By Sophie Austin

Small business make up a big bulk of North America. In’s latest report, companies with 1-50 companies made up over 30% of those surveyed, whereas the behemoths of 5,000-10,000 employees took just a 18% slice of the North American cake.

For any business, big or small, learning and development training is a crucial aspect to talent management, talent retention and moving your employees through a fast-paced growth phase. This is none more evident than in the start-up market, which tends to move from a risky entrance straight into aggressive growth and expansion. Take Buzzfeed as an example. What started as an instant messaging bot has grown into a global company with over 1,500 employees and a net worth of $1.5billion. And you can be sure that hasn’t happened without their employees moving with the times and developing as quickly as the technology around them.

“Learning is in BuzzFeed’s DNA,” says Regis Courtemanche, BuzzFeed’s previous Learning and Development Director. “Whether it is the never-ending quest to understand why something is shared across the social web or how to become a better presenter, we take learning seriously. Our team is no different and we focus on informing, inspiring and engaging our talent.

But how do you allocate time and resources to training when you can count your employees on your hands?

“Work comes first, and the learning team understands that. [But] studies show that many people leave jobs when they’re no longer challenged, become bored, or stop learning.”

This is a big concern for small businesses. It’s estimated that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs an average of six to nine months salary. So if you lose one of your senior team members, that could be a big chunk out of your investor returns. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

If your business is still in its start up phase, this can be crippling.

How Small Businesses Should Train

Learning and training shouldn’t be something an employee dips into six months after joining. It needs to be integrated from the moment they step through the door, and we can take another leaf out of BuzzFeed’s book for this. They classify learning in three ways:

  1. The New Hire Experience
  2. Continuous Learning
  3. Leadership Development

This means that new entrants, mid-level employees and your senior team all need learning and development integrated into their career with you. On the job training is the top choice for new entrants, whereas external coaching is a method that is usually only brought in for senior leadership. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about your mid-level employees.

Leadership Development is the top area of focus for all companies. In fact, 25% of all training in North America is companies sending their team members on leadership and development training.

“The transition from team member to team leader is one of the biggest challenges someone will face in their career. We have a lot of first-time or relatively new managers at BuzzFeed and we give them the support they need to become leaders and coaches. By April 1st, over 100 new managers will have graduated from our Big Shift program. In it we focus on management essentials such as delegation, providing feedback, handling resistance, and communication skills. Beyond that, there are courses on managing your friends (BFF to Boss), coaching your team, goal-setting and interviewing. Our managers are our keystone and are inspiring their teams every day.” – BuzzFeed.

But where is the money coming from?

If you have a problem with the time/money split then, firstly, know that you’re not alone. The two biggest hurdles when it comes to developing and training are budget (24% of companies said this) and small team size (21% of companies).

But it doesn’t have to be expensive – and nor does it have to take your team away from their desks.

Around a third of companies spend up to a maximum of $200 per year training their team.

Organizing group training can also save you money in the long-term as you only have to balance a day short staffed.

If having three out of seven of your staff away from the office on the same day fills you with dread, you can also jump on the E-learning and virtual classroom bandwagon, which makes up 54% of companies’ preferred methods and have your employees learn without leaving the office. They shouldn’t still be “plugged in”, as it means they won’t be focused on what they’re learning, but if your business is the kind that might need them around for odd questions, this could be a great solution for you in the start-up phase.

After all, your growth phase won’t turn into an expansion phase if your employees aren’t growing with you.

Sophie Austin is a content editor and researcher for, one of the world’s leading education websites. Sophie speaks to companies investing in innovative learning and development tools for Findcourses’ annual Learning and Development report and her current research topic is the use of virtual reality in L&D. @findcourses

Training stock photo by panitanphoto/Shutterstock