For many years now, business owners have been hearing about the importance of nurturing their staff in order to maximize productivity and get the best out of everyone who works for them. One of the key ways in which you can maximize the potential of your employees is in staff development, through a combination of training, mentoring, and further education.
All staff needs to complete an induction when they start and training in how to do their job, but that’s just the beginning. A fundamental aspect of making staff feel valued is the investment you make in their ongoing training, and it’s short sighted to take the view that once employees have grasped the requirements of their job, training is complete. Training is an ongoing process, that can be beneficial for both the employee and the employer.
Each member of staff should have their own training record that details all the training and development they’ve undergone and the outcomes of the training. You also need to have a plan of training opportunities going forward, tailored to each individual. Having a plan ensures that training is ongoing and continual, as it’s all too easy for time to pass and training to slip if it’s done on an ad hoc basis.
To create an individual training plan, you need to know what strengths and weakness your staff possesses, and where they lack the knowledge they require in their position; both the practical knowledge of performing the job and the communication and supervisory skills they need to enable effective team working. You should discuss the training plan and re-examine it at every staff appraisal, and make sure you and your staff member are agreed about training needs and how they can be fulfilled.
The opportunities available to you will vary according to the size of your company. Large businesses have training departments and a range of in-house resources to call on, but smaller businesses and start-ups won’t have that advantage. There are however plenty of courses provided by professional bodies in each industry, as well as training providers, so it’s worth finding out about the options available for a business of your size and type.
There are also a great many online courses available covering a multitude of subjects. Many of these courses are free or very low cost, but make sure they’re provided by people who have authority in their field, to ensure the training is effective and beneficial.
Don’t forget core training topics such as health and safety and associated topics such as fire safety, first aid, and emergency procedures.
In addition to formalized and job-specific training, there are many opportunities to develop staff in the course of their work. For example, while you’ll find staff take more pride in their work and give more of themselves when they are responsible for a specific task or role, it shouldn’t be a case of exclusive control on their part. If they’re absent or they leave, you have a problem if no-one else can step in and take over the role temporarily. Therefore, a crucial part of staff training is making sure everyone knows how to at least cover for their colleagues, even if they don’t have the intricate level of knowledge of the person in charge.
If you have the opportunity, arrange shadowing sessions for the staff, and if you’re able, expand their horizons by arranging for them to visit related businesses; for instance, they could gain valuable understanding that could help them in their work if they are able to visit the factory where your business’s products are manufactured.
You should also provide industry publications and other relevant materials, or refer staff to website content that could be relevant and educational. This performs two functions, because not only does it give them more insight into the business, it makes them feel included and respected.
If you have staff with a particular interest in career advancement and an aptitude for the work, you might want to consider helping them achieve more advanced qualifications. There are many kinds of courses available online that lead to both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and recognized industry qualifications, for example, a talented employee could take advantage of the opportunity to get an online civil engineering masters degree from Michigan Tech. These won’t be free, and indeed may even be expensive, but contributing to a member of staff’s education could be a worthwhile investment down the line.
There are very few subjects that don’t have any form of online qualification associated with them, and there could well be a wide selection of potential course choices. Make sure you’ve investigated and compared the available options so that you and your employee choose the best course. Look at the information about the quality, reputation, and influence of different colleges and how their prices compare. Go for the best course you can find that fits your criteria. You’ll also need to allow time for your staff member to study, and support them in their endeavors by helping with study during work hours and any support they need along the way.
You need to assess how much a qualification would influence your business. Unless you are particularly benevolent, you want to see some return on your investment in your staff, and that particularly applies if you’re funding a formal qualification. Ask yourself if the course covers a topic that will serve the needs of the business? Once your staff member has achieved the qualification, how will it affect their role? How much more will they be capable of contributing?
Investing in staff training and development is one of the best ways to nurture talent and show staff how much you value them. As long as you cost out the finances and have a clear idea of how your business benefits from their participation, you’ll have a happy, stimulated and grateful staff member, and an even better workforce.