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1.4 Training

 

Training is perhaps the most common area where SMEs cooperate, in Ireland for example the Skillnets Initiative (www.skillnets.com) has seen the creation of over 300 industry led training collaborative networks involving over 43,000 businesses.
The benefits of collaborating on training are substantial with some of the reported benefits including:

  • More cost efficient as collectively groups of SMEs have better buying power, as well as often being able to access Government funding
  • More relevant as the companies can commission training that is suited exactly to member needs
  • More flexible as training is delivered at times that suit the company
  • More accessible as training is provided locally either near the company or at company sites
  • More informed as companies learn from, and support, one another in the process
  • Better facilitated as companies have full time management staff to organise network training and other activities on their behalf
  • More useful to the companies as the training that is developed is directly aligned to the companies needs and strategies
  • More suited to enterprise needs as companies themselves decide all aspects of strategy, plans and activities
  • More beneficial as companies working in collaboration receive new information, share ideas, develop new relationships with their peers in other companies and tap into a wide range of business opportunities that arise from being part of an inter-firm network
  • To view the experiences of some SMEs who have collaborated together on training please click here

    Training: Knowing When To Use It
    Training can provide tremendous advantages for your business. You can improve customer service and employee productivity, motivate your staff and keep your operation current. Remember to analyze your needs at the outset and choose the right type of training for your requirements.
    You’ll first want to assess whether you currently need to train your employees.
    1. Assess Your Business: Has it changed? For instance, if you’ve recently installed a point-of-sale program or upgraded your computer system, training can make the transition easier for staff and customers alike. Employees are more accepting of change if they receive adequate training. They will likely feel more supported, and valued, as members of your organization.
    2. Understand Your Demographic: Are there new factors to be taken account? For instance, has the growing number of baby-boomers resulted in a higher demand for internet services? Keeping an ear to the ground for changes in your customer base will provide you with opportunities for growth, and may result in new training requirements.
    3. Seek Feedback: Have you asked customers, managers or employees for feedback? You may discover some hidden training needs that translate into opportunities to improve service delivery. There are simple ways you can collect this information, such as customer survey cards and forums for staff to communicate with management.
    4. Act on Complaints and Frequent Problems: Receiving complaints from customers or staff doesn’t necessarily indicate an employee is a lost cause and must go. Perhaps there is simply a deficiency that could be easily rectified with training. When errors or complaints are brought to your attention, analyze the problem and determine whether training might solve it.
    5. Prepare New Hires: When you hire new front-line workers, they often lack advanced skills in customer service and communications. Address these right away. Quality of service impacts the visitor experience, which affects your bottom line: training is a must for new hires.
    6. Retain Employees: Recruiting new hires is one issue; retaining them in the long-run is another. You can reduce employee turnover by making training opportunities available to those seeking to advance their careers within the industry and within your organization.
    7. Accept the Limits of Training: Not every problem can be solved with training. For instance, if an unhappy employee receives training for a promotion, she might still quit after she receives it, leaving you to train a replacement. Nor will training ensure that a previous problem won’t emerge again. For instance, after he receives training, that front-line worker might still be the target of customer complaints. You might discover that he’s more suitable in another position, or another line of work.
    8. Prioritize: Take time to evaluate what your organization as a whole stands to gain by training its employees. Where can you make the best use of training? Who can benefit most? Develop a strategic plan you can use in the longer term.
    By being proactive in supporting employee training and development on an ongoing basis, you can help your employees to work to their full potential. Assessing where training will be of greatest value in your organization and implementing it in the long-term will ultimately better the customer experience and improve your bottom line.

    Types of Training to Boost Your Competitive Edge

    How does employee training benefit your company? What difference does it make? Can it really make you more competitive?
    Yes, it can. For one, an employee training program improves your ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Because your staff is learning and working efficiently you can shift to new ideas more quickly. Training also ensures you have quality people on hand when you expand. Because employees know what to do, they can grow your business.
    Besides that, training builds a motivated and committed team that’s loyal to your company. It also creates a pool of qualified replacements for employees who leave.
    Ongoing training helps you fill voids with good people.
    Lastly, training is just fair to your customers, whom you depend on for your livelihood. Skilled employees will impress customers to come back.
    Together, these reasons boost your competitive edge, as you provide training for your employees. To get there, here are some possible types of training.

    Start with employee orientation
    The first days of work are crucial to a new employee’s success. You’ll want to orient the employee, and teach the company’s goals, and how they can be a part of achieving them. Involve key leaders, even the CEO. Review what’s required of them in the job description.

    Go to in-house training
    Training is not just for new employees. Continue to upgrade the skills of current employees, which will help them adjust to changes in their job requirements. Such training is best offered by a supervisor. Research shows employees respond better to in-house trainers because they’re familiar with the person and the workplace.
    Periodic in-house training, done in a group setting, can teach communication, customer service, team building, technical and safety skills. Doing this while employees are on the job reinforces learning, which they can be applied right away to their work.

    Move into mentoring
    A specific kind of in-house training involves mentoring, where a high-rated employee teaches skills to another employee. Your mentor should be a keen and successful worker who will pass on the best skills — not bad attitudes or sloppy work.
    This one-on-one arrangement (which research shows as the most effective form of training) pays dividends for both parties. It enhances trust with the mentors because you’ve given responsibility to them, and it improves team building among trainees who work closely with a mentor.

    Step next to external training
    You can also offer out-of-house training, by sending employees to one-day seminars, college courses or workshops. Though they seem costly, these training opportunities can seen as an employee perk, something to reward or inspire superb workers.
    This kind of training provides new skills, stimulates creative ideas and instills employee commitment, which is brought back to the workplace. Your staff members will more likely show initiative, and be motivated.

    Reap your competitive reward
    An ongoing training can set your company ahead of the pack. Employees, particularly in younger generations, are eager to work for places that offer more than just a pay cheque.
    They want to learn new skills.
    Investing in people shows your commitment to employees, this in turn fosters commitment in them. Not training employees creates the opposite of what you want — indifferent, unmotivated workers.
    In fact, trained employees need less supervision. That frees you up to focus on building your business, growing your customer base and improving your sales. All of which boosts your competitive edge. Not a bad deal.