Across the spectrum, business knows that investment in the training and development of employees has a high impact on overall organisational success.
Yet, for most small and medium enterprises (SME’s) the high costs of formal, structured training programmes and interventions can present a significant barrier to this vital aspect of managing their talent.
However, the reality, is that technology has made great strides in breaking down that barrier and enabling SME’s to access a wide range of quality, accredited, accessible training for their employees.
The costs of employees attending in-person training is not just about the tuition fees, which can in themselves be prohibitive to smaller businesses. There are also other, more hidden costs associated with the employee being absent from work because they are at courses. In the case of an SME, with a small workforce where just about every role is mission-critical, absenteeism due to training is more likely to negatively impact on the day-to-day delivery of services or goods to their customers.
However, the major benefits of providing employees with on-going training and development certainly over-ride the potential drawbacks. And, these are the benefits that it is believed that South African SME’s really need to share in, in order to build and grow their enterprises.
An organisation’s culture of on-going learning and development is well-known to offer these important advantages:
Addressing skills deficits – to be successful a business is highly dependent on a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. But matching people to roles is not an exact science, and the reality is that many employees have skills deficits which impact on their ability to perform as needed. Skills shortages within the enterprise do not only hamper the operations of the business and service delivery; they are also demoralising for the employee who struggles to succeed. Discouraged employees will naturally be less than engaged with their employer, leading to a downward spiral. In contrast, a business with an engaged and skilled workforce is inherently empowered to grow, develop and take up a leadership position in its industry.
Developing personal capabilities – sometimes it is not so much the lack of job skills that trips an employee up, but a lack of personal capacities that impact on their ability to work well with others and be effective in their role. Learning and improving on communications, leadership, relationship, interpersonal, conflict resolution, time and information management skills are all important development opportunities for employees that can enhance performance and productivity.
Improving performance – providing staff with continuous training and supporting their on-going learning so that they are confident and competent in doing their jobs, and able to develop in their careers, improves the performance of individuals and the productivity of the business as a whole. High levels of competencies and knowledge within the organisation are a significant competitive edge that can open up opportunities as the business develops its reputation and standing in the marketplace, and responds astutely to industry fluctuations.
Attracting and retaining talent – a commitment, and a track record in training and developing its employees, helps to position a business as an employer of first choice. The shortage of skills in South Africa creates a strong competition for talent. Businesses need to fully engage the talent they are able to attract in order to retain it, as failed employer-employee relationships are costly in more ways than one, and need to be avoided. Today’s workforce is increasingly focused on work that not just earns them a living, but also provides attractive opportunities for their own personal growth and development. They are, in essence, open to being engaged in their work, and having opportunities to learn and grow makes a positive impact on their job satisfaction.
So, how do SME’s reap these benefits of training and developing staff in an affordable and accessible way?
A solution lies in quality online learning. While large corporations can more easily access in-person training interventions, there are now fantastic accredited learning opportunities online that would particularly suit the SME employer so that they too can grow their people, increase productivity and develop their businesses.
From your PA to your project manager, from your sales person or purchasing officer to your finance person, you can find relevant, up-to-date training for them that is highly flexible and cost-effective. With online learning, there is less time out of the office. Employees can schedule and manage their own learning in their own time and at their own pace.
There are no geographical limits to accessing the modular training. The courses are available anywhere in the world and are accessible for up to a year so that learners repeat a course multiple times if they need and want to.
Richard Rayne is the CEO of iLearn.