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Tips on training in small businesses

A CBI report has exploded the myth that small and medium firms don't train their staff.And 'Informality Works: A New Approach to Training for SMEs' shows that small firms value the importance of staff training more than their larger counterparts - three quarters put workforce skills as one of the three factors contributing most to their competitive advantage, compared to 60 per cent of large firms.

However, most small firms prefer to undertake 'on the job' training rather than using specialist training providers. Here we provide 10 hot tips to make your in-house training more effective.


Carefully analyse your training needs. Is there an area of your business that is being held back in some way? Or is your business changing? Do you rely on technical requirements that only one person can carry out? All of these could indicate a need for training.


Get your employees involved in - and committed to - training. Ask employees what training they think would improve their productivity. Initially focus on those that are keen to learn and let them demonstrate the benefits to doubters.


Set clear objectives for your training. Set SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-limited) objectives. Often the objective will be to reach a specified standard for the performance of a specific task.


Keep the training objectives in line with your business objectives. For example, if one of your business objectives is to computerise your accounts system, training someone on a paper-based system is a waste of time.


Choose your trainer carefully. Make sure your chosen trainer can effectively set goals, break information down into small steps and progress at the pace of the person being trained.


Plan the training to ensure the best results. Draw up a practical training brief, covering the practical objectives you want to achieve. For example, you could list ten tasks and ten awkward situations a credit controller should be able to handle as a result of the training.


Remember that training is most effective as a continuing process. Once an employee can do the job, it's worth periodically reviewing their progress, giving some advice and agreeing a higher standard or additional tasks for the next period.


Ask your employees to review their training. Find out if the training was relevant to the job and appropriate to their level of expertise. After employees complete training, discuss how the learning will be put into action.


Review the impact of training on performance. This can be done as part of a formal appraisal process. You can also measure the efficiency of your training through measurable improvements (increased sales or output, for example) or qualitative improvements (higher quality products or fewer customer complaints).


Remember that training may not always be the answer. If there are still problems after a reasonable amount of training, check if it's worth switching an employee to another task or if your systems need to be adapted.

Further Information

The CBI report 'Informality Works: A New Approach to Training for SMEs' is available from the CBI website (www.cbi.org.uk) - download the report here.

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