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Sage Summit 2015: Disruptive technology forces SMEs to take responsibility for skills gap

Small- and medium-sized businesses should think globally and taking on the challenge of closing skills gaps, said speakers at Sage Summit 2015

An increase in disruptive technologies is forcing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to tackle a global market from the start, said speakers at the Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans.

Digital disruption is affording many small businesses opportunities that would have been beyond their reach before, they said.

“We have to realise that our businesses and our customers are going to be global – no matter how small your business is – now the technology is available,” explained author and leadership advisor Deepak Chopra. “You’re going to see this global economy emerging which is so totally interdependent.”

But Chopra warned that people should look for digital and disruptive technologies everywhere – especially in relation to connected healthcare devices – and be careful “not to become a slave to these technologies”.

SMEs should also be tackling skills gaps, and lack of skills in any industry can be aided by targeting young people early on in the education system and investing in human capital, said former US secretary of state Colin Powell, now also a director of Salesforce.com.

Industry must close skills gap

Powell said SMEs should focus on making sure young people are taught the skills that will be needed in organisations later in life.

“In order to get the people you need sometimes, you have to not just expect them to walk in the door – you’ve got to go out there and get into the schools in your community to help youngsters finish high school,” Powell said.

Powell said small businesses have an “important responsibility” to teach young people the skills they need and what “real work” is about.

“Don’t hold on to people who can’t get the job done – but it’s your responsibility to try and help them to get the job done,” Powell said.

Not only should businesses be investing in skills – digital and otherwise – for young people to create employees, firms should ensure they could be business customers in the future.

Sage Group CEO Stephen Kelly agreed, saying: “I came from a family of small business owners. Around the world, small and medium businesses are the life blood of the economy.”

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