Last updated: 22.09.14

SMEs 'regaining appetite for staff training and development'

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are once again seeking to invest in staff training, thanks to the ongoing economic recovery.

This is according to a recent study commissioned by HR software firm breatheHR, which polled 1,000 employees working for British SMEs and found that 58 per cent of respondents now feel their employer is taking their personal development seriously.

By contrast, this figure stood at only 52 per cent 12 months ago, showing this is a concern that is being treated as an increasingly important priority. Moreover, the study also indicated that 42 per cent of workers now have a structured personal development plan in place, up by eight percentage points compared to last year.

When asked whether they spoke regularly to their employers about training and development issues, 35 per cent of respondents said they had done so in the past six months, which is slightly up on the 34 per cent figure recorded in 2013. 

Generally speaking, the study also indicated that male staff tend to be more engaged with these issues than their female counterparts, which is a reversal from the gender breakdown revealed last year.

According to the report, these findings suggest that many companies are realising that training and development are essential to keeping staff feeling motivated and engaged. However, a large percentage of SMEs are still not investing as much into these key functions as perhaps they should.

This is partly because many bosses made cutbacks in this area during the lean years following the recession, but Jonathan Richards, chief executive of breatheHR, observed that skimping on training could ultimately be counterproductive.

He said: "While cutting back on personal development may seem like the right thing to do in these circumstances, in reality training and mentoring can still be provided on a skeletal budget, using internal resources and knowledge held within the company."

It could be particularly important to spend time and money on these functions given that the UK is currently in the midst of a skills shortage, possibly making it harder for companies to attract external talent than to develop it from within.