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Apprenticeship Culture In Your Small Business

Developing An Apprenticeship Culture In Your Small Business

Apprenticeship in the Past

Back in the day, apprenticeship was a commonly used concept in businesses. At the time, every restaurant kitchen or the merchant’s back office had their own apprentices. The apprenticeship culture in your small business involves a lot more than just finding the responsible person for something that went wrong. This was the way that business owners educated and taught new skills to young people.

Apprenticeship in the Present- Not Sink or Swim!

Now we have universities, colleges, and many different training and workshops that allow young people to gain new skills. So when they arrive at the workplace for the first time, they will already have some knowledge. Maybe this is how the all too common “sink or swim” business practice evolved. However, more and more often, we see young people leaving college unprepared for real life.

Apprenticeship is for New and Existing Employees

Even the ones who have taken the time to do some internships need a close mentorship. This is how apprenticeship culture is integrated into today’s businesses. However, there is a key point that many small businesses tend to forget about: the apprenticeship culture should not only target new employees. It should also target the existing employees.

Why Is Apprenticeship Important?

When you want to have a successful small business, the business owner/manager, of course, has a key role. The idea that the business owner who only orders what needs to be done is no longer accepted. Instead, the role of the business owner is a lot more complex than it used to be. Today the business owner needs to coach each one of the team members. After all, this is the only way that every employee knows exactly his responsibilities and he knows how to execute them properly.

When business owners don’t take an active role within the apprenticeship culture, the small business won’t thrive. At the end of the day, whenever a deadline isn’t met, when there is a problem in the production line or in the distribution, no one knows who is responsible. So how can you improve your business if no one knows exactly what they need to do and how? This isn’t possible.

Motivating Your Employees Through Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship culture involves a lot more than just finding the responsible person for something that went wrong. In fact, the apprenticeship culture has another main goal, probably even more important than the first one.

Let’s say that you decide to hire someone for a position in your small business. Just imagine that this person will be the one responsible for defining new proposals to attract your biggest clients. You, as the small business owner, know that you did a good job hiring this person because he showed you that he was up to the job. So, you just hand him the task.

Killing Employee Motivation

The new employee, ready to show his appreciation for being hired and to be a part of such an important task, works as many hours as he can and he delivers what you asked before the deadline. So you meet with these big customers but you never tell the employee anything else about the meeting. You just keep asking him to do other tasks. You have just killed your employee’s motivation.

The fact is that this new employee, who is eager to show his value and skills, also wants to learn. In order to improve, he needs to have feedback. Your feedback! He needs to understand what he did well, what he could have done better, how to do it better, and what tools or skills he needs to improve. Without this feedback, the employee can’t know if he is doing a good job a poor job, or anything.

Building a Loyal Team Through Apprenticeship

As you can see, an apprenticeship culture should be a part of every small business. And the one responsible for it should be the business owner. The business owner should see himself as a part of the team, the link between the different team members who are always there to help each one of them as well as to explain to them what they need to do and how.

While the apprenticeship culture, or the way it is used now, has changed a bit, there are still many small businesses who continue to adopt an old-fashioned apprenticeship culture. Why? The reason is simple. Many small businesses don’t have the resources to attract the best-trained employees.

Hiring Employees With No Bad Habits

So, what they do instead is that they hire apprentices. They are usually young, extremely motivated and skilled. In other cases, when a small business is growing, it is time for the business owner to decide on the best approach when they need to hire. While for some companies hiring someone with experience in the area is crucial, other businesses prefer to employ someone who can simply dive-in into the business without any bad habits or preconceived ideas.


No matter what you prefer or how you do it, developing an apprenticeship culture is a must in every small business. An Employee Delegation Plan is one of our 36 Coaching Modules Bullets that we focus on with our clients. Here’s an article on the Top Ten Strategies to Retain Your Employees.

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