10/04/2014

By Matt Pierce, Instructional Designer and Marketing Manager at TechSmith

The economic crisis had its impact on everyone, but it’s a well-known fact that small and medium sized enterprises were hit the hardest. At each turn SMEs have faced challenges that put their ability to thrive at risk, including pressures from the general economy, national and international issues, government pressures, and more.

After a number of years burdened with less money, less market demand and therefore a smaller workforce it was a relief to many when Chancellor George Osborne revealed in his 2015 Budget speech that in the last year the UK has grown faster than any other major advanced economy in the world.

While it’s true that large corporations have faced similar issues to SMEs in the last five years — such as taxation, security and training — they‘ve had to do so with access to fewer resources and on much tighter budgets. Despite the challenges, SMEs have played a critical role in the turnaround of the British economy, as revealed in a November 2014 report from Octopus Investments. The report showed that 68 percent of new jobs in the UK between 2012 and 2013 were at high growth small businesses (HGSBs).

However, while the rate improvement signals that relief is in sight, SMEs must find opportunities to overcome the challenges straightway if they want to continue operations for the long-term. Fortunately, many SME organizations are used to innovating and learning how to do more with less and pull up the bootstraps to continue progress. Whilst there are many potential areas of innovation, digital skills, employee learning and growth, are going to be key to future success.

Knowing the difference that a digitally skilled workforce can have on future business success, it can be worrying to see recent research showing that a third of small businesses are without basic online skills and 75 percent don’t invest any money in improving digital skills. SMEs cannot back down from investing in progress and renewing and enhancing their employee skill sets. However, there are several ways SMEs can achieve this goal with a small investment, including everything from digital skills taught online, to internal subject matter experts capturing their knowledge and sharing it with the rest of the organization. With a little out-of-the-box thinking, SMEs can move on to opportunities that their larger organizational counterparts will not be able to reach nearly as quickly, simply because they are more agile.

As Britain moves into a more stable economic era, it is also accelerating towards a digital era where it hopes to lead by example globally. Government tax relief and incentive support certainly eases the situation for SMEs, however small businesses are agile enough to take charge of upskilling themselves and carving out their own success.