On-line Training for Small Business: Creating a Model of Best Practice
International Council for Small Business
Business and Law
Education and training can enhance small business owner/managers' managerial skills and is known to be effective in reducing small business failure. Training plays an important role in the competitive success of firms as people who acquire appropriate skills are more productive based on output for a given amount of time and effort (Gibb, 1997; Ibrahim & Soufani, 2002; Menzies & Gasse, 1999; Menzies & Paradi, 2003; Robertson, 2003; Lange, Ottens, & Taylor, 2000) . . However, engaging small business owner/managers and their employees in training is difficult as small business owner/managers are usually too busy working in their business to undertake training, while employees often miss out because their absence causes problems for the effective running of the business. This is problematic given the significant size of the small business sector (ABS 2002; 2004) and the federal government's desire to build an innovation and enterprise culture through improved access to education and skills development (DoCITA, 2004; DITR, 2004). In recognition that the small business sector tends not to take advantage of the range of training options delivered through traditional education systems and learning modes, it has been suggested that increasingly, education and training should be delivered on-line. Delivery of on-line training via the internet or electronically in a disk, CD-Rom format or iPod can overcome the problem of access for small business. This is particularly the case for small businesses in regional and remote locations. Training delivered through this medium also has the potential to be tailored to the specific needs of the business (Sambrook, 2003; State Training Board, 2003). As such, on-line delivery of education and training is argued to be a more responsive and agile medium (Alston, 2002) and a means by which owner/managers and employees can be exposed to formal and informal learning. While small business owner/managers are increasingly realising the opportunity for information and communication technology (lCT) to grow their business and expand their markets - some 94% of small businesses own a computer and some 86% are connected to the internet and, of those, 45% have a website (Sensis, 2004) - there is still a reluctance to use ICT for purposes other than just operational functions, such as tactical and strategic management and skills development and training (Collins, Buhalis, & Peters, 2003; Main, 2002; Sensis, 2004). This paper explores several related issues regarding training materials developed for an ICT environment for small firms and how these can be tailored to recognise the preferred learning methods. Thereby addressing the specific training needs of small firm owner managers and their employees.