Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


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“Employee Training for my team? Did I hear you correctly? Sweetheart, I’m barely making payroll!”


That was the response I got from a small businessman when I told him he needed to develop his people.


And disregarding the “Sweetheart” I totally get that.


You see, I know that developing your employee is not even on the radar for most small business people, far less in many of your budgets.


So before we go any further let’s be clear what is generally meant as ’employee training”. It is:

A process that helps employees to gain new knowledge or learn new skills to perform their present (and future) jobs better. 


On the face of it, it would seem that this would be a desirable thing that we would all want for our businesses.


The need for employee training

At some level,  you know that investing in employee training and development is necessary for you to compete in today’s market.


You also know that one of the best ways to attract and keep talented employees is through talent development.


When employees are empowered and allowed to perform at their best, the bottom line results are better than any marketing campaign can produce.


The mindset behind resistance to employee training

While you understand the need to train your employees, you have the big fear that if you spend too much on training, they will eventually leave anyhow. 


So you “forget” about employee training and continue to run your business with a set of “lazy, unproductive and uncaring people.” (Your words, not mine!)


Furthermore, the few times you tried “the training thing” the costs far surpassed the few benefits which you got. And you really don’t have that money to waste.


And let’s face it, you’re not even trying to fit it into your already small operations budget.


How to get great employee training on a small budget

But the big thing you’re missing, is what can happen to your business, if you don’t train your staff and they stay in your employ.


Let me tell you upfront…


Getting great training for your staff is not all about the size of your budget. It is more about how you approach it, even before you spend a single cent. 


So I’m going to help you change around your whole “training” thinking.


I’m giving you 5…just 5 simple strategies, you can use to approach any training you decide you need for your staff. Hey listen! You can also use them as part of your change management strategy. 


What is important about these strategies is that they cost you nothing, and they ensure that you get the best training for your teams, even with a small budget. It also establishes you as a boss leader.


So if you’re ready…


1. Link your training to your business goals/strategies

Consider this scenario…


You have finally decided that you’re going to train your staff and you want to do it the right way. So, you survey your employees, asking them questions like:

  • What do you think you should learn?
  • Which courses would you like to attend?
  • How will these improve your job performance?   


You then happily pass this information to the Training Provider to design and deliver the required program.


No problem. 


So why are you not satisfied?


After all, your employees have been trained, there is some improvement in their skills and even in their attitude.


So what’s the problem?


If you’re honest, you will admit, you cannot see the growth in your business that you anticipated the approach would bring. 


And here’s why.


Small businesses do not have the luxury of training just for the sake of it. Yes, hiring the right people and developing them do help in increasing their job knowledge and skills. 


But you don’t see much improvement in your revenue and profit. No surprise here. You did not link your training to your bottom line results.


In order to link your training to your bottom line results, you first have to understand your business model. In other words, you have to be clear on how your business makes money. Then you have to be clear on your business goals and strategies.


In this way, you can collaborate with the Training Provider to design programs that not only develop your employees but are also linked to your business goals and strategies.


2.  Make sure that the training addresses the context of the job

We’ve already established you want the best employee training you can get on your small budget.


So what do you do? You look for a public workshop or a generic, topic-related  program, which on the surface, has the potential to solve your problem.


Not so fast…


Let’s look at this a little closer and I want to use customer service as my example.


Customer service is not customer service is not customer service. It is not the same for a small enterprise as it is for a big corporation. It’s not the same for the hotel industry, the retail industry or the construction industry.


How effective then, would a generic programme called “Customer Service” be to any or all of these? The answer is emphatically “not very!”


What can you do instead?


You can analyse your staff development needs within the context of their jobs. In this way, any program you have developed or have your staff attend, would more closely match the context of the jobs of your employees. 


I know what you’re thinking…I don’t have the time or money for this…and my business is too small, anyhow!


And you might be right.


But if you are too small and cannot afford the cost of such training, you can collaborate with several businesses which are similar to yours. In this way you can reach the numbers that will make the training viable and spread the costs.


I do it for clients so I know it works. Go ahead and try it.


3. Understand the nature of the problem/issue you’re fixing 

Unfortunately, many employers and too many training providers believe that every and any workplace problem can be fixed by training. Let me guess, you’re one of them. But you’re so wrong.


Some problems require a coaching solution. Some can be directly linked to the systems that are used by the business and in some instances, it could be a case of poor recruiting, that no amount of training will solve, any time soon.


What would be your best approach?


Working with your  Corporate Trainer or Service Provider, you should probe deeply into the nature of your problem by answering questions like: 

a) Is there a performance gap because employees don’t know how to do the required work or because they don’t want to?

b) Is there a gap because there is no reward for performing well and or no consequence for not performing as required?

c) Are my employees intellectually/physically capable of doing the work?

d) Do my employees already have the job knowledge and just need the right attitude to complete the work?

e) Are my employees positive about their work and intellectual/physical capable of doing the job, but need training to go to the next level?

f) Am I ready to reinforce new behaviors?


You should answer these questions as honestly and completely as you can. Then the answers should be thoroughly analysed because then, and only then, you will know if you have a training need or not.


4. Do not use training as a punishment

Don’t pretend now…you do know what I mean. You don’t? Let me explain.


First let’s define punishment in the context I am referring to. 

It can be described as a course of action, that is taken after some undesired behavior, which is designed or intended to reduce or eliminate that unwanted behavior.


Now consider the following scenario.


A group of unhappy workers complain to you about some unsatisfactory working conditions. You are seething and demand to know exactly what they want. Like a well-rehearsed choir they declare “training!”


Still mad at your employees, you contact the next available Training Provider. You request that they provide “training” not exceeding $X-amount because that is all you’re going to spend on these ungrateful employees!


At the end of the end of the training, at first your employees are happy but pretty soon it is obvious to all that the problems still exists. 


When your employees try to discuss the situation with you, your response:

“You all said you wanted training and I provided it! It’s not my fault you’re not happy now!”


You see my point, right?


It’s obvious that you spent money on training in the wrong frame of mind and for the wrong reason  – to punish your staff.


Punishment is never a reason to engage in staff development. I discussed the correct approach you should follow at #3 above. Go back and read it.


5.  Learn how to select a Training Provider

The Training Provider is critical to the success of the design and delivery of your training and what happens after.


But too often, many business owners select a Training Provider with a conversation like this:

“…well Company A has quoted me $X so if you can give me a quote like ahmm…$X-Y I’d be happy to give you the job…”


Can this approach guarantee you the results you want? My experience says “NO!”


You need a Provider that will work with you to determine your staff training and development needs. These need will be  based on a number of factors, including your business strategies and goals, the context of the job and how comfortable you are managing change.


To guarantee this, I encourage you to ask potential Service Providers questions such as those I encourage my potential clients to ask me.

Here are some of them:

1. What results have other clients had from your programs?

2. How are your programs different from those offered by other private and tertiary training providers?

3. How can you help us choose the right program?

4. What kind of materials do you provide?

5. How much experience delivering training do you/your instructors have?

6. Can we talk with the instructor(s) before the training?

7. How will you help us to get participants buy-in?

8. How will you ensure that what is learnt in your classroom shows up in our workplace?


If you follow this example and think of questions of your own, it is guaranteed that you will find the right match, almost 100% of the time.


Your next “small budget” training step…

So there!


I have laid out for you, 5 strategies you can use to get the best training for your small business…even if your budget is small or non-existent.


I have every confidence that you will use these strategies to improve your staff, improve yourself and make your business attractive to potential investors.


Why am I so confident?


Because I live and work among you. I know that in the face of new and practical information, you can pivot and make the right decisions.


I also know that you’re tired of throwing “training” mud on walls and watching it seldom stick. You want to stop feeling so ashamed of  putting out money and effort for staff development, and not getting the desired results.


If you implement these strategies, you will take the guess-work out buying training. You will never again have to suffer the shame of spending money on employee training, and have your efforts completely miss the mark.


So…why wouldn’t you embrace and implement them? 


To your newly trained employees…


Small Budget? How To Still Get The Best Employee Training!

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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