Lack of time, money derail small biz training plans

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Canadian business owners place a strong value on employee training but a large number of these organizations find their efforts stymied by the lack of time and money, according to a recent survey.

The online poll carried out by Toronto-based marketing research firm Ipsos-Reid asked owners of 863 Canadian firms, with 20 or fewer employees, questions about technology and the skills training they provide or would like to offer to their workers.

Some 86 six per cent of the respondents said training was very important “to maintain a competitive edge”.

Thirty-six per cent of entrepreneurs polled by the survey – sponsored by Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada Co. – said shortage of funds is a major obstacle to providing training. Another 33 per cent blamed lack of time.

“Small businesses are ready to go back to school but these two hurdles are holding them back” said Vu Ngo, Web and loyalty manager for Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

He said about 70 per cent of business owners want employees to upgrade their skills in using job related software and equipment. On average, small firms spend $900 a year per employee on training,

One cost-cutting alternative is to access online training , a strategy also adopted by larger organizations, said Ngo.

According to him, time strapped workers can access Microsoft Small Business + and use the site’s free online training modules, whenever their schedules permit, at no additional cost to their employers.

The Web site contains more than 100 software training modules and in excess of 30 hours of business training programs. The modules teach users how to use Microsoft Office, Excel, PowerPoint and other software the company produces. Instructional materials that deal with topics such as how to back up and restore business information are also available.

Neil Beattie, professor of continued education and business studies at the Sheridan College in Brampton, Ont finds the site very useful. “The resources on how to create a business plan or forecast sales and set prices are indispensable,” he said. “The best part is it’s free and available any time.”

Beattie, however, noted the registration process of Microsoft Business + was cumbersome. “Non-technically inclined people can be turned off by the complicated process. But once you’re in, you’ll find the site is great.”

Employee training need not be expensive, according to Beattie, as there other free resources similar to what Microsoft Small Business + offers such. He cited material found on the Canada-Ontario Business Centre Web site.

He said having workers adequately trained in the relevant software and equipment can make or break a business.

“I have seen some organizations achieve up to 25 per cent improvement in business due to training,” said Beattie.

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