By Eric Dickmann

April 23, 2019

Employee Development, Employee Education

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”―Benjamin Franklin. Employee Development isn’t only for large companies. It is vital for small companies seeking growth. The good news is that there are cost-effective ways to train employees. As with most things in business, employee development requires a solid plan to be effective.

What is Employee Development?

As defined by MSG, Employee Development is an initiative to upgrade the existing knowledge and skills of an individual. It’s a joint action of both the employee and the employer. Employee development helps an employee to develop their knowledge and skills, becoming more productive and engaged at work. Access Perks shows that 90% of Millennials want to grow their careers with their current companies rather than looking for career advancement elsewhere.

Why is it Important to Small Companies?

Small business owners tend to avoid training programs. They fear the costs and worry newly trained employees will take their skills elsewhere for an increase in salary. In reality, setting aside funds for employee development is worth it and can pay big dividends for a company. Humanity mentioned the reasons why:

It Helps with Retention.

Employee turnover is the biggest financial drag on small companies. It costs U.S. business owners $11 billion every year. Investing in training employees, giving them new skills and helping them advance in their careers is much less expensive in the long run. The cost of hiring new employees and training them from scratch outweighs the investment in training current employees.

It Helps You Find Great Employees.

Offering a chance for growth attracts potential hires. Employees today choose companies that invest in their education regardless of the company size. Especially in jobs tied to the information economy, if your employees aren’t constantly learning, they will fall behind and be of diminished value to your company.

It Helps You Promote from Within.

Educating and training your employees makes internal promotion easier. Employee development prepares your best and brightest talent for leadership. Looking for new jobs outside a company can be a long and painstaking process. Creating a positive organizational culture that encourages internal advancement helps maintain a thriving workplace environment.

It Ensures Longevity in Business.

Continually training your team keeps everyone updated with industry trends. As such, it builds a capable future for the business. It’s not just about learning new skills but helping employees reach their full potential. Not everyone is looking for advancement but most want to be the best they can be at their jobs.

How to Design an Effective Employee Development Program

Employee Development

Small businesses should carefully plan their employee development program and implement it strategically. Matt McKay in an article for Chron suggests these steps to develop an effective training program:

Define Your Company Need and Goals

Identify the weak areas where training would prove beneficial. Specify short and long term goals and look for possible
training to meet those goals.

Develop Training Modules

Develop individual training modules based on your defined needs and goals. You can also personalize the modules based on employee capabilities.

Plan Training Schedules

Schedule during slow periods or after business-hours to avoid work disruptions. Plan training needs within a specified time-frame. Setup tools for tracking purposes.

Make Training Part of Orientation

Incorporate training to new employee’s orientation. Your new hires are your prime candidate for the training program.

Train in Order of Importance

Implement training modules according to their significance in the workplace. Base priorities depending on timely need and degree of impact to the company.

Create a Feedback Form

Collect comments and opinions to improve your training program. Participant’s feedback must be taken seriously to gauge impact. Alter the training programs as needed.

Training Options for Small Businesses

To keep employees engage in their work, invest in them and they’ll invest in you. Robert Half suggests some training options for small businesses:

In-House Training & Development

These are classroom training led by an instructor. The training sessions may occur inside or outside the company premises.
Instructors may either be employees themselves or outside specialists.

Conferences, Workshops, and Seminars

Conferences and seminars can provide a wealth of information on a broad array of topics and professional issues. Encourage employees to attend topic-specific workshops organized by training and development companies, especially when they are local. It gives employees a day or two out of the office and gives them the opportunity to learn.


Utilize online training. It offers flexibility and speed. It also delivers real-time classroom instruction in timely needs.

Job Shadowing

Allow employees the opportunity to work and gain experience in the role of another. Such will make them flexible and
multi-skilled. Moreover, you give them the chance to discover their hidden talents.

Coaching and Mentoring

Emphasize task and performance through coaching and cultivate productive relationship through mentoring. Such are
cost-effective means of promoting growth among employees.


It’s not so much what employees currently know that shapes a company’s future — it’s what they must eventually know that’s most important. Cost-effective options exist to develop the skills of your small business workforce. It all starts with a solid plan.

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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