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Caitlin Ferreira

“Your employees are your most valuable asset, but you have to be proactive to find and unleash the hidden power inherent in your organization.” – Steven Goldstein

Let’s face it, in a small business, you’re only as good as your employees.

Their triumphs are your triumphs and their failures are your failures. As Steven Goldstein says, you need to unleash the hidden power in all of your employees. The power is there, it sometimes just needs some help to shine through.

After all, we know that a productive team is one of the secrets to small business success.

Being part of a small business means that, as an employee, you aren’t just a number. You’re treated as an individual, your strengths and weaknesses are known and you’re held accountable for your work.

Simply put, there’s nowhere to hide. In a large organisation it’s easier to hide behind your colleagues, your department, or the policies that govern what you can and can’t do.

Given that you’re so highly dependent on your employees, it makes sense that you should be investing in them, developing their skills and mentoring their growth. This seems quite obvious to understand. Then why is it so often overlooked?

Well honestly, staff development and training takes time. And as you know, time is not a resource that small business owners have in abundance.

According to Shelley Frost: “Despite the potential drawbacks, training and development provides both the company as a whole and the individual employees with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment.”

I worked for Coca-Cola for 18 years, with 800 000 people globally and 131 years under their belt, they know a thing or two about developing people. And let me tell you, corporates develop their people for a reason.

They know the benefits of staff development. Trust me, there are many. Carter McNamara lists a number of the benefits associated with staff development and training, these include:

1. Increased employee motivation
2. Increased morale amongst employees
3. A reduction in employee turnover rate
4. Improved efficiencies in processes
5. An enhanced company image and reputation

As the above list suggests, staff development and training benefits a wide variety of stakeholders. And I could argue that the important role that employees play in the success of small businesses makes staff development even more important.

So where do you start? Well, usually at the beginning, which is where we create a plan to monitor and track staff development.

Development Plans

A development plan outlines the goals of staff as well as their competency development through mentoring and training. This development plan can be thought of as a plan for career progression, highlighting their continuous improvement towards their goals.

Once objectives have been set by staff, the development plans outline how these will be achieved. This can include a combination of formal training, one-on-one mentoring, and external coaching.

I suggest that these development plans focus on particular skills. Skills that are measureable and relevant to the employee’s career progression.

Not only is this a win-win situation, but it’s actually a win-win-win situation.

First, the employee is motivated by learning a new skill. Second, the customer gets better service from more skilled employees. And third, you as the business owner will likely face increased revenue and reduced labour costs due to staff retention.

The importance of developing your staff is well justified. But just how do you go about developing your employees, you ask?

Well here are three steps that you can use to get started.

The How-To Guide
  1. One skill at a time: One of the most important ways to develop your employees is to focus on developing one skill at a time. Allow your staff to develop themselves, by simply mastering one defined skill at a time.
    Mastering skills will motivate your employees by providing them with achievable milestones to monitor their development.
  2. Dedicate time: The next step, is to dedicate just 30 minutes each month to getting an update from the employee on their progress. Here you can evaluate whether they’ve been able to master a new skill or not.
    If not, try to identify why they have not been successful and offer them advice on how reach their next milestone.
    It’s important to dedicate these 30 minutes per month to a formal discussion about staff development. Day to day, informal discussions will not be enough to oversee your staff development.
  3. Move on: Once your employee has mastered a skill, move straight onto the next skill outlined in their development plan.
    You want to take advantage of your employees motivation and willingness to learn, so acknowledge when a skill has been learnt and then move onto the next. Keeping your employees learning helps them to grow.

When it comes to looking at how employees should be learning, I suggest using the 70:20:10 model. This model describes the best sources of learning for employees.

It suggests that 70% of learning should take place on the job, from job-related experiences. An example of this could be learning a new tagging system in marketing automation.

Next, 20% of learning should come from interactions with others within the company. This could be a fellow team member training you on a new campaign or software.

The final 10% of learning should come from some kind of formal education event, such as taking an external course. Joining a community for marketing automation, for example, could help employees gain knowledge and experience from outside the business.

Communities such as Barry Moore’s The Active Marketer or Greg Hickman’s System.ly could provide great opportunities for external learning.

Focus on your number 1 asset

Too many small business owners lose sight of their staff development. They’re too focused on the here-and-now. Don’t let the busyness of daily activities get in the way of developing your number one asset.
Remember that as your employees grow and develop, so too does your business. Nurture your talent, monitor their development and keep them motivated to learn.