From 20 to 200! This is how fast hundreds of small businesses want to grow. Like those currently attending the SaaStr Annual Conference in San Francisco. And in today's environment, that growth needs to happen fast. But that can be a huge challenge. Not only for the leadership of the company but for anyone given the responsibility for training as the company grows so large so fast. The internet is filled with blogs and discussions and thought leaders rambling on about the learning and development industry. Very few, if any, discuss the unique training challenges of the small fast growing businesses in today's economy. The practical actions required to get your training done are vastly different from that of a Fortune500 company. It's important to understand those differences and to not feel like you're "doing it wrong" based on what the internet says. In my experience, the Fortune500 could learn a lot from bootstrapped startups handling their training needs with limited resources.
Why the L&D Industry is Not Helping the Little Guy
Much of what the L&D industry discusses is aimed at large enterprises like those in the Fortune 500 or Global 2000. Most case studies presented at large industry conferences are presented by CLOs and other senior managers from these same enterprises. Strategy conversations revolve around these companies that have had training departments in place for many many years. These mature enterprises have had adequate time to launch and relaunch training initiatives, implement Learning management systems, and in some cases multiple LMSs. These are important conversations for the L&D industry to have as we can all learn from their experiences. However, we rarely hear about what their training department was like when these same companies were considered small and medium sized businesses. And to complicate things, even if we did hear about those experiences, that occurred 10-20+ years ago, it is highly unlikely their solutions would apply to today's small business environment.
SMBs need to act fast. If you are responsibility for training in a SMB you need to act fast as well. It's a different environment than a mature enterprise already staffing an entire Learning &Development(L&D) department across all business units. SMB training departments do not have the luxury of 6-7 figure budgets and a small army of resources. In most cases the small business has one employee in charge of getting training done. This need for speed and lack of resources means the SMB training manager needs to be resourceful and accept solutions that enterprise L&D professionals might frown upon. Such is the life of a training professional building a training department in a rapidly growing businesses.
Small Fast Growing Businesses Should NOT Follow Current L&D Practices
SMBs are uniquely situated at a point in time where there is major disruption in the L&D industry. It's obvious that technology is, and has been, disrupting all industries for many years now. Sadly, the L&D industry has been disrupted as well, but has not responded well to the change. Your SMB is growing fast. You probably utilize powerful new communication tools like slack, twitter, and maybe even snapchat. So much of growing a small business is now supported by SaaS based systems, and apps. Many of those systems are outstanding tools for sharing knowledge, and collaborating with team members. However, when you're tight on resources and still need to onboard new employees, deliver customer training and channel sales training, and more, then you need a powerful SaaS based Learning Management System to get the job done.
Don't be fooled in to thinking you need to buy an authoring tool AND a learning management system AND instructional design consultants. At the current stage of your business, you need to keep things simple. A powerful, flexible, quick to implement, and easy to use system like Litmos will not only get you started, but will grow right along with your business. You may only have one person responsible for making sure the training gets done, but an easy to use system allows everyone in the business to pitch in and help create training related to their unique area of expertise. It's okay to shoot instructional videos with your mobile phone. It's okay to publish your powerpoint presentations as courses. It's okay to create multiple choice questions as an assessment. All of these things are perfectly acceptable as training content at this point in your business. Despite what you might read, see, or hear, from the L&D consultants of large enterprise companies. When your business grows beyond 200 and you have the resources to expand your training team, THEN you can think about upgrading your content. Until then, depending upon your situation, you may be just throwing money away that could have been used for marketing or product development.
Of course, all of this will depend upon your unique situation. But the point of this post is to help you understand that as you grow, you can be successful by not following "the rules" of the L&D industry. You can be a rebel and still get the job done. You will be hiring very smart people that mostly want content and for people to get out of their way. Even relatively average adults have a significant drive to learn things on their own. Use a system like Litmos and make content available as quickly and easily as possible. And give everyone the ability to create courses and teach. Your training department should not be a gatekeeper to the acquisition or creation of learning content.
Find out for yourself and sign up for a trial account today. It's even possible to have your course content uploaded and delivered before you end your day. Do it!