Can digital skills training help SMEs “do more with less”?

Employer, Insights

| Reading time - 5 mins

Do more with less. It’s a phrase circulating around businesses of all sizes, becoming a mantra for those looking after workforce and budget strategies. Some companies are dispersing workplace responsibilities while they put recruitment on hold. Others are experiencing skills gaps due to digital transformation, finding themselves without the budget to train their teams and complete critical projects.

Although the future is looking positive and nearly half of SMEs are feeling more optimistic than they were in 2022, it doesn’t mean now is the right time to start doing more by increasing spending. Companies are rethinking their short-term strategies to minimise risk and protect both their people and their business for the long-term.

When it comes to a workforce, "doing more with less" doesn’t have to mean reducing headcount and scattering responsibilities to unqualified staff. Instead, employers should consider retaining and reskilling or upskilling team members through on-the-job training – training that is not only affordable but will allow colleagues to leverage digital technologies and help reduce both time and financial investments.

Leveraging more digital technologies to use less resources

Businesses are turning to technology to help them amid workforce and financial constraints. “Doing more with less means applying technology to amplify what you’re able to do across an organisation,” says Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO at Microsoft. This could look like:

  • Implementing data automation to free up manual time spent sifting through reports
  • Shifting from costly traditional advertising to organic digital marketing channels to enable business growth
  • Utilising AI to monitor first-line IT support enquiries, making IT Technicians available to focus on other tech priorities

Of course, businesses need staff with the right skills to implement, monitor and maintain these fundamental technologies. Rather than recruiting, employers can identify those in their workforce who are ready to learn new skills and train them through work-based programmes, such as digital apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can be tailored to the business, providing the employee with training on relevant technologies and processes.

Enabling staff with the skills to implement and use new tech can help them achieve more in their role, all the while helping protect a businesses’ bottom line – and not just through efficiency or productivity. Choosing digital apprenticeships for skills training is cost-effective for small businesses, meaning employers can save on technical training for their teams when it matters most.

Nurturing more employees to experience less attrition

It isn’t only technological and economic factors causing employers to do more with less. Societal expectations continue to affect businesses of all sizes, especially for SMEs retaining their staff.

People are spoiled for choice when reviewing their career options, especially in the tech industry. As a result, some businesses are facing higher levels of attrition and struggle to backfill roles; sometimes due to a competitive market and other times because financial cutbacks are affecting their workforce budget.

However, offering higher salaries isn’t the only solution to retaining staff, nor is it the best one. The CIPD state that "while the cost-of-living crisis is widespread, and competitive salaries are important to all employees, many are also looking for supportive working cultures [and] opportunities for career growth.”

A positive culture and development opportunities have become two of the top reasons people choose to stay with or leave a company. This should be an important consideration for SMEs experiencing high staff turnover, and especially for those working to protect against it.

Embedding clear development opportunities into workforce plans, such as apprenticeships, makes teams feel valued and empowered, fostering a positive work environment. Nurturing their development also improves loyalty, with those who complete work-based training more likely to stay and progress into more senior roles with their company – meaning businesses have less need to recruit. "Since starting my apprenticeship, my career goals and aspirations have significantly changed,” explains James, a Technical Sales apprentice. “I am now resolutely focused on progressing through learning to achieve more senior roles [within my company] as quickly as I can.”

Digital apprenticeships help employers do more with less

The UK’s resilient SME population is exploring new ways to protect and reinforce its workforce. And in a time of digital talent shortages and economic uncertainty, the practice of upskilling employees through funded apprenticeship training is a win-win.

Intequal is a digital and IT apprenticeship training provider helping tech SMEs upskill and retain their workforce. Contact us today to find out how tech apprenticeships could help your business do more with less.

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