FUNDED support is being offered to help businesses tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus and invest in developing their staff.

York-based Pro-Development is a training partner with the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, and launched its Higher Performing Workplaces project in April to help businesses grow by developing internal talent.

The European Social Fund (ESF) has provided 40 per cent of the cost of the training programmes which are available for businesses in the Leeds City Region, which covers York.

Michelle Mook, who founded Pro-Development, employee engagement and development specialists, believes many businesses could lose key talent in the aftermath of recent changes without any investment in people.

She said participating employers were seeing more engagement in their business, and the training was helping to address some of the conflict that had arisen through virtual working and the furlough scheme.

She said: "The employee engagement projects which attract 40 per cent funding are really helping businesses to understand what is working at the moment and where they may have some challenges.

"Together, we are helping to build action plans that will help them towards becoming a higher performing workplace.

“That, along with the empowering leaders projects, which includes our unique seven-month outdoor experiential programme and a mentoring programme (both again which are eligible for 40 per cent funding), are providing the time, support, training and skills development which is helping leaders, managers and individuals to develop and ensure they are bringing out the best in their teams and each other.”

Pro-Development will also be offering fully-funded Back in Business peer-to-peer group sessions from September to help SMEs support each other with the current challenging environment.

One of their clients, Drivespeed Group, in York, took advantage of the funding and undertook an employee engagement project and a place for one of their managers on the Empowering Leaders programme.

Michelle Wallis, finance director, said: “Receiving the funding grant towards training with Pro Development has ensured we are able to keep up valued training, which is especially needed in these current times.

"Keeping staff motivated and trained has ensured our business will move forward stronger than ever before. In addition, it has not only saved us in actual costs but also long-term staff retention, which is our biggest and most valued asset.”

Pro-Development have helped several companies in the last few weeks to make changes and can already see the difference it is making. Another client, Mollan & Co, an accountancy practice in York, were also keen to create a high-performing team.

Managing director, Rob Mollan, said: “Access to the help and funding made the decision to get assistance developing our team a no brainer.

"All teams need nurturing to get the best but unfortunately the pressure of the day-to-day business can mean this is something that can be neglected.

Knowing that a happy functional team means we can do the best for our clients we appointed Pro-Development to run a team building day which was a big success.

"We found that getting someone from outside the business was a positive allowing people to be more open in discussing the issues and opportunities. We will defiantly be using Pro-Development again to help rebuild the team spirit after so many weeks of remote working during lockdown.”

Joanne Patrickson, Project Director at the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, said: “These sessions will allow individuals to connect with like-minded business people from across our region to share experiences and ideas to get back on the road to business growth.

“We’re giving SMEs the opportunity to solve issues with their peers and action-plan to take their business forward in a changing economy, at no cost to them. Each session will be facilitated by a highly qualified coach, who will support and encourage solution-based discussions.”