IT Training and Upskilling: Investing in Your SME’s Future

Employee training is directly linked with business success. However, employees are still more likely to receive it at larger organisations, despite 91% of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK acknowledging its importance.

Cost is typically the main barrier prohibiting more businesses from delivering the training that employees need. However, investing in training has rising dividends, especially in the area of IT. 

Digital transformation is set to sweep through SMEs. Over 82% of roles require some form of digital competency. Training will be invaluable in staying competitive in a business landscape shaped by technology.

Below are the ways IT training can pay off for SMEs:

Benefits of IT Training

Stronger Cybersecurity

Securing your network is a never-ending process. Every year, criminals deploy new tools to break through existing security protocols. This year, it’s artificial intelligence. Criminals are using algorithms powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to weaponise vast amounts of information, making it harder to protect against threats such as phishing.

Staying in lockstep with emerging threats through IT training will be crucial. Employees are often the weakest link in a business’ defences, yet less than half of businesses have cybersecurity training programmes. 

Common mistakes include falling for a phishing email, clicking suspicious links, and sharing passwords with colleagues–behaviours that can be addressed through frequent training.

Better Productivity

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of tools and tech. Now IT has become business-critical for most SMEs. Over 85% report that they are more reliant than ever on communications and collaboration technologies, remote IT support, and security software and hardware.

However, employee skills haven’t scaled as fast as businesses are adopting new technologies. Many employees still struggle with basic productivity tools such as Microsoft 365. Even IT professionals admit not knowing how best to take advantage of technologies that businesses are onboarding en masse, such as cloud technology.

The key to unlocking the benefits of using technology–speed, savings, productivity–is training the people who use them. Skilled employees are more efficient and can do the work with greater accuracy and speed. Training employees will also empower them with the ability to maximise how tools are used.

Closing the Skills Gap

The UK is facing a digital skills gap. Automation and machine learning have seen the widespread replacement of lower skilled jobs, while creating a vacuum for professionals who can operate these new, complex systems. 

Upskilling employees helps future-proof your workforce against talent shortages. It’s also a tactic that will help businesses retain top talent during a time of scarcity. Employees are hungry for companies willing to invest in their growth, and they’re not afraid to leave to find them. Only 21% of new hires stay at companies that do not offer training for their roles.

Creating Cost-Efficient Training Programs for SMEs

Set Learning Objectives

Unfocused training programmes are money wasted. Narrowing down objectives gives your programme a clear scope that will help you maximise the return-on-investment of your training.

Start with identifying your concrete objectives for the IT training. Do you want to improve cybersecurity? Implement remote work? Improve operational efficiency? Once you have a goal in mind, assess the gap between your current skills and the skills needed to meet your objectives. This will help you funnel support into the areas that need it.

Consider Free Programmes & Grants

Recognising the shortage in digital skills, the UK government has made available a number of programmes to help SMEs modernise their workforce. One such example is the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s £6.4M pledge towards teaching SME employees how to use AI.

On a regional scale, businesses can turn to an increasing number of support hubs established by the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI). The hubs provide fully-funded workshops that give businesses access to experts in the field and teach them how to solve problems with their own data and technology.

Make the Most Out of Vendor Training

Training doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, depending on your needs, it can be free and straight from those at the forefront of tech themselves. Google offers a variety of scheduled workshops on numerous topics including data and analytics, artificial, and cloud computing. Microsoft’s Learn platform offers free training and certifications for products.

It’s not a practice limited to the world’s largest tech companies. Technology vendors offer free training–sometimes, full libraries–to help customers with onboarding. Shopify and Hubspot both have an entire academy dedicated to teaching users how to maximise their platforms.

Use Online Platforms & Videos

Time is another barrier that stands between businesses and upskilling their employees. Employees can struggle to balance their workloads with classes mandated by their managers. Taking lessons collectively can be a problem when staff are working from different time zones.

Thankfully, the rise of online learning platforms have made training more manageable at an individual level. Online training materials can take the place of one-on-one coaching–a move that saved one business more than 15 hours of manpower a week.

Decide Between In-House or Outsourced 

Running a training programme in-house gives you great control over the budget, scope, and delivery of the lessons. However, businesses will have to make sure the right subject matter is managing training, which could be difficult when many SMEs struggle to hire skilled IT experts.

Outsourcing has higher upfront costs, yet can save you more in the long run with expert trainers running the programme. If you go with a vendor, ensure to get one who’s willing to work with you at your budget level.

Evolvit has been delivering IT support solutions to small to medium businesses for over two decades. Contact us today to consult with our engineers for free on the gaps in your IT capabilities and how to address it.