SME upskilling: Top 5 areas you need to focus on.

The world has changed greatly over the past few years, and businesses, SMEs included, need to upskill to keep pace. So where should SME business owners be focusing resources when it comes to learning and development? Find out now.

SME upskilling

Close to 7 out of 10 SME owners in Singapore say they need more training resources and support for upskilling, according to a recent study by NTUC LearningHub[1]. As a major pillar of the Singapore economy, SMEs must be proactive in upskilling themselves and creating workplace opportunities that attract top talent. To help you do just that, here are five key areas that SME owners need to focus on in the new normal.

1. Adopt digital solutions

The widespread shift to digital is creating new opportunities for SMEs, so by investing in the right solutions you can look forward to better productivity while your staff can enjoy more streamlined daily tasks.

Using a centralised cloud-based platform, for example, can bring together multiple software solutions into one system—such as accounting, client management, internal communication, and more. That makes it easier for staff to switch between tasks and ensures all your business-critical data is accessible from a single platform.

SME owners who want to future-proof their business are also exploring the value of advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, particularly those that automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks[2]. That allows you and your staff to spend more time focusing on what’s most important: building up and growing the business.

2. Robust training programmes

In order to make the most of the new normal, you need to make sure you and your staff are adaptable to change. Getting buy-in for new work processes or new technologies can be difficult without a culture of constant learning, but you can start to create this by focusing on upskilling and training.

In the new digital age, advanced technologies will surely be an integral part of the workplace—but without proper training in how to use them, all you’ll end up with is wasted time and a return to old, inefficient ways of working. Just as it’s important to invest in new digital tools and collaborative technologies, you also need to make sure you are investing enough into your people. Incorporating regular training and upskilling sessions into your business will help develop a culture that enables your staff to be more confident in their work and more proactive about adopting new digital solutions.

3. Better communication tools

Especially in a digital-first work environment, good communication is essential. With clear and effective communication from the leadership down, your staff can trust in your forward planning and feel comfortable asking questions when they need guidance. But as hybrid work has been integrated into the fabric of the modern workplace, [3]many SME owners will need to adopt digital communication tools.

The good news is that there’s a wide range of digital tools that can improve your business communications. From videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, to online collaboration platforms like Monday and Slack, to cloud-based brainstorming solutions—there is no reason why you can’t have even better communication with your team in a digital environment.

4. Financial literacy

While government grants and COVID-19 relief kept many SMEs afloat during the pandemic, it is now back in the hands of business owners to ensure cash flow remains steady. The new normal has seen a clear switch to more digital-focused operations. That means businesses must be able to estimate the amount of money required for system upgrades, digital transformations, changes to the physical office (i.e. to support remote and hybrid workers), and any payroll changes due to scaling the business up or down.

SME owners can upskill their own financial literacy by speaking to the money experts they already know. Accountants, financial planners, advisors and especially the company’s financial officer—these individuals can all be extremely helpful in enhancing your financial knowledge and putting together strong plans for the future of your SME.

5. Crisis planning

Prior to the pandemic, adequate crisis planning was more of an afterthought for SMEs. While most human resources (HR) departments would have created a document that outlined the steps to take in the event of a crisis—from a major cyberattack to an economic downturn—very few could have predicted the disruption of a global pandemic.

Moving forward, SME owners need to work with senior management, HR and other departments in order to develop the most robust crisis-planning documents possible. That due diligence should extend past just one backup plan, and include multiple courses of action depending on different challenges. SME owners must build out their skill set to be able to lead well when the next crisis strikes.

Visit The SME Academy page to participate in both offline and online classes run by leading industry experts. Each class has been designed for business owners and decision-makers, to help you build essential capabilities at every stage of your SME journey.


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