BLOG: Grow Your Business by Expanding its Skills

If you’re a small company driven by short project timescales – and hands up those who think their project timescales are too long… thought so – or you’re a freelancer darting from one pay cheque to another, then you’ll be familiar with the training strategy of RTFM. Read the F**king Manual.

It’s an interesting and impatient little acronym, and our creative industries are infested with this ad hoc yet often effective methodology. It’s ingrained in the creative DNA. “It’s okay for those big multinationals with their resources and corpulent HR departments” our inner voice grumbles, “but I’m working around the clock and now’s not a good time to think about getting trained – maybe at the weekend eh?”

There’s a scene in Aardman’s ‘The Wrong Trousers’ when Gromit is clinging to the chimney stack of a runaway toy train. As the train hurtles forward, Gromit is furiously throwing the track down in front of it to avoid disaster. That seems to be the equivalent of most small companies’ training strategy.

Maybe it’s time for a reality check. Many start-ups or SMEs aren’t aware that it’s never been easier to escape the RTFM syndrome and actually plan for growth through skills. Just look at some options that weren’t available even five years ago. Is your business making the most of MOOCs? Interns? Apprentices? Traineeships?

Internships represent a kind of pact between your organisation’s needs and the intern’s. The right intern already has subject specific skills to offer, but they lack the means to put them into practice. There’s an exchange going on. They learn things they can’t get from a course and you get an HTML5 coder, or a new assistant to sort out your CRM. Interns perform meaningful and valuable work for a company or organisation. There doesn’t need to be a formal training programme. Actually, with the right person, they are much more than an extra pair of hands. They are an extra mind too.

If you’re working in Games, TV, Film or Animation then you might instead be interested in funding towards a trainee placement. The Trainee Finder matching service for employers means you can hire the best trainees via Creative Skillset’s Skills Investment Fund (SIF) which allows a pool of trainees to be readily available and matched to companies contributing to the SIF.

If you are not in those industry sectors you might prefer an apprentice. Whilst less flexible, with an agreed training schedule that takes your young gun off-site every week, the clincher is that you get to grow your own new worker exactly to the job role you want filled. Not to mention there are large subsidies and great support, and you are in total control of who you take on.

But forget recruiting new talent for a minute. What about you, dear reader? Have you tapped into the possibilities of improving your own skills through Massive Open Online Courses? The so-called unbundling of Higher Education in the United States means that elite universities are putting their courses online for free (we haven’t got time to explain why).

Even the quickest glimpse at Coursera shows courses in management, business strategy and finance, engaging customers, strategic innovation, design, audio engineering… well, actually 413 courses at the moment. Likewise, edX has Software as a Service, electronics and globalisation, from MIT, Harvard and the like. All for free.

So, what’s your excuse for still RTFM?


Creative Skillset conduct consultation work, publish research, runfunding schemes and project work in order to support the productivity of the Creative Industries and ensure that it remains globally competitive.

Illustrated by Chris Anderson

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