Director Clarity Learning and Development
Share this content
Brought to you by HRZone.com

Six steps to better learning and development for small businesses

Small businesses may not have the resources or budget of their larger counterparts for learning and development activities, but that doesn’t mean they should simply ignore it. Here are some practical tips to ensure your team are still getting the opportunities for learning that they need. 

1st Oct 2019
Director Clarity Learning and Development
Share this content
Overhead view on business people around desk
iStock/golero

Are you an HR professional within a small business? Do you support small businesses with HR consultancy? If so, how often do you have conversations about learning and development?

I know that you are busy. If you work in an organisation, I know that you are called upon to wear many hats: HR manager, health and safety manager, facilities manager, finance manager – the list goes on.

I also know that it is really important to have an eye on the learning and development needs of your people. If you don’t, then you run the risk of losing great team members, missing out on new business and stagnating as an organisation.

It is vital for all businesses to foster a climate of continuous learning, and so much more so in organisations where time and finances need to be maximised. 

You’ll also continue to wear all the different hats because no one is learning to step up and take on different tasks. I can almost hear you saying ‘but we don’t have time for training, let alone the budget for expensive courses’.

This is reinforced by organisations that support small businesses in the UK. In its 2016 discussion paper, Leading the way: boosting leadership and management in small firms, the Federation for Small Businesses commented that ‘despite almost all (91%) of business owners recognising the value of investing in staff training and development, less than half (43%) said they did so’.

The good news is that you don’t need lots of time or budget to help your people learn every day of their working lives.

Six ways to improve L&D in your organisation

1. Make sure that the managers in the business see the value in good line management practices

This way you can not only reinforce performance management, but also encourage learning.

Regular one-to-ones and team meetings are prime areas that are ripe for learning conversations. Simply asking questions like ‘what’s been going well since we last met? What have you learned from your successes? How will you build on them?’ encourages individuals to reinforce the behaviours and techniques that they are using.

Follow this up with ‘what challenges have you faced? How did you overcome these challenges? What will you do differently next time?’ These questions help us to learn from our experiences and develop our practice.

The eagle-eyed among you will spot the reflective elements to these questions. Fundamentally, that’s what we’re aiming to do here – get people into a habit of reflecting, so that they are constantly learning from their experience.

2. When someone mentions training to you, turn this around and have a conversation about learning

Ask the person what other ways there might be to learn the skill or element of knowledge that they are considering.

If it’s appropriate, offer up the 70-20-10 model which tells us that 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% takes place through social interactions at work and 10% comes from formal learning.

Discuss with the person how they have learned to do their job and encourage them to support those around them to learn in the same way.

3. Encourage the plan-do-review cycle and perhaps start a ‘lessons learned’ log that can be shared across the business

One of my clients has just implemented this idea and been happily surprised by the response from their team members. This can also support a move from a past-focused, blame culture towards a future-focused, learning culture.

As an HR professional you will know the value of coaching and mentoring support. This does not have to be the realm of line managers – peers can work together to support each other through peer coaching and mentoring.

4. Encourage ‘just-in-time’ learning where employees solve problems and learn along the way

Provide access to a range of sources of information and help employees to learn to sift the valid and reliable ones from the wild and wacky ones (although these can sometimes be good to stimulate creativity). This is a great way to create resourcefulness and self-directed learning.

5. Consider using free learning programmes

For example the Open University has a site dedicated to free learning.

Be open to enabling employees to build internal learning networks and supporting informal discussions can be an excellent way to have people interacting in new and different ways and to encourage discussion, problem solving and ideas generation.

6. Encourage peer coaching and mentoring

As an HR professional you will know the value of coaching and mentoring support. This does not have to be the realm of line managers – peers can work together to support each other through peer coaching and mentoring.

If one person is an expert on something, encourage them to share this with someone else. This not only supports individual learning, but also builds organisational capacity and resilience.

Provide some input on asking really great questions and developing active listening skills and then support team members to coach each other.

When someone has a problem or a question, the other person can then practise having a coaching-style of conversation, rather than simply answering the question or solving the problem.

Again, this kind of social learning is a constructive way of building resourcefulness and self-reliance.

Embrace learning

It is vital for all businesses to foster a climate of continuous learning, and so much more so in organisations where time and finances need to be maximised – these days, that’s pretty much all of them.

For small businesses to survive and thrive, learning should be at the top, not the bottom, of the agenda. As an HR professional, you have a key role in influencing your business to embrace learning in all its forms.

In the language of the CIPD’s 2013 HR Profession Map you can use the behaviours of being curious, being personally credible, working in collaborative ways, having the courage to challenge and the drive to deliver, being a skilled influencer and positive role model to truly integrate learning into the daily fabric of business life.

Be that decisive thinker today and decide to take your business to the next level of learning and the next level of business success.  

Interested in this topic? Read Why better employee relations starts with learning and development.

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.