Why startups need to upskill if they want to compete with larger companies

Employment & Skills | Reports

Written by Gabriela Hersham, CEO & Founder of Huckletree

In today’s business landscape, it’s fair to say that competition – in every respect – is at an all-time high. Whether it’s hiring and retaining the top talent in the field, or winning that next big pitch, startups in 2019 have to stand out to succeed.

It isn’t just having to face off competition from other bright young start-ups, but also outperforming the more established, and often better-resourced, larger businesses.

I’m going to talk about one way you can go about finding that unique ‘edge’, and that’s upskilling.

To me, that means making the career development – your own and that of your employees – a priority. Put simply, small businesses need to place greater value on ‘staying curious.’

Personally, I’m a firm believer that we are all on a lifelong mission to learn. Somewhere along the line it seems we’ve been taught to believe that learning stops when we leave school, or graduate university; in other words, when we exit the education system.

Once you enter the workplace, upskilling and career development is – for many businesses – not a priority. Training is often infrequent, and regularly seems to be done remotely via webinars or lengthy decks to wade through. For busy teams (I think that’s most of us!) it can be a challenge to find the time or motivation to give learning in this guise the attention it deserves.

I want to encourage businesses to flip this on its head, and make career development something that employees get excited about, and actually that should be non-negotiable.

Whether you’re a founder or an employee, or an entrepreneur just starting out; if you are part of a small business you have to wear many different hats. The luxury of having entire departments to look after every business need – be it HR, design or IT – is the preserve of large businesses. Small businesses have the challenge of doing more with less. And that means being becoming more robust, by developing the variety of skills you hold.

Furthermore, as technology becomes more and more a part of how business is done – regardless of the sector in which you operate – it’s crucial that teams can keep up with rapidly-shifting digital trends and tools. Yes, there are many resources available online to help you do this. But if you have practical, physical sessions in-house, it’s much easier to step away from your desk. Incorporate this into a consistent schedule of workshops and it becomes part of regular life, not just a one-off, easily-forgotten webinar.

Are you an employer? Let’s think also about the power of exciting, engaging learning opportunities to help you attract the brightest new talent. We are all, I believe, naturally curious. So how can we tap into that curiosity to make a vibrant, diverse learning programme something which is front and centre of your recruitment strategy? Competition for talent is fierce; offering employees regular opportunities to enhance their skills helps to both attract and retain the best hires.

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