In tough economic times, most SMME’s are preoccupied with short-term survival and therefore forsake training of staff citing lack of resources and time. Think again, as research shows that developing workers results in increased productivity and efficiency resulting in financial gains, decreased need for supervision and reduced employee turnover.
“Many companies will agree that their employees are their greatest asset because, without a trained and highly motivated employee base, companies will fail to grow and succeed in the business environment,” says Academy of York principal, Richard Leeming.
Often employees’ skill sets can make or break a company and an employee with insufficient training in bookkeeping, payroll, human resources (HR) or SARS returns can cost the business money and attract unnecessary tax penalties.
For example, a small business’s HR management needs are not the same as a large firm and when it is time to hire a new staff member, “most small business employers have no formal training in how to make hiring decisions,” says Jill Rossiter in her book Human Resources: Mastering Your Small Business.
“It sounds simple, but it isn’t and any personnel change should be considered an opportunity for rethinking your organisational structure.” This is an example where HR training could fill the gap and save time and money for the firm in the long run
“At Academy of York we are experiencing an increase in business owners equipping themselves with the vital financial skills such as those offered in our Small Business Financial Management course. Popular courses for employees of small businesses include Bookkeeping, HR, Project Management, Office Management and Health and Safety, as each one of these cover essential roles,” adds Leeming.
Another issue affecting small business owners is compliance with South African regulations. “All employers need to ensure that they follow applicable labour laws; that their finance departments complete VAT returns correctly; and that health and safety representatives understand their role in the business. An effectively trained employee base mitigates risk for business owners, including financial penalties and legal action,” says Leeming.
There are also changes in the BEE scorecards, effective from October this year, which make skills development a priority carrying a hefty weighting of 20 points. Training of previously disadvantaged employees will assist in ensuring a company is BEE compliant. “It is also very important to note that a lack of training will result in a discounting in the final score, so the trend is to uplift employees as well as suppliers and in this way improve your rating,” says Leeming.
If lack of time for training or resources is what is hampering your company’s growth it is worthwhile considering distance learning as it offers discounted course fees compared to classroom-based education and keeps employees in the workplace as they can study at their own pace in their spare time. “Distance learning as a medium for education and empowerment will make a significant difference to your business without breaking the bank or impacting too heavily in terms of time away from the office,” Leeming says.
Once you have opted to train your employee base there are numerous ways that you can create a supportive studying environment. Financial support is obviously a great way to assist and can be offered in the form of a study bursary which covers partial or full tuition costs. Some companies allow the use of company resources by letting employees study from their place of work after hours and use company bandwidth for research purposes. Employers can also grant leave to write exams as well as provide employees with additional days for study leave.
“Supporting employees that are improving their skills helps build relationships in a small firm. One of the most effective support structures is to allow students to shadow other employees already qualified in that role so that they experience ‘on the job’ training, thus making their studies that much more relevant to a business environment,” Leeming says.
“Time is money and distance education is a win-win solution as it does not detract from day-to-day business operations.”
It is crucial for small business owners to empower their employees as well as themselves. Upskilling and up-to-date training means a stronger business that is more likely to survive and is better equipped to compete in the economic jungle.