The cost of running a company with employees lacking in business skills is vast, and finding staff with the right skillset in the first place can be a Herculean task. It pays to invest in professional development, and to develop the skills of your existing staff. Here’s why:

The Open University’s Business Barometer found that 90% of UK employers have found it difficult to recruit workers with the required skills. Businesses have spent £527 million inflating salaries above the market rate in order to attract talent to their sector.

Seven in ten businesses believe they will struggle to hire people with the right skills in the next 12 months, the survey finds, while 58% said the current skills shortage had damaged their organisation.

There are ongoing costs caused by the skills gap, too. For 75% of employers, recruitment takes an average of 54 days longer than expected, forcing many to hire temporary staff at an annual cost of £1.7 billion.

Commenting on the findings, Open University External Engagement Director Steve Hill said:

“The UK challenge of finding talent with the right skills means that businesses need to look at recruitment, development and retention differently. Now faced with a shrinking talent pool, exacerbated by the uncertainties of Brexit, it is more important that employers invest in developing their workforce.”

Staff and managers with the right business skills are essential to the running of a company, but it’s an amorphous term that can cover a lot of ground, so we’ll break it down into top skills for managers, and top skills for staff.

The top business skills for managers

Whether you’re a seasoned manager or are new to the role, you’ve likely earned the position because of your talents. But that doesn’t mean there’s not more to learn – there is always room for improvement and professional development! There are a few key business skills that a manager should have in their arsenal:

  • Good quality monitoring and administration. A good manager is one who is not intrusive and actually makes it easier for staff to do their jobs. Keeping track of who is working on what, whether that’s with popular software packages like Trello or Asana, can prevent overlapping or redundant, repetitive work. Better administration also means better work prioritisation and better direction of resources. When staff don’t feel like there is a strong hand at the wheel, they are more likely to get frustrated with doing the same work.
  • Being available as a mentor, and a leader. It’s a truism in business that the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask. But when staff don’t know who to turn to, resentment can fester over time, and potential firestorms can emerge from even the most easily-solved issues. Developing leadership and management skills is essential.
  • Taking responsibility for your team’s learning and progress. Investing in your team is the best way to show them that you care not just about immediate business priorities, but about the group as a whole getting better going forward. Spending time to identify staff weak spots, whether that’s in specific technical skills that need certification, or softer skills like communication, and offering up business training courses, can bear fruit down the line. Show your team that you’re invested in their personal development, and you’re more likely to be repaid with quality work.

The top business skills for staff

The best business training courses will be able to refresh your skills, fill in any glaring gaps in your knowledge, advise you of current evidence-backed trends in your sector, and pack a lot of learning into a short space of time.

When looking to train your staff or get them involved in CPD accredited programs, keep these skills in mind.

  • Stay in a learning frame of mind. Being eager to refresh old skills or learn new ones may seem pretty simple, but it’s vital – especially now that the pace of change means that all our careers will alter dramatically between school and retirement!

Staff will often have to cover absences, upskill themselves on the job and sometimes switch the entire focus of their learning to a new field. A team that stops being willing to learn is one that will become static and potentially complacent.

  • Work to make strong relationships. People skills are crucial for a strong career in any industry. Whether you’re delegating tasks or receiving instruction, teamwork means allowing for different personalities and different approaches.
  • Analyse and solve problems. A lot of us face tough situations in our day-to-day for which there is no manual, or how-to checklist – especially when it comes to management. Being able to remain positive, think clearly about breaking down a problem into its constituent parts and solve it on the fly will make you a much-desired employee and respected leader, with business skills which will translate to any opportunity or problem you may face.

Lessons learned

Now that you’ve got an idea of the skills you should be developing in yourself and your team, you’ve got to find a way to foster them. Online learning is a fantastic alternative to in-person training for its ability to fit around existing schedules.

Developing new skills is no easy task, and it helps to have the ability to revisit course material as often as you need to, bolstering confidence and refreshing the knowledge you’ve gained. E-learning makes this possible, increasing student engagement and retention of the lessons learned.

Find your way into the 42 percent of UK employers that don’t let a skills gap damage their business, and invest in the team you’ve already got.

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