Small Business Toolkit: Online Learning Resources

Small Business Toolkit: Online Learning Resources

Using e-learning and staff training services is becoming more and more important for businesses. Here's how to update the skills of your workforce with online learning.

By David Howell

According to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the UK lies fourth from bottom on the EU league table when it comes to participation in job-related adult learning, with evidence showing a marked deterioration since 2007.

Business owners have understood for decades that their staff are their company’s most precious asset and that staff retention is an important growth factor, therefore it’s vital that the skills available across an enterprise are kept up-to-date and relevant. As a result, staff training, e-learning, and business training must be at the top of every entrepreneur’s agenda for the development of their business.

Accessing the right training is vital to the future prosperity of all businesses. Creating an ongoing program of training across your company not only updates the skills your staff have today but also prepares them for the ever-changing business environment. 

Showing your staff that you value them and want to keep them (and their skills) over the long term is also a great way to build loyalty and trust, as a workforce wants to have confidence that their employers want to retain them and offer a structured learning path to support their career development.

Helping people learn

The concern that their organisation won’t be able to compete in the near future without radical shifts in training and knowledge was one of the key conclusions of PwC’s 20th CEO survey. This anxiety can be easily alleviated though, as there is a myriad of training opportunities ready and waiting to be taken advantage of.

Becoming what Peter Senge called a ‘learning organisation’, where successful businesses are built around people and learning, is more relevant today than it has ever been, as businesses strive to digitise and embrace agile working practices. Learning and training are now vital components of what a successful business looks like today.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser for the CIPD and co-author of the report ‘Making the UK’s Skills System World Class’ concluded:

While more efforts are being made to reform education, it’s clear that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on learning and development in the workplace.

That's all well and good, but what benefits will it actually bring to your business? Placing training and skills development at the foundation of your business can deliver:

The landscape across which a business needs to trade is constantly shifting. Ensuring your business has the skills to develop the products and services consumers will want is a commercial imperative.

The future is nothing if not uncertain. To ensure your business continues to run smoothly, your staff may need new skills to remain productive and efficient.

Replacing a member of staff could cost thousands of pounds. Offering a training path that is relevant and offers career progression will ensure your staff turnover is low.

As all businesses are in competition to attract the best people, one of the key differentiators when candidates choose a role will be what kind of training and skills enhancement they can expect. 

Ultimately, developing a training program across your business is more important than ever, and the skills needed within successful businesses are constantly moving. Understanding how your business should trade and across which market sectors will lead you to the right training platforms.

Spic and <Span>
Spic and <Span>:

Learning basic coding skills can save your business time and money on outsourcing minor tasks to developers.

Choosing courses

The internet has become an easily-accessible environment for learning, with courses available in every conceivable subject. The ability to access these courses from anywhere at any time makes e-learning ideal for today’s time poor small businesses. 

Using e-learning can deliver a number of advantages:

There are many different e-learning service providers, but some focus on a different field of study;

Writing code

Programming skills have never been more in demand. You can outsource these skills, but if your staff have a general level of coding skills, you could see more cohesive communication between teams. Having staff learn even basic levels of HTML, CSS, PHP and JavaScript (which the majority of today’s websites and digital platforms are based on) could help you save money on development, especially minor tasks that could be completed in-house. Course providers include:

CodeAcademy
Udemy

Code Avengers

Language

With advancements in technology, transport and infrastructure, the opportunity for businesses to trade in foreign markets has never been better. In particular, burgeoning economies in the far east offer a tempting opportunity to UK exporters. However, working with foreign industries presents the challenge of overcoming the language barrier. Equipping your staff with new language skills, especially Mandarin, Hindustani, Spanish and Arabic could directly benefit your business’ ability to maintain relationships with overseas suppliers and buyers. Course providers include;

Babbel

Rosetta Stone

Duolingo

Business Skills

As your company evolves, the skills you need to manage and grow your business will also change. Using e-learning to gain the business skills you need is an ideal way to support the long-term sustainability of your enterprise. Course providers include:

LinkedIn Learning

Alison

Digital Business Academy

Marketing

Another benefit of rapidly-advancing technology is the constantly evolving landscape in which you can market your business to potential customers. However, with providers like Facebook and Google changing how businesses use their platform, especially in terms of data and advertising, and the incredible growth of mobile commerce, it’s crucial to keep abreast of new technologies and how to use them. Course providers include:

Coursera

HubSpot Academy

Udemy

Your staff training checklist

Developing an employee training program for your business takes planning, an understanding of what skills or training are needed, and how they should be delivered. Using e-learning services is a great way to offer training for a relatively low cost. Use this checklist to create your own bespoke training program:

1. Audit your team’s skills

You need to know what skills are missing from your business and to do that, you need to know the skills they already possess. Speak to your staff to gain and insight into the pressure points they feel, as this knowledge will lead you to the training that is needed.

2. Tailor your approach

No one learns at the same pace or in the same way. Matching the training needed to an individual’s needs will ultimately give you a better result than using the same training for everyone.

3. Make training flexible

One of the strengths of e-learning is its flexibility. Staff can learn when they have spare time, and organize their other responsibilities around their training schedules. Completion dates, however, should be agreed upon in advance, to ensure all courses are finished in a fixed time-frame.

4. Know your objectives

Training for training’s sake will almost always fail to deliver the results you expect. Think about what the training is for. Setting objectives (that are realistic) is also essential to ensure everyone knows why they are training and what level of outcome is expected.  

5. Track and analyze

It is important to track the progress of each person taking a course. This will enable you to identify if someone is having difficulty and on completion of the course assess the level of success. This is critical to see how paid courses give you a return on investment.


Making training a day-to-day part of your business will not only future-proof the skills your company possesses but, will also enable you to build a more agile team that values self-development. 

Training is about more than just learning something new, however. New skills often result in higher levels of staff retention, improved efficiency and a workforce that has high morale. In an uncertain business environment, the business with the most relevant skill base wins.