The global pandemic severely impacted our global economy and many small- to medium-size organizations had to adapt to stay in business. As a result, we’ve seen smaller organizations make technology decisions quickly while rethinking how to use digital tools better for their organization — not only to overcome roadblocks, but to stay ahead of the curve.
At Microsoft, we’re committed to empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. As part of that commitment, we’re supporting post-pandemic recovery and working to build an inclusive, skills-based economy. Last summer, we launched our global skills initiative, which has helped more than 30 million individuals worldwide learn new digital skills.
Today, we’re expanding these efforts to also help small- to medium-size organizations develop the right skills to achieve their goals. By centralizing skill-building resources and working with local organizations to offer impactful support, we’re making it easier and more accessible for small- to medium-size businesses to build a strong foundation of digital skills so they can take full advantage of their technology for long-term success in a digitally enabled economy.
Small organizations face big challenges
As a pillar to their communities, it’s critical that small- and medium-size businesses continue providing the jobs and services that contribute to a thriving local — and global — economy. Digital tools are essential to helping these businesses respond to changes in the market, streamline their organization, protect against threats and plan for long-term resiliency.
However, one in five small businesses and nearly one in three medium-size businesses say a lack of employee skills has been their biggest challenge in responding to the pandemic. With high customer expectations for digital literacy — and a surge in connected digital experiences — small- and medium-size businesses need to continuously learn new ways to use technology for greater customer connection, efficiency and agility.
Moreover, businesses in underrepresented groups and communities — many of which experience disparities in access to capital, education and employment — face an even larger skills gap. This past year’s closures, declines in sales and reduced workforce has resulted in overwhelming risks to these organizations. In the United States, for example, the number of Black-owned small businesses fell by 41 percent during the pandemic and Latinx business ownership declined by 32 percent, compared to 17 percent among white business owners. Globally, female-owned businesses were 5.9 percentage points more likely to have closed than male-owned businesses.
Building strong digital skills to build a stronger business
As organizations become increasingly reliant on technology, digital skills are fundamental to helping small- and medium-size businesses evaluate and implement the right digital tools, in the right way. By building their digital skills, small- and medium-size businesses raise their knowledge capital or their full body of knowledge, including organizational processes and employee talent, putting them at a greater competitive advantage in a digitally enabled economy.
To develop the skills that can help them reach their goals, small- and medium-size businesses need to identify the approach that works best for their organization such as the right skills for their business needs, affordability for their budget and flexibility for their schedule. With limited time and resources, these businesses are facing immense pressure to keep up with shifts in how we work and live, and it’s critical that they’re equipped with the skills that can help them develop long-term strategies for their business and reimagine new paths for success. To fulfill our commitment to creating an inclusive economy, we’re providing skill-building resources designed to help these businesses continue to transform and thrive.
How Microsoft is helping small- and medium-size businesses develop digital skills for success
One of the ways Microsoft is supporting smaller businesses as they recover from the pandemic and build a more profitable future is through digital skilling, which means developing the skills required to navigate a digital world.
Because small business owners want to focus on growing their business — not on searching for the right training resources — our goal is to make it easier for them to find what they need, when they need it. To reach businesses virtually wherever they are, we’re taking a more flexible and accessible skill-building approach by providing many digital skilling resources via e-learning and online training assets. Through our resource hub, businesses can explore proven expertise, technical training, online workshops, best practices and more. We’ve also aligned the resources to the top priorities of small- and medium-size businesses so they can start building skills focused on what matters most to their organization:
- Connecting with customers and growing business. The right digital skills to use technology for customer relationship management (CRM), digital marketing, advertising and branding will help businesses better serve their customers and reach new audiences.
- Keeping employees engaged and productive. Whether a business has only one employee or a large team, digital skills can help their people stay collaborative and focused while engaging with meaningful projects.
- Achieving greater efficiency to save time and resources. Because tech enables businesses to quickly address customers’ needs and streamline manual processes, businesses should learn how to use tools that work together to help them keep departments connected, lower overhead costs and maximize efficiency.
- Increasing security in a digital world. By educating and skilling employees through best practices, businesses are better able to use the technology that can help them protect customers’ and employees’ data. In avoiding breaches, these businesses can avoid the associated high costs and reputation loss.
- Flexing to meet market opportunities. As businesses become more digitally enabled and skilled, they can analyze available data, understand trends and move more quickly to embrace market opportunities.
As part of our commitment to supporting small- and medium-size business growth, we’re working with local organizations such as chambers of commerce, nonprofits and partners. By joining forces for a greater collective impact, we hope to expand and deepen how we reach small- and medium-size businesses — especially in underrepresented communities — to provide them with the tailored support they need.
Reshaping small- and medium-size businesses for the future
We believe that continuous skill-building can help businesses remain adaptable, resilient and innovative. That’s why we’re helping empower small- and medium-size businesses with the resources that can help them reimagine how to reach their goals today for a more profitable tomorrow.
Visit aka.ms/SkillsForSMBs/US to discover the skill-building resources that can fuel forward-thinking small- and medium-size businesses.