“Time and money are rare commodities in most small businesses, so the prospect of having to spend potentially thousands of pounds on training often makes companies unwilling to consider it,” says Simon Wainwright, head of business banking at HSBC, which sponsored the research.
“However, small businesses are an important part of the economy and increasing their capacity to learn and develop means they will be more resilient, able to grow quicker and create employment.”
Increasing awareness of the benefits of training is another factor to tackle. A lack of staff training in a firm can lead to a multitude of problems, including risks with employee safety, increased operating costs, reduced productivity, poor customer service and even reduced efficiency, all of which will eventually have a negative impact on the bottom line.
The problem often cited with the ambivalent attitude toward training is that it’s perceived as having a lack of visible return on investment. But this view needs to be changed and businesses need to realise that there are long-term benefits of investing now for the future. There is a growing recognition within the UK that on-the-job training is the most effective method of getting staff up-to-speed on tasks.
But there is help available to the smaller businesses, if only they knew where to look for it – the research also proved that they didn’t. It found that 70 per cent of companies had no idea that there were government schemes such as Sector Skills Councils or Train2Gain, for which their staff could be eligible for participation. Again, the smaller the business the less awareness there was of help.
Brian Wolfe, chairman of SBRT, points out why this is so damaging for business: “There must be serious concern that such a small proportion of small businesses seem to be aware of the opportunities for training provision now being backed by significant government funding through Train2Gain and other initiatives,” he says. “There is a real danger that larger businesses, with the infrastructure to access such provision, will reap most of the benefit, leaving small business requirements unrecognised.”