Training must take priority for business development

Irish Companies Must Commit to Development of Staff to Remain Competitive

During the lean years of the recession, many non-essential activities of small businesses had to take a backseat. While Irish SMEs battened down the hatches, we were truly in survival mode. Training was seen as a luxury that short-staffed design, print and packing firms could not afford. Often operating with smaller teams than usual, releasing staff for a two day course at a time and resource expense to the company was too big an ask.

This contraction in training has resulted in teams all over the country who may be operating on skills which were last updated over a decade ago. In a rapidly changing labour market, this poses significant risk for your company’s competitiveness in the marketplace.

We are acutely aware in this sector of the rapid pace of change when it comes to technology. The design, print and packing sectors are heavily reliant on technology, and have been leading the way for other sectors in its continual change and growth. In the design, print and packing industry, technological advances and new trends have developed significantly in the past ten years, which may have left a considerable gap in your company’s capacity and offering to clients.

The recent evolutions in the print industry have been dramatic, with a reduction in printing of ‘staples’ such as annual reports, and an increase in short runs and customisation. 3D printing is becoming more mainstream and brands will be looking for ways to jump on this bandwagon. In graphic design, we’re seeing annual evolutions in trends and a significant increase in digital design. Content marketing in particular provides a big business opportunity for design firms who are skilled in this area. In the print and packing industries, software is continuously evolving and automating – the packing industry is particularly automation-focused; and your teams will need to diversify their skills to remain relevant and in line with industry progress.

In addition to industry-specific training, it is important to consider what wider skills gaps your business may have. Leadership and management as well as customer service and innovation are areas which are particularly in-demand across many industries.

So – how do you as a business owner address what your training needs are and start to invest time and resources into ensuing your staff are highly skilled?

First, we recommend you conduct a simple ‘skills audit’ with your teams. A short questionnaire can quickly identify areas where your team identify needs for improvement and retraining. Your team will often be acutely aware of their own training needs and areas where they need to upskill from being on the ground with client requirements.

The next step is to examine the marketplace and ensure your identified skills shortages are reflective of the in-demand skills in the industry. A quick google search of your competitors will show what services they are offering and promoting. Have a look on LinkedIn and see what kind of skills and training your competitors staff have. If they have new hires – what are their skills and background? You can also look at companies in the UK, US and other jurisdictions to give a global sense of the industry trends and developments. This quick desk research project can be really illuminating in terms of setting a direction for your training.

Finally, the Design, Print and Packing Skillnet can advise you on how to access funded and subsidised training which is leading edge, accessible and industry-focused. We will help you to determine what training needs are most acute, and match up your team with the training courses we offer.

Not only will training your teams improve your offering for clients and ensure your business is at the leading edge of industry developments, it will also re-energise your team. In addition, with labour markets heating up across the board, companies will need to do more in order to attract quality staff. Offering regular, industry-led training opportunities can often be more of a draw than a bigger salary, so consider what the overall package is when hiring in your company. Small businesses often report the unforeseen impact of a team who, when offered much-needed training, return with a renewed commitment and new ideas and innovations.

Training your staff will have both short and long term benefits – your company will be current, leading edge and up to date with the latest industry developments – which will make a difference for your clients as well as your bottom line. You’ll be more competitive within your sector, as well as helping to increase Ireland’s competitiveness in the global marketplace -the most recent Competitiveness Scorecard for Ireland noted that facilitating workplace innovation and delivering an uplift in management skills is vital for our competitiveness. And finally, your staff retention rates will be higher, your teams will be more committed and energised, and your business will be a more attractive place to work.