AWS Smart Business Blog

A Guide To Upskilling Your Small or Medium Business Employees’ Cloud Computing Knowledge

If you’ve managed a small or medium business (SMB) in the last few years, you likely had these common thoughts:

“Three employees retired during the height of the pandemic and we should have done a better job of documenting their work processes. All of that knowledge has either been lost or fragmented across different teammates.”

“I know we need to invest in automation to improve our business, but I don’t know how to recruit, interview, or manage someone with a technical background.”

“Due to the high cost of labor, I can’t afford to hire as many people as I need. How can I incentivize my top employees to improve their cloud skillset?”

As you might have read, cloud computing is a rapidly evolving, fast-paced field, with new services being introduced frequently. SMBs such as yours use the cloud to store files, manage projects, launch apps, secure their data, and much more. But due to this speed of innovation, it can be difficult for SMB professionals to keep their cloud skills up to date—especially if they lack technical proficiency and juggle multiple tasks. IDC even noted this in research that showed 40 percent of global SMBs do not have one in-house IT employee.

In this blog post, we’ll explain to non-technical SMB leaders why upskilling employees is important, how it can help you better retain them, and ultimately grow your business.

Reasons why you should invest in technology upskilling

SMBs that want to adopt cloud technology frequently lack the appropriate expertise to manage its regular costs, adapt to changing operating models, and meet the technical prerequisites for realizing its full value. Remarkably, in a recent survey conducted by McKinsey, 95 percent of participants identified a scarcity of cloud skills and competencies as a major obstacle they encounter.

For non-technical employees

Cloud training is valuable for a range of non-tech roles because it can make your SMB more efficient and reduce duplicative tasks. If you want an introductory view into the value of cloud, take our self-paced, 13-minute Cloud for Small Business Owners course.

Additionally, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is a smart initial step for employees who work with business apps, data, and other services hosted in the cloud. And as per WebsiteBuilderInsider, to become an AWS Cloud Practitioner, you should allocate at least two months of focused study. However, the overall timeline for the certification process can take up to six months based on how much it’s prioritized. This exam is ideal for non-technical individuals without IT or cloud experience and who are seeking a fundamental understanding of AWS Cloud.

For instance:

  • Finance and accounting experts can gain insights into IT cost optimization and budgeting
  • Project managers could grasp how cloud technologies impact timelines and staff allocation
  • If you sell digital services, your sales and marketing teams can effectively communicate the advantages of it being hosted in the cloud to potential clients

For technical employees

Organizations that have placed a strong emphasis on cultivating cloud expertise have witnessed significant outcomes. After completing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner training, the most common next certification is AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. As per Cloud Academy, it takes approximately 35-40 hours of preparation for the Solution Architect – Associate Exam, with some AWS experience. If you’re entirely new to the subject, we suggest allocating around 50-60 hours. This certification verifies your capacity to create and implement applications that are cost-effective, efficient and scalable for technical roles:

  • Developers find significant value in learning cloud services for building secure, high performing, resilient apps
  • System administrators acquire skills in managing and maintaining cloud infrastructure, including cybersecurity and networking
  • Data analysts/scientists gain expertise in data storage and machine learning for improved data analysis
  • Development Operations (DevOps) engineers build proficiency in automating infrastructure provisioning

Learning remains essential as cloud technology evolves. Overall, the time investment varies due to factors like prior knowledge and learning methods, but the benefits of cloud training are undeniable for unlocking educational growth and efficiency gains in both non-tech and tech roles.

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Three ways to get started in upskilling with AWS Training and Certification

1. Identify specific skills gap in your SMB

As technology continues to advance, it’s essential for individuals and organizations to bridge the cloud skills gap to harness the full potential of cloud computing and maintain a competitive edge in the market. The first step is to discover where the organization currently stands before embarking on a comprehensive cloud skills training journey. If your SMB employs staff across various experience levels you might not know where to begin. Amazon Web Services Training and Certification provides the AWS Learning Needs Analysis (AWS LNA) that helps companies identify the organization’s current knowledge and skills, gaps, and what’s needed to accomplish the organization’s goals. From there, AWS experts design custom workforce training programs to bridge these gaps and help your organization realize the full benefits of your cloud investment.

2. Create a learning path

As mentioned above, we often recommend individuals and teams start their cloud learning journey with our free, self-paced digital skills course on AWS Skill Builder called AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials. This four-hour course is designed for individuals in non-technical roles to help them build an understanding of core AWS Cloud concepts including AWS services, security, pricing, and support. Individuals who take this course will also be equipped with the knowledge to pursue an industry-recognized AWS Certification, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.

As technology is constantly evolving, training your employees just once during a cloud migration process is just not enough. When an organization places a strong emphasis on continuous learning and talent development, it enhances engagement and cultivates a sense of collective responsibility for the company’s vision. If employees are provided with a vested interest in the future, not only could their performance improve, but they’ll also be more likely to stay with the company.

Leaders have concerns that investing in training could lead to newly-empowered employees taking their education elsewhere. However, the reality is quite the opposite. According to Forrester research, employees who engaged in learning activities demonstrated enhanced loyalty to their organization, elevated morale, increased engagement, and a heightened sense of ownership. As a result, this led to decreased attrition rates and longer periods of employment.

However, to choose the right learning path, there should be a good understanding about the role or domain for which the skills need to be developed. Most employees may find the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials foundational course valuable and not need specialty experience unless their role requires it.

If your SMB needs to follow the quickest route to create in-house cloud capabilities or develop advanced skills then this blog post will be valuable.

AWS certification path from basic to more advanced categories

Figure 1: AWS certification paths from basic to more advanced specialization


3. Focus on training your employees

In addition to 600+ free, self-paced digital training courses on AWS Skill Builder, our online learning center, AWS Training and Certification offers hands-on, game- and challenge-based learning via AWS Skill Builder subscription, in-depth instructor-led classes for teams, and paths to study and earn AWS Certifications. Our approach results in engaged and equipped employees who have practical hands-on expertise to apply their skills immediately. AWS offers different ways to learn such as:

  • Digital training
  • In-person classroom training
  • AWS digital training on Partner Sites
  • AWS events

To make learning fun and engaging, AWS has introduced games like AWS Industry Quest, an interactive learning experience that teaches how to build industry-specific cloud solutions. AWS Cloud Quest is a 3D role-playing game that helps to build practical AWS Cloud skills.

For your technical employees (or those with growth interest in that area), AWS Cloud skills can be practiced in a live environment with AWS Builder Labs. These self-paced labs are interactive exercises with step-by-step instructions to help you learn cloud skills. Individual and team subscriptions are available with an AWS Skill Builder for 100+ self-paced Builder Labs. Newly acquired skills can be tested by solving challenges that emulate real AWS use cases. AWS Jam challenges individuals and teams to apply their AWS Cloud skills to solve real-world, open-ended problems using AWS services. Learning in a gamified environment through simulated use cases in a sandbox helps develop AWS Cloud skills. Challenges can be selected by technical domain or role and by difficulty level.

How to keep SMB employees engaged in their cloud knowledge

At AWS, we encourage our customers to constantly innovate, and much of that is possible when a team coalesces around a vision. To make it a reality, it requires employees to regularly share knowledge and for leadership to encourage professional development. This could be as simple as sharing new concepts or ideas during a stand-up meeting or as rigorous as dedicating time to a quarterly meeting where everyone is encouraged to speak. AWS experts recommend the following to SMBs:

Internal knowledge sharing sessions

Team members can share best practices and lessons learned while working in the cloud because it makes your company stronger. This helps avoid common pitfalls and optimizes AWS implementations for better performance and cost efficiency. As AWS evolves, best practices may change. It is always a good practice to create internal documentation to avoid business continuity issues when teammates retire or leave the business. This will help to ensure that new team members can onboard quickly when hiring is an option.

Collaboration and mentoring

Working collaboratively on cloud initiatives enables team members to learn from each other. Mentoring provides less experienced employees with personalized guidance and support in their AWS learning journey. Combining collaboration and mentoring efforts helps create a supportive learning environment within the organization. It not only upskills the team in AWS technology, but also promotes a culture of continuous learning, professional development, and innovation.

Recognition and career growth

Honoring employees for their achievements, such as AWS Certifications, motivates them to continue developing their expertise and strive for excellence. Rewards and recognition can boost employees’ morale and job satisfaction, and to help retention of talented employees. Investing in your employees could have a huge long-term benefits for both individuals and organization.

Continuous learning

Modernization is a continuous process that evolves via a culture of constant learning and empowerment. Embrace that modern mindset and empower your teams to upskill, build, and innovate with new skills. Making learning available and supporting your teams as they grow are critical to ensuring long-term growth that scales to meet your evolving business goals.

Advanced self-learning options

AWS offers vetted solutions and guidance for business and technical use cases. The AWS SMB Solutions Library contains solutions developed by AWS and AWS Partners specifically for businesses of your size. Additionally, The Serverless Land pulls together the most recent AWS Serverless content, articles, videos, code, and learning materials. It provides a self-learning platform for building apps that scale automatically on low-cost, fully-managed serverless architecture.

What’s new with AWS?

If your SMB has employees with IT and engineering backgrounds, What’s New with AWS posts will be valuable to them. AWS is constantly adding new capabilities that your employees can use to experiment and innovate more quickly. All AWS service overviews, features, and region expansion announcements are briefly summarized in What’s New postings as they are made public.


The skills gap in SMBs pose significant challenges as experienced employees retire and others seek opportunities elsewhere. To address this issue, it is crucial for SMB owners to empower their workforce to remain fresh, engaged, and continuously learning. By proactively investing in employee development and embracing cloud-based skills training, SMBs can not only retain their talent but also position themselves for future success in an increasingly digital world. Embracing a culture of continuous learning and adaptation will undoubtedly foster resilience and competitiveness, ensuring that these businesses remain relevant and thrive in the face of ever-changing demands and opportunities.

Sonal Panda

Sonal Panda

Sonal Panda is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS where she helps SMBs with their cloud journey. She has business software application development and consulting experience. Sonal previously worked extensively on banking projects for Wells Fargo, Bank of America, US Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank. Sonal is based in North Carolina (US).

Sumitha AP

Sumitha AP

Sumitha AP is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS. She helps SMB customers build secure, scalable, reliable and cost-effective solutions in the AWS Cloud. Sumitha holds a Master of Computer Applications from University of Kerala. She is based in the US.

Priyanka Sadhu

Priyanka Sadhu

Priyanka Sadhu is a Sr. Solutions Architect at AWS specializing in helping SMBs find value in the cloud. Before joining AWS, she was a Principal at Slalom and a VP-level Senior Data Engineer at First Eagle Investments. She holds a Masters Degree in Computer Science from California State University, Long Beach and is based in New York.