How to boost your business with well thought-out training in summary:

  • Keeping staff skills up-to-date is vital for any business that wants to expand and out-perform its competitors. But how can this be done effectively?
  • To ensure training remains effective at your business, audit your current competencies and talk to people about what they want from their training.
  • Also, think widely about development, and evaluate your methods and results often.

It looks as though the chronic skills shortage here in the UK is only getting worse: with data revealing 4 in 5 businesses are still struggling to fill talent gaps.

This data comes from ManpowerGroup’s annual Talent Shortage survey, and it makes grim reading for organisations desperately seeking talent. The research has found four fifths (80%) of UK businesses are reporting persistent difficulty filling jobs, a rate more than double the pre-pandemic high of 35% in 2019.

Yet, despite the obvious scarcity of talent, it appears many organisations are reigning in their learning, development and training spending. For example, research by the CBI has revealed the proportion of firms intending to increase investment in training and development over the next year has fallen (38% compared with 53% in 2021).

How to boost your business with well thought-out training Cezanne HR Blog

The fact that businesses are being cautious with their spending – despite the obvious skills shortages – perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise. Aside from the budgetary demands and potential staff time away from work, there’s always that nagging worry that your newly-trained employees will take their new-found skills and head off into the sunset. Often, in the direction of another, usually larger employer who can afford to pay them more!

But, keeping staff skills up-to-date is, however, vital for any business that wants to expand and out-perform its competitors.

So, what’s the best way for HR to put together a strong business case for well thought-out training and make sure development pays dividends for the company?

Understand what skills the business needs

In a turbulent business environment, the skills you need today will not necessarily be the skills you need tomorrow. Yes, of course it is important to address any current, urgent skills gaps that are hampering performance. But, it’s equally important to look ahead and predict what qualities and competencies the business will need from its people in the future.

Talk to senior managers and get a sound understanding of where the business is heading and whether this will require new or updated skills. It’s worth looking around at what’s happening in your wider industry sector, too. This will give you an understanding of what trends are emerging and how competitors are reacting to changes in the market.

The most effective well thought-out training, learning and development plans are those that are closely aligned to the business strategy and flexible enough to adapt quickly if the market moves and priorities change.

Click here to download our free guide on how to create the perfect employee learning programme

Audit current competencies

Pulling together and analysing information about who you’ve got and what they are capable of can be an enlightening experience.  Ideally, the business should have this information safely housed in its HR software system. But, it’s surprising how few businesses actually look at the data they have or make efforts to keep it up-to-date.

The latest HRIS technology makes it easy to collect and manage this data – and drilling down into it is definitely worthwhile.  You may find, for example, that you have employees with valuable skills developed in their past career which are not being put to good use in their current role.

It’s also worth looking at skills employees may have gleaned from an outside interest or voluntary work. These may not have been relevant at the time you employed them; but, may well become useful as the business develops.

If you have a clear understanding of the competencies and skill sets that already exist within the business, you will be able to identify and fill any gaps much more effectively.

Talk to people

Of course it’s not just about the skills your people have – it’s also about their potential and their aspirations.

Talking to people about their ambitions, how they see their career developing and what skills they would like to develop should be an important part of any performance management process. It’s no good developing people for a job they don’t want to do or training them in skills needed by a particular team if they are more interested in learning about the work of another department.

Regular, good quality conversations between managers and their people will ensure that the right development is targeted at the right people – and that employee aspirations are matched with business needs.  The latest performance management software provides a central place to record the details of these conversations – and to make sure that any development that’s agreed actually takes place.

Think widely about development

Once the business is clear about it’s development priorities, the next stage is to think carefully about what kind of training will be most effective and also feasible within the budget.  Lack of funds is often a barrier to training in any business – but it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Many formal training providers have adjusted their offering in the light of difficult economic times and are now developing shorter and more cost-effective programmes.  Look at bringing costs down by joining forces with another SME with similar development needs and investigate if there are any government or industry-subsidised training programmes you could take advantage of.

Some of the most effective forms of well thought-out training are cost-free or very low cost.  Try job swaps, shadowing or allow employees to ‘step up’ while a senior colleague is away on holiday. Organise lunch time ‘learning bites’ where experienced employees share their knowledge with others and encourage senior staff to mentor and coach those at earlier stages of their careers.

Reverse mentoring – where younger employees mentor more senior staff – can also be a really effective development tool.  It’s a great way, for example, of helping older managers get to grips with areas like social media and can be a real breeding ground for innovative ideas.


Make sure the training strategy you put together has clear goals and that you have thought about how to measure progress.  Training is notoriously difficult to evaluate but you can put some markers down to help you assess how effective development interventions have been.

You could consider monitoring if there is an increase in sales after a marketing training course, for example, or whether employee engagement has improved after a management development programme.

Anecdotal feedback from clients or customer satisfaction ratings can also be useful measures, depending on the nature of your business. Ideally, a good quality LMS that’s integrated with your HR software can make evaluating your efforts much easier by giving you all the data you need all in the one place.

Make sure you share the results of your evaluations and talk about successes with the senior management team so that they can see the investment has been worthwhile – and to encourage them to allocate a bigger budget next time round!

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Author bio

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.

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