Education doesn’t come cheap. Business owners have limited budgets. Employees may balk at the cost of continuing education. And yet, having knowledgeable employees who keep up with the latest industry trends benefits everyone’s bottom line. . Small businesses can’t afford to have their employees fall behind the cutting-edge curve.
Look beyond traditional classrooms, and you can help your employees – and your business.
Here are five free (well, four free, and one very low cost) ways to keep educating employees without breaking anyone’s budget:
Find grants. Local community colleges sometimes offer deals to small businesses and their employees. Google can be your friend here. A 60-second search revealed a training program for small businesses at Baton Rouge Community College.
State and federal grants could help as well. A Wall Street Journal How-To lists a few places to start looking.
Brown bag lunches. Brown bags can be monthly gatherings for office-wide informational meetings, or guest speakers can make presentations or lead discussions. Local business leaders may do so free of charge in exchange for the chance to share their knowledge, grow their potential client-base, or just snag a free soda (if you provide) and a change of scenery. Brown Bags are easy to set up and can provide a nice change of pace in the workweek.
Start a mentoring program. The program can be formal, surveying mentees on their interests and matching them to appropriate senior staff. Or it can be informal, simply setting up some time for younger staff to meet occasionally with seasoned veterans in an open exchange of ideas.
Shift the shifts. Be flexible. Let employees take some flextime if there’s a lecture or professional event, or even a paid class they want to take. Don’t dock their pay or charge vacation time, just let them go – they’ll learn, and they’ll recharge, and you will profit too.
Pay some dues. Okay, so it’s not free. But it’s often not expensive. Some professional organizations charge as little as $50 to join. Many offer deep member discounts on conferences, as well as free or low-cost (think $10 an event) educational events. Businesses can sometimes write off dues on taxes, and employees often appreciate the membership as a token of good faith from their boss.
Tell us – how do you learn?