Why small businesses are struggling with L&D

by John Hilton09 Dec 2015
One of the main problems with L&D and small business is that the training system is still designed around bigger businesses that have got experts, said Peter Strong CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia.

The larger corporations have team leaders, HR departments, and other things that can make it work, whereas in a small business there might be only four people, he told L&D Professional.

“The complaints I normally get from businesses is the training is designed for people that have time and who can turn up in the structured hours when the training is taking place,” said Strong.

“For example, you get people in the rural area who run the training courses the same time the harvest is on. And you think they are not going to turn up and neither should they. Without the harvest they won’t have any jobs.”

That’s just one example of how the training system needs to be more flexible, he said.

Moreover, Russell added that in the retail sector you get people wanting to do training in November and December.

“They say it is going to happen between nine and five, Monday to Friday in Sydney and you think: Well, I’m in Tamworth. This is going to cost me money.”

Further, Russell explained to L&D Professional that it’s the actual skills as opposed to the qualifications which are important to the small businesses.

If you need qualifications, then you go and get them like in the finance sector or the real estate sector where you need qualifications to prove who you are, he said.

“But if you want to learn sales skills or you want to learn how to do better marketing you are not looking for the certificate, you are looking for the skill.

“And that’s where the training falls down because for a lot of training organisations the outcome is the certificate.

“Whereas for the business operator who is running a shop, a café, a restaurant or whatever it is, the outcome is about more customers walking in the door, coming online and using the products. That gets lost in translation quite often. They really couldn’t care less about the certificate and that’s a common story.”

The other challenge for small businesses is the cost of training, he said.

“Sometimes it’s not that costly and other times it’s incredibly costly as small businesses are not full of cash, Russell said.

He added that there are cash flow issues with regards to apprenticeships, as they are going through a very difficult stage at the moment.

The cost of apprenticeships has gone through the roof, as recent changes that nobody saw coming has made it a lot more expensive to employ an apprentice, he added.

“It’s confusing to employ an apprentice, so there’s another issue that makes it difficult – how training and the workplace relations system interact. If it’s confusing it is not going to help a small business person,” he said.

“They are going to be afraid that they are doing something wrong – even though they don’t know what that is. So we need to look at the way that training and workplace relations interact.”