Top tips for upskilling your workforce
A lot’s been said about the ‘new working world’. That includes us - we’ve written guides on things like attraction, retention and wellbeing, all with a view to helping businesses manage those challenges for today’s workforce.
Many businesses are in fact embracing the new working world. You imagine these are the ones who like the saying “with change comes opportunity”. We like these people.
And one area of real opportunity is talent development.
We’ve all read stories about the way jobs are changing, or in some cases, being eliminated. While this causes a bit of panic in some people (“Help, the robots are taking over!”) - in many cases, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills and transfer existing ones into new roles.
So, what can businesses do to equip themselves and their people for the new working world? Here’s a few of our tips.
Back your people with a budget
You often hear about businesses producing five year plans, or setting out product roadmaps. But how many apply this same mentality to their people?
Each year, various departments will put forward their goals for the next 12 months and the budget they need. Now, HR has come a long way from the days when people (wrongly) assumed all it did was collect CVs and hand out biscuits! Everybody should know by now that it’s a core strategic function which deserves the same attention as other departments.
In many cases though, a lot of the focus tends to be on talent attraction. How many roles need to be filled? How much is in the budget for new salaries?
Learning and Development (L&D) should also be a big part of the conversation. This means investing heavily, on both an organisational and individual level. Look at L&D programmes and software that everyone can use, while also giving each employee a personal budget for any specific training they need.
This immediately shows how seriously you take it, and is a great selling point when it comes to recruitment as well. People will know you’re not just offering them a job - you’re investing in their career.
Create a culture of development
Of course, it’s not just about the money. Little things can go a long way. For example, allow each employee to take a couple of hours each week to learn new skills related to their work. If possible, you could also allow them to take an entire day every now and then.
Encourage them to block that time out in their calendar, and let them use it as they see fit. They may watch a TED talk, read a book, practise a skill, or any number of things. By giving them the time and space to do this, you’re showing it’s a crucial part of how you operate.
Another good way to develop this culture is to get employees to share their development journeys. Are there people who’ve worked in many different roles and picked up lots of new skills? Is there someone who’s been super focused on growth and upskilling? Maybe get them to share their story in any internal magazines or newsletters you do. Better yet, you could do a video interview! At the end of the day, there’s nothing more powerful than peer testimonials.
On a similar note, you could also get employees to help develop each other. At Perkbox for example, we hold regular ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions, where someone talks through their area of expertise and shares best practice tips.
Analyse business and employee needs
In the fast moving world we live in, it’s never been more important to have your finger on the pulse. Workforce planning is a concept which has been around for a while - it’s about making sure you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time.
Whether you do everything in-house, or work with an external firm, it’s important to look at the skills gap in your organisation. What do you currently have, and what will you need a few years down the line? This will help you decide which areas you need to upskill people in.
As well as the needs of the business, look at your employees as well. Are there some people whose jobs are rapidly changing? Look at what new skills they need to learn. You can also look at any transferable skills they have and see if there are other roles they can prosper in for you.
Rather than just calling all the shots, make sure you get employee input. What specific things do people want to learn? Everybody should be comfortable discussing this with their manager or team lead.
Speaking of managers - they should also see themselves as coaches who provide feedback and mentoring on a daily basis. Development isn't just about webinars and training sessions - a lot of learning is actually done in an informal way, and managers are key to this.
Set up job rotations
This is a useful way to not only help people grow, but to increase employee engagement by offering variety. Now, it’s not suitable for every organisation and every role, but it’s an excellent way to transfer skills and knowledge.
Job rotation is exactly what it says on the tin - employees rotate between jobs at the same business. It’s normally on a temporary basis, and is done by employees at the same level of seniority.
By taking on new responsibilities, people gain new experience and skills. It also has huge benefits for the business beyond just increased engagement. Often, the knowledge being shared can improve your overall performance. You’d be amazed at how often someone comes in with fresh insight that changes the way things are done going forward. This is especially useful for large organisations, which sometimes have a disconnect between different departments.
Make use of mentorship schemes
We touched on mentoring when talking about managers earlier, but a formal scheme takes this to another level.
It allows experienced employees to teach less experienced ones particular skills, and also offer them general career guidance. As well as the obvious benefits to the mentee, you’ll find that it strengthens relationships and fosters a sense of community within the business.
It’s important that you have a good framework in place. People shouldn’t be thrown together at random - gather up lists of people who want to be mentors and those who want mentoring, and match them up based on the value you think will be given. Remember that people who have the most experience to share are likely to be the busiest, so having a framework that guides them will help.
This could lay out things like how long each cycle will run for, the minimum amount of times people should meet, and a template which allows the mentee to explain what exactly they’re looking for.
At the end of each cycle, make sure you gather feedback and use this to improve the next one.
Mentoring is sometimes one of the most underestimated ways of upskilling. A lot of people have skills and knowledge that isn’t written down somewhere in a training programme, because they just “do it”. This can make it hard to pass on to others. But by bringing people together in a structured way, you can help this process along.
The key takeaway
Whatever industry you’re in, people are still at the heart of your business. Taking the time to invest in and plan their development will help everyone. They become more rounded professionals, and you improve your chances of retaining top talent that can power your growth.
And maybe together, you can stop the robots from taking over 😉