“We’re a small business, we don’t do training…”

Recently we heard the manager of an independent restaurant say “we only have a small team of staff, so we don’t have training needs.”  That’s not a uncommon view.  Over a third of small businesses offer their staff no training at all.  Far be it from us to knock a healthy skepticism about any potential business expenses; we’d certainly agree some training never really delivers the results that the business needs (most often when it’s sold by someone who doesn’t understand what training can and can’t do for a business).  But I digress, let’s face it ‘manpower’ is one the most important ingredients of a successful small business, and research shows that firms that train their workforce are significantly less likely to close than those that do not.

So, despite the prospects of a second recession, we’re asking why should small businesses be investing in training?  What can training do for businesses?  The answer, we believe is HEAPS.

  • Happy staff:  Training is a proven way to motivate staff, particularly where the offer includes a variety of high-quality training opportunities.  Factors like pay and working conditions are known as ‘hygiene factors’.  The presence of hygiene factors has been shown to keep people satisfied at work, but they in themselves do not motivate staff.  Whereas, opportunities for career development and advancement are widely accepted as ‘motivational factors’ (Herzberg).  So, making sure staff have access to training will not only help retain them, but help to motivate them to do their utmost to support the business.
  • Expand the business: “The only thing that is constant is change” (Francois de la Rochefoucauld).  That’s certainly true for business.  Legislation that applies to small businesses is always changing, there are always new opportunities becoming available and new developments in IT are always emerging.  Training is fundamental for the small business team that wants to keep up-to-date with changes.  But more importantly, society is constantly changing.   That means that business that thrives today, may struggle tomorrow.  The most successful small businesses are those that adapt – survival of the fittest.  Shifting business focuses often requires a different knowledge base or skills set within the team.  That could be met by recruiting new staff, but that is far more expensive than fine tuning the skills of the existing team through training.
  • Alternative perceptions:  Small businesses, by definition tend to be run by small teams of people.  When a limited number of people work on the same thing, day in, day out they can get stuck in a mindset.  The mere experience of taking part in training can encourage people to explore business problems and issues from a different perspective.  Whether it’s the trainer or the other delegates, being in a training environment can bring a fresh set of eyes to an issue.
  • Protecting the business:  Like it or not, there is some training that all businesses need to consider – health & safety, food safety and first aid are great examples of training that is legislated for.  And any business whose staff aren’t suitably trained can (and do) get fined.  But more than this, training staff in things like fire safety awareness, HR principles and manual handling techniques protect the business from risk.  Arguably, smaller businesses may need this training more than their larger counter-parts.  Larger companies have HR departments to ensure that employment law is followed, and estates teams to make sure that the business is reducing it’s risk of fire.  And let’s face it – if they do get it wrong, they are more likely to have the financial reserves to recover from a serious fire, or be able to pay fines if they breach data protection legislation.
  • Support team working:  Small business teams work in very close proximity to one another.  Perhaps more so than in some very large businesses, where there’s greater opportunity to ‘avoid’ people you don’t get on so well with.  So, harmonious relationships are fundamental to business success, yet not everyone in your team will instinctively know how to cope with their colleagues idiosyncratic behaviours.  What’s more it’s widely acknowledged that great business teams have certain characteristics and skills.  In larger businesses there is a greater chance that these roles and skills will be filled by chance.  In a smaller staff teams, it becomes more important for the business leaders to be proactive in developing these traits in their teams – that’s where good training can help!

We believe that investing in the right kind of staff training can do as much, if not more, to influence the success of a small business as it does for large businesses.  But, and here’s our cautionary word, any business investing their hard won budgets in training should make sure they are focusing on the ‘right’ topics for them.  To help your business direct it’s training budgets to ensure it has the greatest impact, why not use McCrudden Training’s free Training Needs Analysis tool.  Email admin@mccrudden-training.co.uk to request a no obligation copy!

Few really consider the leadership skills they’ll need to recruit, motivate and inspire staff, or even effectively lead them through times of organisational change. Sure businesses can ‘rumble’ along even if the owner doesn’t really understand intelligent leadership, but to truly thrive don’t businesses of all sizes need an effective leader at their helm?