Business owners and leaders at small- to medium-sized companies often dismiss leadership training as an exercise best suited to bigger corporations. Whether due to a lack of resources, or a perceived lack of utility, education aimed at polishing the skills of existing leaders are generally not high on the list of priorities for most middle-market companies. These objections are often based on valid concerns, but are these companies short-changing themselves and missing valuable skills development?
No matter the size, workforces need to perform at a high level to be successful. Smaller companies especially need to be efficient with their resources, including leverage talented leadership for maximum performance. Companies can be efficient with their resources by selecting training programs designed to meet their specific needs rather than selecting more general programs. For example, if you have a lot of workplace conflict, you could select training that focuses on having difficult conversations in a productive manner. If you have a new leadership team or a lot of hiring and growth happening within the organization, you could have training that focuses on getting to know how one another is wired and how those wiring types can best communicate with one another.
Smaller companies may be reluctant to take employees away from their work for training, worrying that lost time “on the job” might lead to a dip in performance or productivity which may impact revenue. But often, these organizations find that time spent training leaders on reducing administrative hurdles, leveraging intra-company synergies, and opening communication bottlenecks will end up freeing up more time than it takes. Training creates a more efficient team in the long run and is in the long-term is in the interest of improved performance and success.
Business owners and leaders in the middle market already know that their approach to training looks different than that of large corporations, so it’s important to acknowledge early on that there is no “one size fits all” solution. In fact, research suggests that ineffective training does more harm than no training at all. In addition to having training targeted at addressing specific needs, it should have a focus on addressing real-world needs. In order for the training to be meaningful, it needs to be actionable. The training can be working through actual problems and conversations that the organization is having. This means that the training won’t even really take people out of working on their day job to have development, it allows will allow you to leverage the trainer to help you fix actual organizational issues. Learning and development can create different groups to tackle specific challenges the company is facing, use the material to research and develop solutions and then present those solutions to leadership. This real-world approach can be supplemented with classroom discussions about the principles that are being applied from the training.
The bottom line is that training is especially useful to small- and medium-sized companies, but it needs to be designed in a way that addresses the unique needs of the organization, is actionable and is able to have a direct impact to the business.