Person working on laptop at home wearing a headset and smiling.
Data shows that employees value the opportunity to learn new skills, which also helps businesses save on recruiting costs and create a stronger work culture. — Getty Images/fizkes

At a small business, employees are often asked to take on new responsibilities on the fly. Whether another employee is out sick or your business is extra busy with new customers, these all-hands-on-deck situations provide the opportunity for employees to learn new jobs quickly.

These ad hoc learning experiences aren’t ideal for long-term employee development, however. Employees value the opportunity to learn new skills: 94% of employees reported that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in training and development opportunities. When merchants train workers for advanced positions or different jobs as needed, businesses save on recruiting costs, improve employee retention and create a stronger work culture.

Here are some ways to offer training and development opportunities for new jobs at your company.

[Read more: 5 Steps for Creating an Employee Development Plan]

Offer a rotational program

An employee rotational program lets a team member from one department take on a temporary role in another department. This allows the employee to try out the new position in a low-stakes environment. If they thrive, the employee can begin the formal process of transitioning to the role. If it doesn’t work out, the employee keeps their original position.

Rotational programs work well for a number of different types of workers. For recent graduates or entry-level professionals, rotational programs help them narrow down where they want to develop their careers. For mid-level professionals, rotational programs give them an opportunity to build a new skill set. And for the company itself, rotational programs help break down silos and increase engagement.

Work with your employees to identify areas of interest that align with your business needs.

Create a mentorship program

Mentor programs are a win-win for everyone involved. Businesses can retain institutional knowledge through formal mentorship programs. And not only are you developing the skills of an up-and-coming professional, but you create a training opportunity for the mentor to learn, too.

“Though often seen as a transfer of knowledge from tenured team members to less-seasoned employees, mentoring is a two-way street,” wrote the experts at Robert Half. “While senior staff members can offer hard-earned insights and professional guidance to less-experienced colleagues, they also can benefit from the fresh perspectives and technological know-how of up-and-coming employees.”

Mentorship can also lead to higher job satisfaction. Nine in 10 workers who have a career mentor say they are happy in their jobs, according to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey. Mentor programs can be formal or informal; simply providing time during the day for mentor/mentees to meet over lunch can be all it takes to foster this type of employee training.

Invest in virtual learning

Business owners that work in a more technical industry might invest in e-learning opportunities for their employees. Free online courses are a budget-friendly way to provide training for specific roles. An accountant may be eligible for an advanced CPA course, for instance, or you may wish to enroll your managers in an advanced leadership course.

[Read more: 7 Free Online Classes for Managers]

Work with your employees to identify areas of interest that align with your business needs. If you can find a training topic that an employee will be motivated to learn, it’s more likely that they’ll complete the e-learning course with little oversight.

Offer job shadowing

Job shadowing is an on-the-job training method in which an employee follows and observes a trained and experienced team member. Unlike a rotational program, the employee never takes on the role firsthand. Instead, they watch and learn, understanding the nuances of the position from the mentorship or coaching that comes as part of the shadowing experience.

Job shadowing can often be less stressful for an employee (compared to a rotational program) and just as effective. However, not all professions are suited to job shadowing. Hands-on businesses such as restaurants, salons, medical professions and some administrative roles are good candidates for job shadowing. Jobs that are less technical in nature may be better suited to mentorship or e-learning.

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.

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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.

Published August 05, 2021