A woman with red hair sits at an open laptop and types something. An older man with gray hair and a gray beard leans over her shoulder to see the laptop screen; he has a pair of glasses in one hand.
Over 90% of employers offer skill-based training to their employees, but this training is only useful if it's effective, up-to-date, and relevant to your team's goals — Getty Images/Vuk Saric

As companies adjust business models to stay competitive and improve their bottom line, some job positions become redundant. Other roles expand to include new duties. To navigate these changes, employers invest billions in reskilling and upskilling programs. But what about small to medium businesses (SMBs) with limited funds?

Affordable ways to upskill and reskill employees include adopting an intentional learning mindset and developing employee education programs (EEPs). Use these tips to learn how to take advantage of upskilling and reskilling opportunities.

Uncover skill gaps

Consider how your business requirements will change and, with that, which new challenges will arise. For instance, new technologies and automation may reduce or eliminate some manual tasks while requiring users to adopt new processes or tools. As a result, you may alter job roles, increasing staff in specific departments and reducing others.

Next, look at individual performance and identify skill gaps. Employees may need to learn new capabilities to perform their current job or different skills to move into a new role. A workplace assessment can help you determine if workers need upskilling or reskilling.

[Read more: Soft Skills: What They Are and How to Test for Them]

Evaluate and update existing training and development programs

According to an SHRM and U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, “94% of employers offer some form of skill-based training.” In addition, “Over three in five employers invest in skill-based training because of the return on investment and the opportunities it provides to directly address skill gaps.” However, your current programs may not be practical or designed to handle future challenges.

Assess each course based on core metrics, efficiency and effectiveness, and principles and learning ambitions. Also, request feedback from anyone who has recently taken the course. McKinsey & Company said, “the best programs are designed with a performance-first approach: their goal is to find the most efficient ways to help people perform better in their roles.” After your evaluation, decide whether to keep, retire, replace, or refresh each lesson.

Adopt an intentional learning mindset

The conventional perspective of putting your head down and just getting work done isn’t effective for employees with skill gaps. Build learning into your work culture and encourage your team to get more out of every meeting, project, and conversation. For this to work, you must involve everyone in your company, from owners to entry-level workers.

The bottom line is that the best time to learn is in the moment.

Consider the following:

  • Learning circles or lunch-and-learns: Discuss business topics and take a collaborative approach to learning. Enlist knowledgeable members to guide conversations and encourage peer coaching.
  • Managers as development coaches: Train supervisors to act as mentors or coaches to staff. They should share their reasoning for doing tasks in a certain way, ask for feedback, and measure progress.
  • Action learning through work groups: For groups to focus on a business challenge, task them with researching the problem and solution. Finish with a presentation and list of action points applicable to every employee.

[Read more: 6 Training Platforms to Facilitate Employee Development]

Embed learning opportunities into everyday work

The bottom line is that the best time to learn is in the moment. The end result is less desirable if your employees have to hunt down someone to help them perform a new process. Many technology platforms offer in-app guides that train users as they navigate tasks. Another solution is to create an in-house knowledge base with a search bar.

Curate relevant resources that employees can use during and after work hours, such as:

  • YouTube videos.
  • Online tutorials.
  • Animations.
  • Podcasts.
  • Free webinars.
  • Quick-start guides.

Explore external upskilling and reskilling programs

Look into upskilling and reskilling courses available online or near you. Start by reaching out to your local community college, Chamber of Commerce, and government officials. They may offer resources for SMBs, including reduced costs for courses. Alternatively, look for free or low-priced online solutions that focus on the core skills your employees require.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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