Opinion: Futureproofing your business Is easier than you think

The second article in the Business Bites series brought to you by Lucia Barbato, CEO of Ilex Content Strategies, Co-Founder of the Corporate Ladies Club & Business Ambassador for Tangmere based charity, Dementia Support.

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The big business news this month was surely that the UK has now entered a period of recession. While the Bank of England forecasts that it will be mild and short, future proofing your business is always advisable. Embracing digital transformation is one way that SMBs can improve efficiencies and keep customers happy.

While it might sound intimidating, all it means is using technology for the benefit of your business. You may have already started this journey if you use tools such as Microsoft Teams, or backup your data in the cloud, or have adopted an accounting package such as Xero to help with bookkeeping. But is your team able to take full advantage of the opportunity’s technology could potentially bring?

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According to recent government estimates the digital skills gap is predicted to cost the UK economy as much as £63 billion a year in potential GDP. This is a problem, not just for technology companies that rely on a highly skilled labour market, but also small businesses looking to embrace all the opportunities that digital transformation has to offer. Without a credible plan for business transformation, SMBs risk falling behind and losing out to competitors.

Lucia Barbato, CEO Ilex Content Strategies and Business Ambassador Dementia SupportLucia Barbato, CEO Ilex Content Strategies and Business Ambassador Dementia Support
Lucia Barbato, CEO Ilex Content Strategies and Business Ambassador Dementia Support

A lot of debate in tech lately has been about the dangers and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence (AI). A recent government report estimated that 10-30% of jobs could be automated with AI. Rather than viewing this as a threat, this paves the way for businesses to be more productive and for the workforce to be upskilled to undertake new, higher value roles.

So what can business owners do to ensure that their workforce is up to the task?

The government apprenticeship scheme can be used to upskill an existing workforce as well as recruit new talent. Advertising positions through the government website can also remove the headache of managing ads in-house or using expensive recruitment agencies. A variety of apprenticeships are available and employers should take their time to familiarise themselves with courses and training providers so that they can choose the ones that best fit their business. Traineeships, T Levels and Skills Bootcamps are other options for employers that might be more cost effective.

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Employers also shouldn’t overlook the large amount of freely available quality training online from platforms like LinkedIn and HubSpot. Business can benefit from an upskilled workforce if training objectives are prioritised in personal development plans and time is dedicated to making it a reality. As a business owner dedicated to growing my own talent, this approach benefits both the employer and the employee. Rather than parachuting in senior talent, taking the time to train your existing team is more likely to aid staff retention and satisfaction.

Lastly, SMBs are themselves a wealth of valuable skills. Take the time to share these with your team, and your wider business community. All too often business leaders develop skills which they just take for granted. Sometimes internal training sessions can be the most valuable and cost effective.

For local women in business looking to learn from their peers or share their experience, The Corporate Ladies Club is an initiative of the forward thinking Tangmere based charity Dementia Support, which operates from Sage House. With the support of Goodwood, that provides a number of its venues free of charge, the network hosts monthly meetings of local women in business. The network is always looking to attract new members. To register your interest for future events sign up here.