Cost is biggest barrier to training in small businesses

Small businesses cite cost as the main obstacle to providing training for their employees, with many opting for lower-cost training options such as guides or handbooks to aid staff development.

This is according to research from the Forum of Private Business (FPB), which found that cost was the main barrier to training in 61% of small businesses.

In addition, 40% of respondents said that the availability of training was a barrier; 28% identified the quality of courses as an obstruction; and 22% cited the time needed for training as an issue. As a result, 58% of small businesses admitted that their training focus was “not ideal”.

However, while some firms were doing their best to cope with the cost of training, more than one small business in 10 (11%) said that it provided no training at all for its workforce.

The FPB’s chief executive Phil Orford said: “For the sake of small businesses and the economy, it is important that small businesses are able to access the right training for their workforce at the right price.

“Unfortunately, while there have been some improvements recently, this is often not the case at present.”

The most popular forms of training provided by small businesses were: supplier training (48%); public-sector training provided by colleges or local authorities (41%); and services from trusted advisers such as accountants (38%).

However, the survey also found that some small businesses were opting for more affordable training options, such as the use of guides or handbooks (used at 22% of firms) and “DIY training”, which included the use of industry tips (used at 24%).

Shaun Thomson, UK chief executive of training company Sandler Training, argued that employers should look at the return on investment (ROI) of staff training before dismissing it as an extra expense.

“Training should be regarded as an investment rather than a cost – there should be a clear ROI expectation set at the start, so that a small business knows the benefit of the return outweighs the initial investment,” said Thomson.

“The best type of training reinforces behavioural change, to drive the business bottom line and enable the worker to keep adding value to the business. Opting for one-stop-shop guides and self-help videos is a false economy, which could be the undoing of a small business in the long term.”

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