By Lisa Haugh, VP of People and General Counsel, Udemy

Startups have big goals, aggressive timelines, and very little wiggle room for activities that don’t help them hit performance targets — and survive. Things that don’t contribute directly to revenue generation are first to fall off the table, which usually includes employee training and professional development.


lisa haugh How Startups Can Offer Skills Training, And Why They Should

Lisa Haugh
(Photo courtesy of Lisa Haugh)


Startups are fluid and exciting places to work, but speed and scrappiness can also lead to employees wearing multiple hats and being thrown into unfamiliar waters on a regular basis. Job descriptions are edited on the fly — you might have a front-end developer working on mobile UI, a marketer using Photoshop to create display ads, and a sales rep responding to support tickets. Those tasks all need to get done, even if they don’t fit into a particular employee’s skill set or job title. And if they’re not done right, it could easily end up impacting the bottom line.

At the same time, startups are competing with each other and with larger, more established employers for high-quality job candidates. Companies are in an arms race to offer the most desirable perks, especially when it comes to hiring tech workers and millennials. As a result, job seekers can look forward to endless snacks and free gym passes, but most companies don’t make commensurate investment in employee training.

Yet many millennials cite training and development as the most valuable benefit employers can provide, and they have lots of reasons why. They want to find meaning in their jobs and to feel like they’re working toward something bigger. More than half aspire to become the leader or most senior executive within their current organization. They want to be challenged to grow, not to master a role and then become stagnant in it. Perhaps most of all, millennials, like everyone else, are running the same race to keep their skills current and relevant in a rapidly changing work environment. Employers who embrace a culture of continuous learning and help workers enhance their skill sets can stand out in a crowded job market.

When millennials say they want professional development, they’re not talking about the dull, static learning modules their older coworkers envision when they think of corporate training. No one’s suggesting startups or anyone else should go that route. Instead, startups have an opportunity to offer training in fresh, innovative ways that leverage the technology we’ve all come to rely on for efficiency and convenience.

Like many business products and services, training has become more about “customer experience” and less about pushing out a massive volume of corporate communications. Smart companies are heeding their employees’ preferences for higher quality content and flexibility in how, when, and where they take professional development courses.

On-demand online learning doesn’t have to be expensive, hard to administer, or in conflict with any training already in place, so it’s within reach of startups at almost any stage. Simple, intuitive tools exist to let you create your own proprietary web-based training or select just the courses you want your employees to take from a ready-made catalog. Then, employees have the freedom to access their professional development from their smartphones or tablets, whenever and wherever they prefer, rather than being locked into a pre-scheduled session in a windowless conference room, saving everyone time, hassle and money. They can watch video courses at their own pace, interact with their instructor, and go back to review material any time they need a refresher.

At a time when fewer than half of employees believe their employers offer opportunities to expand their skill sets, online learning and development programs can make a huge difference in a startup’s long-term success. Offering training as a benefit can help attract higher-quality candidates, keep them engaged in their jobs once hired, improve retention rates, and ensure that people have the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in the workplace. You’d be hard pressed to come up with an argument for how all that does not support revenue generation, startup or not.




Lisa Haugh is the Vice President of People and General Counsel at Udemy, the leading online learning marketplace with more than 8 million users. A decorated executive with more than 15 years of experience leading legal and HR capacities for a range of startups and mature companies, Lisa leads all of Udemy’s legal and human resource functions, including all hiring, training and diversity efforts.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the author.



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