Are today’s small businesses stuck with employees who have yesterday’s skills?

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

According to a recent article on, HR executives indicate that their biggest challenge today is the skills gap, which seems to be widening instead of closing. A trend that is impacting the skills gap is the explosive growth in the use of technology. More and more employers see and are pained over the lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills in the current and future workforce. College curriculum is not aligning with needs of the job marketplace. About 70 percent of employers believe learning is required for employees just to keep up with their current jobs – especially true in the technology and healthcare fields.

It is imperative then, with today’s rapid pace of change, workers must continuously educate themselves in order to avoid stagnating the economy.

So, whose responsibility is it to curtail this inclination and close these gaps in workforce skills? You might say it is the education system or the employee’s job to keep their skills up to date and you are right on one level. But, there are definitely benefits to the employer to provide some of the continuing education or training to upgrade employee skills. Small businesses especially need to become more aware of new HR solutions to this problem.

What are the benefits to the employer who provides on-going education and skills training? Let’s look at just these four:

  1. Increase in creativity, skills and income for the employees.
    When employees are provided with the opportunity to learn something new to make their jobs easier and more relevant to the business, they are likely to stay longer in their job. A Lifelong Education and Labor Market Needs study proposes that continuing education increases both employee income and business productivity. About 96 percent of employers said continuing education improves the employee’s job performance and 87 percent said there is a positive impact on the pay scale because employees can advance when employers factor education into promotion criteria.
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  3. Increase in the bottom line of the business.
    As employees become more skilled, they are able to apply their education to making the company money. Continuing education means you can have employees who are familiar with the latest innovations in your industry. They can help you apply these innovations to your processes so you can stay ahead of the competition and increase your profitability. Employees who are learning spend more time actively using their minds than employees who may have done the same job for years and basically complete their tasks by rote – boredom sets in rather quickly. The continuous education students may also perform tasks more quickly because they are energized and excited by trying their new ideas and skills. The time saved in production can add up quickly to money saved in wages. This can easily offset the cost of continuous education benefits to your employees.
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  5. Decrease in staff turnover.
    When a small business supports employee education for advancement, turnover costs are decreased because fewer outside hires are necessary – this also translates to money saved and efficiency increased. Employees value education benefits and understand that tuition reimbursement for specialized training enhances their marketability for the future and their promotability within the company. Education benefits demonstrate that the business values the employees and their future with the company. In a recent study conducted by Spherion, a staffing and employment firm, 61 percent of those responding who received training said they were likely to remain with their current employer at least for the next five years.
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  7. Identification as an employer of choice.
    Over the last number of years, companies have downsized, restructured and pushed people to work harder than ever before…leaving workers feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated and disengaged. Current market pressures are creating a need for businesses to become more innovative and to grow. The power is shifting as high-performing employees begin to exert greater control over their careers. Companies that can’t attract, engage and retain the right talent will lose out. By providing on-going educational opportunities and benefits such as tuition reimbursement, your small business will become identified as an “employer of choice” giving you an edge in the talent market.

Recently I came across a comment by a graphic designer who was responding to some points in an article on employee training. His parting words were, “I find I have no sense of loyalty to an employer that invests nothing in me as a professional. If I invest my own funds in the software and train myself on my own time, I don’t really care whether my current employer reaps any benefits or not.”

If that does not convince you of the importance of providing continuing education for your employees, you will probably find your business in a downward trajectory, employing people with yesterday’s skills in today’s fast-moving economy.

If your employees are asking for skills training and you are beginning to think about how to implement a program, but don’t know where to start, we may have some HR solutions that will get you thinking and moving in the right direction. Contact us to begin the conversation.

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Guest bloggers for the TDS Business Blog.

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