There has been a lot written about training within businesses, and generally writers take the stance that this is something every employer should be investing in. By investing in training courses and days for staff, a business can help to increase the productivity and efficiency of its workforce and thus improve turnover and creative problem solving. At the same time, staff appreciate being given the chance to extend and improve their abilities and this can help them to find more work in the future or progress up the ladder.
This is also what most employees believe of course. While some might moan about being sent on 'pointless courses' they will moan a lot more when they believe they aren't being given the 'opportunity to progress' or when they don't get any training.
But in many cases there is another argument that can be made that makes this picture a little less clear…
The Difference Between Entrepreneurs and Employees
Think about how that business began. Someone will have originally had an idea, and then worked hard to turn it into a business. For software companies someone will have taught themselves to program to create their initial product, they will have learned how to promote their idea, and they will have learned how to go about protecting their intellectually property and legally setting up their business.
In other words, nobody taught them and they learned all these skills without any training days or 'opportunities for growth'. They made their own opportunities, and that's what sets the entrepreneurs apart from the employees. And if you're reading this and currently thinking about what to do with your staff in terms of training, then you probably fall into the former category.
The Alternative to Training
How did these entrepreneurs learn all that though? Without someone to teach them, where could they have picked up these skills?
Of course the answer is Google, which is pretty much an infinite resource of information that all of us can dip in to. Don't know how to do something? Then just consult Google. Google doesn't have the answer? Try YouTube.
If you run a business then and you want to progress your team, then why not give them the opportunity to progress themselves rather than wasting valuable resources. Give them access to Google and YouTube, point them in the direction of the tutorials that you used, print them some instructions and guides and you should find that if they have the desirethey are able to teach themselves and improve their own abilities.
There are other ways you can encourage this too. One is to give your staff projects that you know will stretch their current abilities. Ask someone who doesn't work in design, but who has shown aspirations to be a designer, to build your next website. They might complain that they don't know how or that you're expecting too much of them, but tell them they have a flexible deadline and that everything they need to know is on the web. Give them the tools they need to do the job and then let them fill in the blanks.
So why is this better than sending them on a simple web development course? Why is learning from the web so much better for businesses?
Well for one, it will allow your staff to learn at their own pace and in the way that suits them. They can gloss over stuff they find easy and give more attention to their sticking points.
Likewise it will teach them more than just the subject they are learning – it will also teach them how to learn in a self-directed manner, how to install software and how to use Google. That kind of knowledge is much more valuable to themselves and to businesses that might employ them subsequently.
And on top of all that it will also save you money on expensive training courses…
Of course sometimes training courses are still necessary – you can't learn to use a forklift entirely online – but for things like web design, programming, communication and more this can be a smarter way to progress your team.
The author of this post, Nancy Baker, is a freelance blogger who is currently writing for Excel Toner, leading providers of ink cartridges. She is fond of her pet Labrador, Mike, and loves to take him out for a walk in the park. You can also follow her on Twitter@Nancy Baker.