by James Smith, Training Manager, Quiss Technology plc

Uncertainty over the future of the UK economy remains but many businesses are beginning to look forward once more. With organisations leaner than ever and with little current desire to increase the headcount, UK businesses should train their existing workforce and give them the necessary skills to aid growth. Now is not the time to be cutting training budgets but a time to invest more.

In the current economic climate it is tempting for businesses to cut spending on training, but research shows those which do not train their workforce are almost three times more likely to fail than businesses that do. As companies look to grow their way out of recession, their ability to process, manage and interpret information will ultimately define their success or failure. Organizations must ensure the IT skills of their workforce keep pace with advances in technology and software.

Training is no different to any other business process: it is changing to better reflect the needs of modern business and has come out of the classroom to a large extent, with on-site floor walking now proving very popular. With workforces cut to the minimum and a lack of cover affecting almost all organizations, they can ill-afford to have employees away on day-long training courses, when it could be done with the employee sat at their desk. This not only minimizes the amount of working time lost, but ensures the individual is trained using their own equipment and data in a working environment with the ability to use real-time examples.

Trainers might be on site all day but only spend 15-20 minutes with each individual, working on specific areas of interest that help that person with their day-to-day job. All the learning is done in short concentrated sessions, with the individual setting the pace they learn at. We find this approach makes understanding topics easier and greatly increases the knowledge retention.

New skills the individual may require can be worked on there and then to give an immediate increase in productivity, with a heightened level of confidence. Working with people in their environment, immediately puts them at ease and not embarrassed to ask a question they may not ask in a classroom setting. At a time when training budgets are under scrutiny, removing the costs associated with training away from the office, like accommodation and travel expenses, is one way to make a budget go further and bring new skills to more people.

This new approach was highlighted recently, when we undertook a tailored training programme for Kepak Group, one of Europe's leading food processing companies. Helping employees with a good understanding of Microsoft Excel, we were able to develop course content based on very specific actions, to help increase productivity in their day-to-day activities. This bespoke course would have required attendance on three standard Excel courses to cover the same aspects in the level of detail we achieve.

Tailored training also offers a small but significant further benefit to a business; horses for courses. Why spend your valuable budget, training employees with general skills that may help them find another job as their competence improves, at the company’s expense. Better to train the IT skills specific to their role and improve their performance for the business paying for the training. 

An important aspect of good training is that it helps nurture and develop the talent within a business. It delivers greater benefits than external recruitment and also proves more cost-effective in the long run. Exhibiting commitment to a workforce by constant, on-going training is shown to increases staff motivation and improve staff retention, with individuals feeling more valued if they are receiving training to help their personal and professional growth. The importance of IT skills in our professional and personal lives ensures it will remain one of the most valuable training areas an individual can experience.  

Fortunately, almost every business is now beginning to recognise the importance of good IT training to the future of their business. They are turning to the most obvious and viable alternative to hiring in new talent and training their own employees to new heights of efficiency and productivity. Offering tailored training, in bite-sized pieces, at their own desk is definitely the future.