Staff training, development and mentoring

Your employees are your most valuable asset. Providing employees with training and development activities can help you to meet your business goals while increasing their job satisfaction.

Investing in training and development can:

  • increase productivity and business profits
  • improve employee motivation and confidence
  • improve employee career development
  • increase employee job satisfaction and lower staff turnover
  • improve work quality and safety
  • attract good employees
  • assist with succession planning.

Remember to keep a record of any training and development activities your employees complete.

Develop a training and development program

To implement the right training for your business, you need to identify your business and employee training needs. You can do this yourself, or you can recruit a human resources (HR) consultant or training organisation to help you.

Your training and development program should be described in your business plan. You need to know:

  • what training your employees need
  • how much it will cost you
  • how often you'll offer it.

If you decide to exit your business or hand it over to a family member, training may be an important part of your succession planning.

As part of your business plan review:

  • assess your business goals and the skills you need to meet them
  • work out if you are on track to achieve your goals, and identify any gaps
  • think about whether your employees are happy in their jobs, and if your customers are happy with your products and services
  • consider how you are doing compared to your competitors
  • review existing training
  • identify areas that need improvement and who'll benefit from training (e.g. employees may need more knowledge of your products and services or your business processes).

Consider any upcoming changes in your business that will require training for any of your employees.

Review your budget and resources before offering training and development opportunities to your employees.

The training and development budget should be part of your business plan. If you don't have a training and development budget, creating one will help you work out what you can offer your employees. Make sure to include all training and development costs in your budget.

These costs can include:

  • instructor fees
  • employee wages and the cost of temporarily replacing the employee
  • productivity loss while employees participate
  • travel and accommodation costs
  • training materials (print out, technology devices, pens, paper etc)
  • administrative costs and utilities related to the activity.

Your employees and your business may be eligible for government funding and assistance programs that support training and upskilling of specific types of employees. Consider speaking to a human resources (HR) professional to find out what assistance your business and employees may be eligible for or find out more about training assistance for Queensland employers.

Discussing training and development needs with your employees can:

  • improve your working relationships and productivity
  • help to identify the right training
  • motivate the employees to do the training
  • help ensure everyone gets the most out of the training and development activities.

You can talk to your employees in group meetings or one-on-one about their training needs. Employee performance reviews is an ideal opportunity for a one-on-one discussion. They may, for example:

  • be interested in developing skills in a new area that could benefit your business
  • want to take on more responsibility, in which case you could consider enrolling them in a leadership course.

Consider doing individual skills assessments to work out exactly what training the individual needs.

Record this employee feedback, making note of all training needs or requests.

Consider the training and development options you have available to address the needs you've identified. Common training activities include:

  • onboarding and inductions
  • group training workshops
  • computer-based and online learning
  • on-the-job training
  • instructor led, in person or online
  • blended learning (a combination of training activities)
  • role playing
  • work experience/traineeships/apprenticeships
  • mentorships.

Consider the benefits of different training and development options, rather than simply choosing the most convenient or least expensive. For example, blended learning activities that combine face-to-face instructor led and technology-based methods or online/computer-based and on-the-job learning activities. These options can be more cost effective cutting down travel and instructor costs and they can also be more beneficial to your employees.

Outsourcing training

External training courses should be offered if:

  • your employees need formal training (e.g. a licence or certificate)
  • you don't have the time, qualifications or resources to offer the training yourself.

These external training courses should be run through a registered training organisation (RTO). You can also hire external training providers to conduct in-house training at your business which can be efficient if you have a number of employees needing the same activity.

Decide on, and document:

  • what training is possible and suitable
  • if you'll provide the training internally or through an external training provider
  • who will take part in the training, as well as the dates, venues and times of courses if applicable.

When deciding on training, remember...

A common formula used in the training industry when planning training, is that most employees get:

  • 70% of their knowledge from job-related activities
  • 20% of their knowledge from interactions with others
  • 10% of their knowledge from formal educational and training activities.

Communicate training and development options and activities to all employees so they are aware of what is available and happening in your business. Make sure you offer all employees in your business equal opportunities for training and development.

Work health and safety training

As an employer, you are legally obliged to provide work health and safety (WHS) training to your employees to keep your workplace safe for you, your employees and any visitors or customers.

You must:

  • provide this training when a new employee starts and provide regular refresher training
  • update your training and instruction materials if you make changes to your business (e.g. to equipment, materials or processes)
  • provide any industry-specific training related to your business (if required).

WHS training could include:

  • first aid training
  • personal protective equipment (PPE) training
  • fire and emergency training
  • relevant training for personal safety, for example:
    • security and cash handling
    • working alone or in isolation
    • managing hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods
    • security breach procedures.

Read more about:

Industry-specific training

Certain industries and job roles will require specific training. For example, if your employee needs to drive a truck or forklift, you must make sure they have the right licences.

Some key examples of industry and job-specific training are:

Webinar: How to develop capability with your staff

View our webinar on how to develop capability with your staff for information on creating a skills and knowledge development strategy for your business.

Developing employees through mentoring, coaching and shadowing

As a business owner, you can use mentoring, coaching and shadowing to develop employees' skills at little or no cost to your business.

Investing time into developing employees can help you make the most of an employee's skills and abilities and avoid expensive and time-consuming recruitment processes, and ensure that valuable knowledge stays within your business.

Mentoring, coaching and shadowing can also help your business:

  • improve staff satisfaction, retention rates, and team relations
  • increase profits through improved performance and productivity
  • foster innovative ideas.

By pairing a more experienced individual with a less experienced one, you can use mentoring, coaching and shadowing:

  • as a form of induction for new employees
  • to develop employee skills in a particular area, such as customer service
  • to prepare existing employees to move into different or more senior roles
  • for succession planning, if you plan to hand your business over to someone else one day.


Mentoring is based on a relationship between the mentor and mentee. The mentor provides:

  • advice, guidance and direction
  • ongoing support and feedback.

Through this relationship, the mentor and mentee can benefit from a range of personal and professional development opportunities.

Regardless of whether the arrangement is informal or formal:

  • the mentor-mentee relationship must be based on trust and open communication
  • the mentor and mentee must invest time to get to know each other, invest their time and energy and take responsibility for making the relationship work
  • together, the mentor and mentee should meet regularly and track the mentee's progress
  • mentees can use their mentor as a sounding board for ideas, which can help them make decisions faster and with more certainty. Mentees can learn from their mentor's experience and knowledge and use this information to improve their own career and business skills.

If you are a small business, you may find it difficult to find mentors internally. In this case, you could encourage your employees to look externally for a mentor, either through similar businesses, industry associations, or mentoring programs.

Mentoring can:

  • help with career progression
  • introduce new ways of thinking
  • increase job satisfaction and motivation
  • develop leadership and problem-solving skills
  • build confidence and change limiting thoughts and beliefs
  • provide regular constructive feedback
  • widen networking circles.

A mentor-mentee relationship may be informal or formal. The type you choose for your business will depend on your employees, business requirements and resources.

In an informal arrangement:

  • employees choose their own mentor
  • the mentor and mentee set a time for casual meetings to discuss the mentee's career goals.

A formal mentoring arrangement is usually more structured, with regular meetings and formal reviews of the mentee's progress.

Together, the mentor and mentee should meet regularly and track the mentee's progress.

Mentoring is ideal for enthusiastic staff who are keen to progress their career and grow personally and professionally. To get the most out of a mentoring relationship, a mentee should:

  • know what they would like to achieve – goals, need and wants
  • be committed to the relationship
  • be willing to invest their time and energy
  • be committed to expanding their skills and abilities
  • be open to feedback
  • be willing to ask for help and try new ways of doing things
  • be able to communicate with their mentor.

Mentor responsibilities

A good mentor must:

  • have a desire to help develop other employees
  • have relevant industry knowledge and skills
  • have strong communication and listening skills
  • be able to act as a role model, adviser and consultant
  • be able to give their mentees fair and considered feedback.

A mentor should:

  • be realistic about how much time they can commit to the relationship
  • support the mentee emotionally and intellectually
  • challenge the mentee's limiting thoughts and beliefs
  • be willing to share both successful and not so successful past experiences with the mentee
  • accept that mentoring is a two-way relationship and learning will go both ways
  • be impartial
  • keep issues confidential so the mentee can talk freely about any concerns they have.


Coaching is a development tool to unlock employee potential and improve performance.

Workplace coaching can focus on:

  • executive coaching
  • conflict coaching
  • leadership coaching
  • performance coaching
  • individual employee coaching.

A coach can help an employee:

  • identify and set important goals
  • identify the steps and behaviours needed to meet these goals
  • develop key targets and measures of success
  • be accountable
  • increase existing skills, abilities and knowledge
  • reach their potential.

Coaching can be:

  • internal, with managers working with employees in formal, one-on-one coaching sessions or informal, on-the-job coaching sessions.
  • external with an outside coach brought in to work with managers or employees.


Shadowing refers to one employee following and observing another employee for a specific period. This allows the employee to learn the ins and outs of the job while watching someone perform it. Job shadowing is a very effective on-the-job learning method.

Job shadowing can be beneficial for:

  • new employees
  • employees looking to develop new skills
  • employees who move from one part of your business to another.

Job shadowing may occur over a few days, weeks or months. This will depend on the specific job, the complexities and the individual employee.

It could also be extended into a job-swap, where employees trade roles to get experience of working in another role or another part of your business.

Potential benefits of job shadowing:

  • opportunity to learn the role and responsibilities
  • develop relationships and network
  • new experiences and perspectives
  • cross training
  • enables internal mobility
  • develops coaching/mentoring skills
  • improvements in business processes
  • upskilling employees
  • improves communications across your business.

A good job shadowing program can bring many benefits to your employees and your business. Make sure to continuously communicate these benefits and available opportunities to your employees.

If you're developing a mentoring, coaching or job shadowing program, consider talking to a human resources (HR) professional. They'll be able to talk you through the key things to consider and work with you to develop a program that meets the needs of your employees and your business.

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