Are you investing in your most valuable asset?

One of the biggest issues affecting businesses and one that I hear about from companies of all sizes and sectors regularly is skills shortage.

A company’s biggest asset is the people within it. They make it function every day and I find it unbelievable that many firms don’t see investment in their staff as an important driver for business growth and improving productivity.

The issue of skills has been raised by our member companies in our last few Quarterly Economic Surveys (QES). The results of the last QES, which were released in January, showed that while 91% of services and 81% of manufacturing respondents said workforce had increased or remained the same during the final quarter of 2014, many firms are still operating below full capacity and, out of the 81% of manufacturing and 37% of service respondents who tried to recruit new employees, around 70% in both sectors experienced difficulties in finding staff with the appropriate skills.

A recent Workforce Survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed that 33% of UK businesses say they have a skills shortage in leadership and management. Other core skills firms found in short supply were planning and organisation, languages, computer literacy and creativity.

So what can be done about this? There are many cost effective, and even free, training courses, seminars and conferences out there that employers can take advantage of. The Chamber itself offers a wide range of business courses from management, IT and credit control to writing courses and creative thinking. We also run free 60 Minute Seminars, where our members present to a room and share their expert knowledge on key business topics. In fact, we are running two of these free seminars – which are open to all – at our March business exhibition in Kettering. These seminars will be Marketing on a Shoestring and Making the Most of PR.

Aside from external training, much can be done in-house too. Something as small as keeping staff motivated can reap rewards as they are enthusiastic to learn from colleagues or even read up on areas they lack knowledge in their free time. Taking time to apply for something like Investors in People accreditation will demonstrate to employees that, as a company, you put people and their development first and, as part of the accreditation process, you will receive advice and tips on how to improve business performance through your people.

On Tuesday I attended the CIPD conference on Engaging Employees for Success, which explored the demands put on employees in a company and the wider economy and how to ensure that employees remained engaged. It also looked at the power of employee contribution in an organisation.

Businesses that invest in training can drive higher productivity and increase profits. Investment in leadership and other core skills are crucial to enhance strategic thinking, foster innovation and motivate a firm’s employees and I would encourage Northants businesses to consider the potential return on the investment of training. It could be fundamental to your business.

Chamber members receive a substantial discount on all training courses. We can also create a bespoke course for companies through our Tailor Made Training service. For more information on training and seminars contact Linda Carter on 01604 490490 or

Chamber members can also benefit for a 10% discount when they go through the Investors in People accreditation process. For more information, call 01604 490490.

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