How Small Businesses Can Keep Teams Engaged By Investing in Education

- Learning

by Kate Russell

Businesses incur significant costs from employee turnover. This can be around 50 percent of an employee’s salary for an entry level position to 200 percent for a senior executive’s salary.

A good candidate in a good market can be on the market for roughly ten days. This competitive environment exacerbates the cost of turnover, as jobs remain open longer and can lose greater amounts of productivity if the post is filled.

After low pay, the lack of opportunity to advance is the second most common reason that employees leave their jobs. Additionally, the speed at which technology is advancing creates a disadvantage for businesses as it is difficult to keep pace. Due to technology’s constant evolution, employees experience skill gaps that threaten a company’s competitive edge.

A few measures help small businesses close skill gaps and retain talent:

  1. Prioritizing skill-building
  2. Leveraging digital opportunities
  3. Build a mentorship network

#1: Prioritize Skill-Building

Businesses that provide workshops and learning opportunities, meet employee expectations and further engagement. Often conflated, it is important that businesses differentiate between a need for improving staff members skills and retraining. Whereas increasing skills can help an individual become more valuable in their current role, retraining involves developing different skills to help an employee fit into a new role.

Whether increasing skills or learning new ones, the development opportunity should include a variety of things. Employees want to develop an array of skills and this challenges small businesses to create a program that satisfies both budgets and employees.

To accommodate the needs, businesses can experiment with the following options:

  1. Cross-functional jobs: Employees work across teams to develop knowledge of different disciplines and help people develop complexity thinking.
  2. Rotational programs: Rotate employees through a variety of positions during their time at a company.

Businesses can leverage existing resources within an organization such as different teams to improve employees’ skills in a cost-effective way.

#2: Leverage Digital Learning Platforms and Opportunities

Small businesses can take advantage of massive open online courses to advance employees’ knowledge outside a classroom setting. Businesses can create their own eLearning courses or purchase existing ones from sources such as edX, Udemy, or Lynda.com. Employees can select from thousands of courses that range in subject from 3D animation to cloud computing. They can also adjust the difficulty of the content to fit their levels of expertise.

For example, through the LinkedIn Learning partnership, a subscription only costs around $30 a month. Small business owners also have a high degree of control through administration capabilities. Leaders can develop custom learning paths for employees by linking to a series of MOOCs on specific topics.

Digital platforms offer small businesses affordable options to engage employees in increasing knowledge on their own time.

#3: Build a Mentorship Program Within Your Company

A mentorship program is an inexpensive and effective method to promote employee development. In-person workshops are the preferred learning method by employees. Companies can assign mentors based on professional experience and aspirations to create the most effective support system for each employee. Businesses can also match mentors and mentees based on gender. Women in positions of leadership inspire younger female employees, which helps them succeed in the workplace.

Two-thirds of Amercans find it particularly important for women to have role models when starting their careers. A role model is especially important to millennial women: 82 percent stated it is highly important that younger women have more women in leadership positions as role models. A greater number of women in the workplace benefits businesses bottom lines. More gender diversity in an organization attracts top talent and leads to an increase in market value.

By easing their transition and providing an established support system, companies benefit from lower turnover. Mentor programs decrease employee turnover as a result of higher job satisfaction and commitment to the organization. Mentorship provides leadership opportunities and is a cost-effective way to satisfy employees.

Small businesses that offer employees a variety of resources to advance their skillsets and careers will benefit from more committed and engaged employees.

Cross-functional opportunities not only expose employees to a business holistically but also enable them to develop a variety of skills without a significant financial investment.

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