Supporting employees to develop technology-based skills can be a wise investment for an SME, the Telegraph reported.
Digital skills are an important part of business success. Not only can they boost performance and aid growth, implementing training plans can also help organisations attract and retain ambitious employees.
And that’s not just limited to high-tech or digital industries. All sectors have tools that promise a wide range of outputs, such as more efficient working practices, increased visibility and cost savings.
Better still, the best employees are drawn to forward-thinking and tech-savvy companies, so the promise of training and development means you’re better able to hire the cream of the crop.
The business benefits of training
Providing digital tools and training gives you a better skilled and more productive workforce.
In addition, the act of developing individuals encourages a loyalty to your cause, says Steve Smith, who runs the North West Employee Engagement Group, a collective of businesses that shares ideas about how to build the most productive teams.
“A commitment to training is seen by employees as an investment in their worth and creates an incentive to stay at the company,” says Smith.
“A happy and fulfilled workforce will, on paper, be more productive. Well-trained employees give the company a more able and proficient work force, and if they’re good at what they do, they’re more likely to stick at the job.”
He added that most employees want the opportunity to grow and develop their job and career-enhancing skills.
“Digital tools have a strong influence on employees’ motivation, performance and productivity,” he said.
Understand why technology is being used and how it works
Dave Hartshorne is an e-commerce strategy and marketing consultant who co-founded East MIdlands-based digital agency, Dijitul. He says that in addition to specific digital training, it’s important to understand the bigger picture.
“Training must encompass not only the mechanics of technology, but why certain technology is being used and how it works,” he says.
An SME might move to cloud storage, for example, because it brings business benefits or the e-commerce links to stock control, but how does this affect the running of the business day to day?
“It also requires a level of understanding when it comes to issues such as cybersecurity or data collection,” says Hartshorne.
“Wearable technology is a growing trend, for example in logistics. It provides real-time data, but what do you do with that data and how is it analysed and used?”
Training must be about how technology works, the business benefit and what to do when things go awry, as they sometimes do, he says.
Getting the most from your investment
Even with the use of grants, free workshops and more, digital skills training can still be costly, in terms of financial outlay and time spent.
Chillisauce, a rapidly-growing agency that organises group events throughout Europe, invests heavily in training its staff in the latest digital tools and trends. It implemented a five-figure spend on technical training for its digital marketing department alone this year, so it’s imperative that such investments earn results.
Chief executive and founder, James Baddiley, says: “Digital technology is not a fad; it offers insight and tools that businesses could only dream of 15 or 20 years ago. If you're not investing in tech, you can be sure one of your competitors will be.”
To get the most from your investment, Baddiley underlines the importance of a strategic approach.
“Don’t get involved in tech for the sake of it. Think about the positive impacts it can have on your business, and what value your staff can offer by having this extra knowledge,” he said.
Research options in advance, using online reviews to gauge how peers rate tools and training, and make use of free trials before committing to a purchase.
Sometimes, however, an individual simply doesn’t share your organisation's passion for progress in the digital world. Training them usually amounts to a bad investment, which is why Chillisauce opts for ambitious recruits when hiring.
“Forcing training on staff who don't want to learn is a waste of time and resources,” says Baddiley. “A desire to learn and develop is a key character trait we look for when recruiting.”