It’s not easy to buy in good skills. Earlier this year the CBI said that shortages in key skill areas may slow down the economic recovery. In a survey carried out by the CBI 39% of the respondents said they already struggle to recruit employees with the necessary level of advanced scientific, technical, engineering and maths skills. The future doesn’t look much better. 41% said they thought they would encounter difficulties in recruitment within the next three years.
Raising workers’ general levels of competence are vital if the business is to succeed but the principle players are the managers. If management skills are poor the business is far more likely to go under. Unfortunately many business owners don’t understand and/ or accept that good quality training is a necessary investment which increases employee efficiency, skills and knowledge and can also enhance employee motivation. Having a learning culture which clearly demonstrates that employee development is a priority may also help business to attract and retain those elusive high calibre staff.
Sadly the great engine of the UK economy, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are far more likely to fail than bigger organisations, especially in the early years. A study in the early 2000s by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that weakness in management skills is likely to be a significant cause of failure in small businesses. SMEs are less likely to develop their people than larger companies. This could be for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty of releasing people for training, financial constraints or lack of relevant information about training options.
Most SMES tend to have either no training budget or a fairly limited one. Work based training is low quality, they have less qualified employees and are less likely to participate in government training schemes. Training isn’t just about classroom based training. It can take many forms including informal training on the job as well as the more formal types. SMEs tend to prefer informal training in response to immediate operational issues. While this type of training can be described as reactive, it does have value, often providing a positive impact with regard to quality, productivity, staff turnover and margins.
If SMEs are not able to effectively provide suitable training provision in-house, they should look outside the organisation for help. We use webinars to help educate and train clients and run knowledge based discussion groups and these are very successful. They’re low-cost and minimise time away from work, but many SMEs dislike them and skeptical of their value.
The Government actively encourages training through a number of schemes and in some cases incentivises companies to get involved. Currently, it’s offering the Small Business Growth Accelerator Programme to coach business owners. Skills South East provided a grant of 10% towards some management development training we did a couple of years ago and employers are also being incentivised to recruit and train apprentices through the AGE 16 to 24 schemes. It’s well worth looking round to see if you can get some funding towards management training.
Small business owners need to be far more aware of the huge benefits of a structured approach and the risk of a laissez faire approach. The results of good management training are clear: improved business effectiveness, increased competitiveness, greater profitability and increased efficiency, underpinned by a trained, effective workforce. Put simply, the right training enables business growth. SMEs must change their mindset of face a slow decline and failure.
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