How Upskilling Can Drive Your Start-Up Forward During A Recession

Sarah Gilchriest, President of Circus Street discusses why start-ups should not write off staff training while cost-saving during a recession

We are entering a recession and the next twelve months will involve a lot of hard decisions. Naturally, the attention of many startup founders is now firmly on how they can cut costs and protect their bottom line. 

It’s a tricky balancing act – reduce expenditure in the wrong way and you risk damaging your offering and ultimately making a downturn worse. This is particularly true when cutting headcount. Many businesses end up losing key skills and expertise that are incredibly costly to replace. Not only does this impact the customer experience in the short term, it can

Undermine long term growth potential

What if there was a way to increase the output and efficiency of your team while freezing headcount and costs? The answer could be found in upskilling and training.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that training is just a luxury better suited to boom times. This couldn’t be more wrong. Upskilling and diversifying the skillset of a startup’s team can be an invaluable tool in increasing output while reducing costs. There are many reasons why this works.

Customer expectations don’t remain static during a recession

First, just because there is a downturn does not mean customer expectations and preferences remain static. If anything, customers are likely to demand more for less. This means that the skills within any business will need to continue to adapt. By far and away the most cost-efficient and effective option to meet these challenges is to upskill existing staff. After all, they already know your business and can apply what they learn straight off the bat.

Maximising productivity

Next, acquiring more skills isn’t just about adapting to new challenges, it’s also about maximising the productivity of your startup. You would be surprised how few companies actually use their existing tech stack to anywhere near its full potential. This can come down to a lack of skills, inappropriate processes, or simply the wrong mindset.

Teaching your team members on the most effective ways to complete tasks using their existing systems can have an immediate and outsized impact on output and morale.


Building resilience with multidisciplinary teams

Diversifying the skillset of your team also builds in resilience. At the start of the pandemic many businesses struggled to switch their offering to online only. One of the major problems was bottlenecks in their development teams as the business relied on only a handful of appropriately skilled people to do certain jobs.

By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day to day and your IT teams learn more commercial acumen. If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.

Test, test and test!

Start small – one team or a handful of individuals – and continually assess the impact. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them on real initiatives. Keep a close eye on your startup metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact.

The best upskilling projects are built on collaboration and full engagement with your team. Technology can do a lot of the heavy lifting – providing fully defined training courses and all the insights and material you need to run a complete program in a cost and time efficient way.