Profitable small businesses recognize that it's not so much what employees currently know that shapes a company's future — it's what they must eventually know that's most important. In addition, the degree to which your company is genuinely committed to the training and development of your employees is a critical factor in attracting and keeping high-performing employees.
Small business training options: pros and cons
Here are some small business training options, along with their advantages and drawbacks:
In-house training and development
In the traditional and most familiar form of training and development, in-house classrooms, a group of employees gathers in a room and is led through the program by an instructor. These sessions occur on- or off-site and can be facilitated by trainers who are either employees themselves or outside specialists.
- Pros — The main advantage to classroom training and development (apart from its familiarity) is that it provides ample opportunities for group interaction and gives instructors a chance to motivate the group and address the individual needs of students.
- Cons — In-house classroom training requires considerable administrative support, such as coordinating schedules, reserving training space and other logistical steps.
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You can encourage employees to attend topic-specific workshops that are organized and run by training and development companies. These seminars are usually held at a public site, such as a hotel or conference center.
- Pros — Public seminars require little or no administrative support. The per-person cost is usually reasonable.
- Cons — Most public seminar offerings are, by necessity, generic. Topics covered don't necessarily have direct relevance to your particular company. Another problem: inconsistent quality from one seminar to the next.
Executive education seminars
Seminars and workshops offered by universities and business schools are targeted, in most cases, to middle and upper-level managers. They typically cover a wide range of theoretical concepts and practical pointers for putting these principles into practice.
- Pros — Instructors are usually faculty members with a high level of expertise. These kinds of seminars are good opportunities for attendees to network and share ideas.
- Cons — Courses at the more prestigious schools can take the executive away from the office for more days than desired. They're also often an expensive form of small business training. Choose these courses wisely — make sure that events cover management concepts and techniques that are relevant or applicable to your firm's business focus and culture.
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The great payoff of e-learning is its flexibility and speed, delivering the real-time immediacy of classroom instruction without the need to actually be present in a classroom.
- Pros — E-learning has a number of important benefits:
- Vastly increases the scope and reach of a corporate training and development effort
- Eliminates — or greatly reduces — ancillary, non-learning expenses of small business training, such as travel and lodging costs for participants
- Enables students to work at their own pace and convenience so they avoid downtime
- Enables participants to not only experience training and development in real time but also store and subsequently retrieve information transmitted through the course
- Enables students to set up individualized objectives and establish milestones to mark different levels of achievement
- Liberates you or your staff from classroom presentations, enabling more one-on-one consultations
- Cons — The downside of e-learning is that lack of human interaction and direct instructor involvement can hamper the learning process among people who are not self-motivated. Then again, if an employee is not driven to succeed, he or she may not be right for your company.