Keeping Your Tools Sharp:
Why Business Owners Should Budget for Employee Training and Development

Picture this. You hire two young, fresh-faced marketing employees who just graduated from college. You know how critical good marketing is to business growth, so you decided to bite the bullet and set aside part of your business revenue every month to pay their salaries. At first, they were on fire! They were eager, excited, full of ideas and making things happen. You even saw a boost in traffic to your website and some conversions of seekers to purchasers. It was all good. That was then.

Now, it’s been five years since you first hired them. They work as long and as hard as they always have, but you don’t seem to be getting the same results. You ask them what’s changed, and they don’t know. All they know is that they’ve been doing the exact same things they’ve been doing from the very beginning, so whatever is not happening is not their fault. Now, where’s our paycheck?

Here’s the problem.

Too often, entrepreneurs hire people for the skill sets that they bring to the table for the moment. At that time, their skill sets were relevant for the day. However, as time goes on, the skills and strategies that were once effective become increasingly ineffective. If no effort is made to keep employees’ knowledge, skills, tools and industry awareness current, both they and their skills will easily become outdated.

At the rapid rate at which our technology-driven world evolves, a strategy or skill set that is relevant today can be made obsolete overnight. Our employees must keep up if our businesses will keep up with the market and maintain relevance in the industry.

It's easy to put the onus on employees by saying, “It’s their responsibility to keep their own tools sharpened!” That’s easy to say. However, consider that oftentimes, your employees do not have the extra time to take off to attend the types of trainings, symposiums, conferences and continuing education courses they need to remain relevant. Many times, they also do not have the funds that these development opportunities cost, as they can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

So then, whose responsibility is it to ensure that employee training and development takes place on an annual basis? Successful entrepreneurs recognize that when they take responsibility for their employees’ ongoing training and development by budgeting for these expenses, the business wins.

This doesn’t mean that employees should be permitted to take as much time off to attend as many of these events as they want. After all, the costs of registration, travel, lodging, and per diems can add up quickly. Instead, entrepreneurs should identify which opportunities will give them the biggest bang for their buck – keeping in mind the business’ needs and training budget – and set aside funds for their employees to attend.

If travel costs are a prohibitive factor, consider sending employees to local training and development opportunities in your city or state. If local or in-state opportunities are still too steep for your budget, give them access to virtual, online training sessions and webinars – virtual conferences and workshops are a big thing now.

If you have to choose only one or two trainings a year, be sure to choose one event focusing on the state of the industry and one focused on sharpening the employee’s specific skill set. Better yet, use these opportunities to ensure that your employees are cross-trained and develop a new skill set that complements their existing ones, a big benefit to your business.

Whatever the obstacle, find a way to overcome it in order to get your workers trained. Your business will thank you for it.

It never fails that entrepreneurs ask the question, “If I invest all of this training and development into my employees, how do I know my workers won’t take what they learned and go to another company?” The answer to this is simple.

There is a transformational leadership principle that emphasizes the importance of helping employees grow, develop and advance toward their personal career goals to the point that they can be hirable at any other company while simultaneously creating a culture and environment that makes them never want to leave.

Translation: you’ve got to be such a great boss offering such great growth opportunities in such a great culture, that the last thing they want to do is go work for another company. Money isn’t everything. People choose to work for less money in order to continue to work with great bosses all the time.

In the end, it is essential for you as an entrepreneur to budget for your employees’ training and development. In addition to helping them become better at the jobs they do for you and filling in their knowledge gaps, these opportunities increase their confidence, competence and commitment to you as an employer who is vested in seeing them grow in their expertise. Best of all, as they benefit from training and development, you benefit in your business’ outcomes, making it a win-win.

Interested in access to free business consulting that can help your business grow and thrive? Take advantage of Texas Black Expo's "Boost Your Business" program, sponsored by Wells Fargo. One-on-one appointments with business coaches are available on 2nd and 4th Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, or to schedule your appointment, visit