low-cost advice. SBDCs also host free or low-cost employee education events.
5. Enroll in community learning courses
Local colleges and learning centers can be great sources of continuing employee education. Community colleges, in particular, often focus on practical job skills, with courses in subjects like accounting, marketing, and sales. Meanwhile, community learning courses might focus on creative outlets like photography and web design. Likely, employees will have to attend on their own time, but if they’re willing, costs are typically affordable on small business budgets.
*SCORE and the SBDC are clients of my company.
Rieva Lesonsky is the CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for free TrendCast reports.