The upskilling of employees is something that is often neglected by small business owners. Even though we know that our employees are our greatest assets, the thought of paying for or “losing” productivity to education and development can be unbearable.

The solution to this challenge is to make use of distance learning as a medium for education and empowerment, which will make a significant difference to your business without breaking the bank.

Academy of York is a South African distance learning institution which offers a wide variety of courses suitable for employees within the small business arena. The courses range from nationally accredited courses in Bookkeeping and Office Management, to internationally recognised computer hardware and software courses, to a variety of skills programs.

The benefits of distance learning for small businesses can be summarised as follows, improving your employee’s skill set, time and money.

Your employee’s skill set

Employees’ skill sets can make or break a company.

A developing small business might survive doing their books from an Excel spreadsheet, but as the business grows the need for somebody with the appropriate insight into bookkeeping, payroll and SARS returns can save the business money and unnecessary tax penalties.

More established larger businesses need specialists and skilledemployees, especially in the departments thatdeal directly with customers, administration, human resources and finance.

Richard Leeming, MD of AOY advises: “The cost of recruitment is staggering so instead of hiring new people, invest in your existing employees by making sure they have the right skills and knowledge to do what is expected to help the company grow. Our business, financial, bookkeeping and human resource courses have been created in order to assist and develop your current employees.”

He adds: “When deciding on courses to ensure your employees are geared for the next step in your business’ evolution consider the knowledge that is needed.”

Although accreditation (especially ICB accredited courses and internationally recognised computer courses) is very important in an employee’s career, certificatecourses from an accredited tertiary institution can be invaluable to a business that needs to fill gaps in employee knowledge and skill sets.

No time wastage

The time benefit of distance learning is two-fold:

Firstly, no time is wasted on travelling to and from an institution or missing days at work for classes.

Secondly, because the employee has all the study material at home, he or she has more flexible time to spend with the material. They are able to approach the lessons at their own pace and can move through the material as quickly or as slowly as they need to.

However Leeming also stresses “The opportunity to up- skill an employee must be seen as an investment by the business owner. Creating time during the week to allow for studying or encouraging more senior staff to assist with questions will reinforce your employees’ trust, create a culture of sharing knowledge and motivate employees to study at home”.

The most cost effective method of employee development

Distance learning is recognised as a more cost effective and affordable solution than classroom based education. Apart from the obvious savings in terms of travel, distance institutions’ training programmes usually cost less because there are fewer overheads.

Distance learning institutions, like Academy of York, are also able to offer bursary programmes that reduce the cost of the courses even more.

The relationship between Distance Learning and Small Business

As an alternative to high end expensive courses offered to businesses who wish to develop their people, business owners can approach a new and fresh approach and offer a distance learning program to employees. This solution, could catapult your company forward, and grow your employee value proposition. By offering your employees an avenue to developing themselves, will also build your brand and you will be perceived by your employees, as truly caring about their career and personal development.

Academy of York has been granted provisional registration by the Department of Higher Education and Training as a private FET College and awarded provisional accreditation by Umalusi and is a confirmed candidate for full accreditation. Umalusi is the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training in South Africa.Academy of York is also accredited through ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) and FASSET. For more information visit the Academy of York website ( {socialbuttons}

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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