Developing staff skills 'is a necessity and not an indulgence for small businesses', writes Darren Levy, director of Executive Development at the University of Auckland Business School.
There are many ways small business owners can invest in themselves and their staff, from hiring a business coach, attending an Icehouse course or a university short course.
Darren Levy from the University of Auckland Business School, which has delivered courses to more than 43,000 people, looks at the benefits and required investment.
For small business owners, investing in their skills can seem like an indulgence they can't afford.
Why make the investment in a university course?
Investment is the key word when it comes to making strategic and measurable decisions about developing your people.
It most certainly is an investment of money but more importantly time. Time investment is not limited to the duration of the programme but in preparation for the programme and more critically post programme. I firmly believe that developing your people is a necessity and not an indulgence. It must be budgeted for along with relevant capital investments in other areas of your business.
Business owners should reflect on what truly makes them competitive in their market. If the answer is people (I certainly hope it is) then this investment becomes a no-brainer. Of course, development can take many shapes such as shadowing, peer learning externally and internally, coaching, relevant reading, secondments and formal learning opportunities.
What are the most popular short courses for small business owners and their staff?
When it comes to publicly offered courses we are seeing continued growth in leadership development. This is also being linked to areas such as Lean and change management. This is very encouraging to see and indicates business owners and leaders are focussing on rebuilding and managing change for growth. Popular courses include project management, finance for non financial managers, mental toughness, influencing and persuading skills, social media 101 and motivation and leadership.
At the same time we have also seen a very strong move toward in-house and customised programmes. This allows organisations to have programmes delivered where and when they need them and have the courses tailored to meet specific business and learning objectives.
How practical and applicable do you make the courses?
Our mantra is the "practical application of theory". At the University of Auckland Business School, it is very important to base all of our courses on solid theory, the "why" part of learning. This is balanced with a significant focus on the application of this theory, the "how" part of learning. It is our purpose to provide a dynamic learning experience that will enable our clients to increase their level of competence, capability and confidence in making sustainable change to their organisations and their own career.
What sorts of lecturers do you use? Are they from industry or are they academics?
Our mission is to find the very best person to deliver on the learning needs of our clients. In practice we have a mix of world-class academic faculty from across the University of Auckland as well as international Universities such as Stanford and Thunderbird Global School of Management. These individuals will possess three key elements to be able to present on our programme, which are having led relevant research, ability to engage with senior executives and relevant business experience as a practitioner or consultant. Complementing this group of facilitators is a significant amount of practitioners and industry leaders. It makes such a difference to the learning experience if the person facilitating the course not only has an excellent understanding of the concepts but has been a business owner or chief executive and has experience in the course area.
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