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Stay competitive by investing in your greatest asset – your employees

With increased demands placed on today’s workforce and the constant need to adapt core skillsets, training and development is top of mind with businesses. Investing in employee growth has evolved from a consideration to a vital attraction and retention tool, with 80 per cent of new hires expecting training and development as a condition of employment.

According to the quarterly American Express Small Business Monitor released in May 2012, nine in 10 small business owners believe well-trained employees are the key to a company’s success. However, 61 per cent say the average member of today’s workforce doesn’t have the level of skills or knowledge their company needs to succeed.

So how do you address the skills gap and stay competitive? Make employee growth a budgetary priority and focus on areas that have the greatest potential to increase your bottom line. In the past two years, SBOs have reported job-specific technical skills (52%) as their primary source of training, followed closely by company specific knowledge/skills (49%) and sales (34%). Which area offers the highest return on investment? According to 67 per cent of small business owners, it’s company-specific knowledge and skills training.

If you’re looking to increase your company’s investment in training and development, you’re not alone. Such initiatives are poised to become a larger budgetary focus for small businesses. While they spend an average of eight per cent of their revenue on training and development, small business owners expect to spend more – an average increase of 7.5 per cent over the next two years.

While it’s clear that employees value training – 74% of small businesses report their employees want more training and development – increased demands on time can be a challenge. Nearly half (43%) of businesses surveyed say their employees claim they don’t have enough time to devote to training. Seeking ways to create time efficiencies for your employees, scheduling time for mandatory training or incorporating skills development into your performance review program can ensure that your investment delivers real business value for you and drives engagement with your employees.

Before you develop or enhance your current training and development programs, plan ahead. Conduct a thorough review of your business needs. Survey your employees to test appetite and interest in the training areas you’ve identified as priorities. Ensure they have time for training – and if they don’t, give them the support they need. Investing time in analysis and planning upfront will ensure that you can make smart investments in your best competitive asset – your employees.