Rebooting your business through skills

Strategies, training and procedural efficiencies will be key to getting businesses back on to a sound footing after Covid-induced disruption. Corrina Hembury, managing director of Access Training, which provides apprenticeship training and traineeships in the East Midlands, explains how companies can achieve this.

Lockdown, however unwanted, has offered many the time to reflect on how they do business. Is their way of working the most

productive? Does there need to be a change to their business strategy, albeit a subtle one? Do they have the right skills in the business to adapt to and capitalise on market conditions that will undoubtedly become more competitive? As we slowly emerge from this

seismic economic event, the most robust companies will be those who understand that what worked in the past may not continue to work in the future.

POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON TRAINING Findings from East Midlands Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey, published in June, offer some stark predictions. More than half of respondents in our region indicated they do not expect to return to the same levels of commercial activity within the next 18 months. Over a third have already reported a reduction in headcount. On a more positive note, however,

25% of respondents expect to increase their investment in staff training as a means of responding to reduced turnover and profitability. Recognising the importance of training is a reflection that

sometimes it’s the small, incremental changes to a business that can make all the difference. Now is perhaps not the time to

throw resource into a whole new business strategy, model, products or markets; rather, what is needed is a measured assessment of how the existing foundations of the business can be built upon.

REFINING, NOT REPLACING, EXISTING BUSINESS MODELS Three key areas to consider when assessing your current ways of working: 1. Is your team performance good enough? Your team may be motivated and doing good work. In essence, there’s nothing really that requires “fixing”. But good work alone is not enough to do well over the next 12 to 18 months. And, if you’re in the unfortunate

position where redundancies are a very real prospect, how can you be sure that performance won’t drop either as a result of increased workload or loss of skills among those who remain? What can make the difference

between a good and stellar team performance is strong leadership. It’s this leadership that will help to carry your business out of “low gear” and firmly into recovery.

Particularly in small businesses,

however, staff are often promoted to a supervisory or management role with little experience of leading a team or measuring performance. Even when that’s not the case,

experienced team leaders and managers may now find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of leading a culture change, managing a remote team or motivating team members who remain unsettled by a recent redundancy process. Your role is to give your leaders

the tools needed to fulfil any new or evolving expectations.

2. Does your customer engagement have a commercial focus? Can you be confident that your approach to customer engagement maximises every commercial opportunity? Whether that be retaining them

as a customer at their current levels or uncovering a need for additional products or services? Do all your staff understand what

excellent customer service looks like? Happy customers are what every business strives for, but customer happiness does not always equate to profitable business. Putting in place a clear customer

services strategy allows you to gather and analyse data to improve services for the future.

It also gives you the best chance

of consistently achieving a win-win for both customer and business.

3. Are your business processes as efficient as they could be? Thinking about the day-to-day activities undertaken across your organisation, how efficient would you say they are? How often do you find the business “reinventing the wheel”? Colleagues creating something

from scratch – whether that be a proposal document, responding to a client query or tracking down data from different places to assess performance? Tasks that you know could be done so much more quickly if you had the right structures and protocols in place.

APPRENTICESHIPS’ ROLE IN IMPROVING BUSINESS PERFORMANCE Training existing members of staff through the pathway of an apprenticeship may not seem an obvious choice to accelerate your business performance. But one of the key benefits of

apprenticeship training is that it provides a framework to implement tried and tested processes and procedures across departmental and operations management, business administration and customer service.

Free mentoring support for local SME owners

Small business owners in the East Midlands can receive mentoring support for free as they aim to recover and thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Institute of Leadership & Management has teamed up with the Be the Business not-for-profit support service to run a 12-week rapid response advice programme.

Be the Business has 300 fully-

trained and experienced mentors available to support individuals as they respond to the crisis. They come from a range of the

UK’s top small businesses, as well as blue-chip firms including BAE Systems, Lloyd, GSK, John Lewis, KPMG and Siemens. The advisers can offer one-to-

one support across a range of issues, including scenario planning, finance, HR and staffing, supply chains and change management. The Institute said the

Government-backed programme is ideally suited to SMEs that have a minimum of five staff and a turnover of at least £500,000.

Mentors are matched with the

specific needs and objectives of the business owner, and 12 weekly sessions will be held by phone, Zoom or in person if it is safe and convenient.

For more information, visit response-mentoring

business network August/September 2020 59

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