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How to upskill your workforce without breaking the bank

Want to train up your staff but unsure where to start? We’ve identified five ways you can upskill your employees while keeping an eye on your start-up’s finances.

Regardless of the size of the business, employee training can be one of the first things to be cut if money needs to be saved or redirected.

For start-ups, tight budgets and financial restraints can make upskilling employees an even greater challenge.

Budgets may need to be carefully managed, so it can seem a difficult decision to invest in your employees in a way that is both cost-effective and has a meaningful impact.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend all your budget on expensive in-depth training courses to help develop employee skills.

Free or cheap online training, government support and approaches such as workplace shadowing can be used together to offer a practical, blended approach to learning and development.


Want to learn more about managing and leading staff?

Discover more about managing people with our free Managing and managing people course opens in new window, with teaches you managerial effectiveness, the skills required and how to develop management skills. As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans opens in new window partnership with The Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.


Why is training important?

Learning and development isn’t reserved for established businesses or large corporations.

Small start-ups often have to juggle a range of tasks – from marketing and bookkeeping.

Your start-up may also use a range of tools, such as marketing software or gardening equipment, that also need safety and usage training.

Training staff from the outset can be beneficial.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development opens in new window, skills development in the workplace is essential to support business competitiveness and flexibility to meet changing demands.

Providing training for employees creates a ‘virtuous cycle’.

Workers feel valued if you invest in their skills, and as a result, your start-up may benefit from new knowledge as well as a lower staff turnover rate.

Other benefits of upskilling employees may include:

  • Increased employee morale.
  • Higher levels of productivity.
  • Improved acquisition of new employees.
  • Increased customer satisfaction due to stronger employee skill sets.
  • Competitive advantage through a more productive and capable workforce.


How to upskill staff on a budget

While there are various training options available, they can vary in price.

Professionally accredited courses, on-site teaching and multi-day training sessions can quickly chalk up costs.

There are cheaper alternatives, with eLearning and access to training schemes and services to upskill staff without the cost.

It’s worth knowing that some training is a legal requirement.

This is training that is required to allow an employee to safely and effectively carry out their duties.

Legally required training will depend on your industry sector but can include training for manual handling, fire safety, food safety and safe handling of dangerous or toxic substances such as hair treatment chemicals in a hairdressing business.

Look for online training that is IOSH Approved opens in new window.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (ISOH) is the Chartered body for safety and health professionals that accredits training courses to ensure they meet professional standards, and IOSH is regulated by Ofqual opens in new window.

Here are five ways you can train staff on a budget.


1. Work shadowing or mentoring

Using existing employee know-how and expertise is a cost-efficient, accessible way of training recruits and assisting in learning and development.

Existing staff may have job-specific skills as well as soft skills such as team management and communication that they can pass on.

Providing employees with a degree of formal training allows them to share that knowledge with newer employees.

Training a few key employees and then encouraging them to train others within the business can be a cost-effective way to cascade learning across a business.

Shadowing and mentoring allows recruits to see skills in action and experience real-time, structured, on-the-job training.

At the same time, existing employees can grow their training and development skills further.


2. Free or cheap eLearning courses

The growing availability of eLearning courses has allowed workers to build and consolidate skills in the way and at a time that suits them.

Many free or low-cost courses can offer access to helpful information for businesses on a budget.

Usually held online and accessed on-demand, training can be provided during less busy times, with employees able to start, pause and continue training sessions.

Some online tools include access to product training materials and training courses on business topics such as marketing and data analysis.

Check what training is offered with any professional tools or platforms that you purchase.

Other offerings, such as Learn with Start Up Loans opens in new window, Coursera opens in new window and Google Digital Garage opens in new window have free courses available for different aspects of the business development process, from bookkeeping to marketing.


3. Join a small business membership organisation

Small business organisations are a great way to get help tailored for start-ups and small businesses.

Many offer skills training and advice and provide members with content and events.

Organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses opens in new window, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development opens in new window and the British Chambers of Commerce opens in new window all offer memberships to give small businesses access to skills training and qualifications.

While membership can be costly, it can be a way to give employees access to accredited industry experts.

Many organisations have a library of resources that can also help develop employee knowledge.


4. Access government support

The National Careers Service opens in new window (NCS) is a government service that can point you towards skills training and courses that can accredit your employees and help them progress in their careers.

Covering industries from animal welfare to beauty services to IT, the NCS provides skills training for job hunters and the employed. Its Skills Toolkit provides individuals with practical skill development, such as digital and numeracy, across various levels.

All of the courses listed are free.


5. Negotiate value for money

Depending on the training required, sometimes paying for it is unavoidable.

With a tight budget, deciding which training offers the best value for money can, however, be difficult.

Rather than sending employees off on external training courses, investigate what in-house training courses are available from smaller training providers or consultants.

Not only will these tend to be cheaper, but they can also be more flexible, tailoring the training to your specific business needs.

Rather than sifting through generic lessons after the training, your staff can then apply their new knowledge directly to their work.

Look for training providers who offer a group discount when booking for more than one or two employees.

Learn with Start Up Loans and help your business get off the ground.


Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with The Open University on sustainability in the workplace.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on climate and sustainability, teamwork, entrepreneurship, mental health and wellbeing.


This article and the content provided therein is exclusively for informative purposes. Nothing in this article or in its contents is intended to provide advice of any kind (including legal, financial, tax or other professional advice) and should not be relied on as such. You should get professional or specialist advice before doing anything on the basis of the content contained in this article.

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