Whether your office team is large or small, they work to support your business in many areas from bookkeeping and accounting to customer service, human resources, marketing and beyond. In smaller offices, one team member may even be responsible for multiple functions of the business.
Keeping your team up-to-date on the latest and greatest in their areas of expertise [or trying to get them up-to-speed in a new area] can be challenging, especially with limited resources. The good news is, there are a lot of free or low-cost tools available for small businesses to leverage, from free online classes in a variety of subjects from Harvard or MIT and online workplace-based skill training to downloadable templates, help guides, and software.
We’ve compiled a list of these 20 tools and resources that your office team can use to learn a new skill, stay-up-to date in their area of expertise, or simply streamline their day-to-day.
There are several online training platforms that offer free or low-costs training. The following three are some of the most popular for businesses.
- Alison: is a free online education platform that focuses on workplace-based skills such as HR, Operations, Finance, Communications, and Sales etc.
- Lynda: is an online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. It is a favorite among IT, design, creative professionals.
- edX: offers increased access to high-quality, free online courses from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and more on this online educational platform. Users can take courses across a variety of subjects from blockchain, data analysis, and HTML to foreign languages, finance, project management, and more.
Many small businesses do not hire a dedicated HR professional but instead utilize someone already on their team to be in charge of this area. Rules and regulations are ever changing, so it’s vital that whoever is in charge of your company’s HR is familiar with the most up-to-date policies. Below are some resources to help them do that.
- Human Resource Courses by Alison: We mentioned Alison earlier in the post but want to highlight that they offer more than 20 free online courses in human resources from the fundamentals to recruitment and training.
- HR.com: is the largest social network site dedicated to human resource professionals. HR.com members have access to articles, case studies, newsletters, polls, discussion forums, blogs, webcasts and other features.
- WhenIWork: is a software as a service (SaaS) company, which provides scheduling, labor forecasting, and labor insights. Now the reason I included them on the list is not necessarily to tout their product, but to showcase their valuable, free content. WhenIWork offers a tremendous library of free resources when it comes to human resources including templates, employee handbook outlines, termination documentation and more.
- Payroll Services: offer a variety of services for businesses beyond simple payments or direct deposits. Many times, these companies offer help with integrating 401K and other benefits plans, can help with workers’ comp, and can even offer full-service HR support. Below are three of the main payroll services that offer full-service HR support and can act as your outsourced HR department.
- US Small Business Administration: The SBA offers a variety of tools for small businesses from paying taxes and hiring/managing employees to marketing and sales support. The SBA also links back to various regulatory bodies to help you easily find information you might need for your business.
- US Department of Labor: Can give you direction on a number of workplace topics from minimum wage, workers’ compensation, safety and health, and you can also download tools like regulatory posters and Spanish-language resources.
- Business Training Works: offers a variety of training resources from short courses to six-month leadership programs. Business Training Works offers a library of free resources on their website to walk you through tips to working better with customers all the way to training your frontline employees.
- HelpScout: provides an email-based customer support platform but our recommendation is for their in-depth resource guides. Since the company focuses on customer support, they have a lot of really great content that covers a slew of customer service topics.
- ZenDesk: is a SaaS company that focuses on customer service and customer relationship management. They offer a variety of great content in their blog including customer service trends and success stories but one article in particular stuck out to us, which was their Customer Service Starter Pack.
- Customer Service Templates from HubSpot: this software company focuses on marketing, sales, and customer support. They have one of the largest and most comprehensive resource libraries available with webinars, white papers, articles, and more. For customer service specifically, they offer training templates for creating a customer service manual, as well as onboarding.
- Online Marketing Resources and Training: Marketing is ever changing, so it can be challenging to keep up with best practices or the newest trends in the industry. Beyond that, marketing has so many different areas of focus from online marketing, social media, SEO/SEM, PPC, and more. That’s why we’ve identified a few of our go-to resources for all things marketing.
- HubSpot has one of the most comprehensive resource libraries for marketing. Their focus is on inbound marketing, content and lead generation.
- Social Media Examiner publishes regular articles and podcasts about effective ways businesses can utilize social media effectively.
- MarketingProfs offers practical marketing training and education related on everything related to dev3eloping, executing, and measuring successful marketing campaigns.
- NeilPatel Blog [formerly KISSmetrics] is an excellent resource for all things digital marketing related from SEO and ranking higher on Google to conversion optimization and ecommerce. He offers easy-digestible content in short podcast segments and easy-to-follow articles.
- Email Marketing & Automation: email marketing is one of the most popular, low-cost, and effective types of marketing available for your business. If you are not sending regular emails, now is the time to focus on putting together a plan. There are several free or low-cost options for email marketing. Below are two of the most popular platforms for small businesses:
- Google Tools: Google offers a variety of free tools to help your business succeed. Below are four popular tools that can help you grow your business:
- GoogleMyBusiness: is a free business listing on the largest search engine. If you want to be one of the top results the next time a customer is searching for a landscape service, this is your opportunity. Google My Business offers a number of opportunities for promoting your business.
- Google Analytics: is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports your website traffic. It gives you the tools you need to better understand your customers and their interaction/interest with different areas and services on your website.
- Google Alerts: Interested in a new product? Want to learn more about a competitor? Create an alert in Google Alerts and anytime that keyword term appears in a publication or news story online, you will receive an alert directly to your inbox linking you to that article. This is an excellent way to stay up-to-date on a specific topic.
- Google Trends: that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. Are customers searching for mosquito control? Landscape lighting? Google Trends can help you determine what people are searching for on Google.
- Design: is an important function of marketing, whether graphics are needed for printed materials, social media, or email newsletters. Many small businesses rely on a creative employee to help with design for small day-to-day activities and outsource bigger projects to a freelance designer. Below are two design resources to help your business easily create designs.
- Canva: is a free design tool that makes creating posters, presentations, social media posts and more, a breeze. It offers more than 8,000 free templates and gives you access to hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics. Better yet, it has easy drop and drag features which makes it easy to use for any novice designer.
- Lynda: offers all types of online tutorials and training how-to’s for graphic design. If someone on your team is looking to learn more about graphic design basics, Lynda offers thousands of graphic design courses.
- Stock Photography: is another one of those things that is important to have access to for social media, email newsletters, your website, and printed material. Below are two free stock photo sites to help you find the right image for your needs:
- Social Media Schedulers: can help you plan out your social media posts across all channels [Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter] and schedule them for the day and time that you want. These schedulers also provide metrics to give you insights to how all your posts are performing, in one place. Below are the three most popular free or low-cost social media schedulers:
- Postable: offers a low-cost service for sending direct mail pieces. They can send one-off thank you cards or larger bulk sends of postcards. This service offers a really neat technology that looks like a handwritten note without the time an energy to write one. This could be an interesting option for sending “handwritten” thank you cards to new customers without the time suck.
Finally, rely on Central to help, whether it’s questions about marketing tips or strategy, strategic purchasing, or business planning during COVID-19. Central is the right partner for your business. We stay at the leading edge of the industry and we’re ready to help you grow!