A growing skills deficit looms over the corporate world. In the next decade, the World Economic Forum estimates that up to a billion people worldwide will need to develop new skills to remain current. Steps to prepare workers for the new realities of employment need to be taken – and the private sector, governments and social institutions will all play a role.
Organizations are recognizing their obligation to help employees keep pace with the rapidly transforming business landscape. This effort includes reskilling (training for a new job) and upskilling (training for new requirements of one’s current job). Investing in people pays off for businesses, as it saves them the costly and time-consuming onboarding of new staff who lack organizational memory and makes for a more engaged and efficient workforce.
No one doubts that reskilling and upskilling are needed. But will the added demands overwhelm employees? Is there a risk of burnout? How can organizations ensure they are providing additional training and skill development in a balanced way? Here are some tips on things to keep in mind for an organization trying to fill skill gaps in its workforce.
Despite the sense of urgency, learning initiatives must be done methodically and employ change -management principles such as continuous self-assessment. Haphazard efforts will only waste time and money. The specific skills needed, all relevant technologies, and the top people at the managerial level must be identified. Getting the right people on board first is crucial. Employees with the most enthusiasm and inclination to learn will serve as “learning ambassadors” to encourage others.
Let Employees Have a Say in Their Own Personal Development Plan
The education pathway will be different for everybody. Managers can use the performance review as a chance to provide guidance and demonstrate a personalized, empathetic approach to professional development. Letting workers have input into needs assessment, goal setting and scheduling will make them feel empowered and motivated. There is also a generational component – often younger people are more attracted to formal learning with a longer timeframe, whereas veteran employees may prefer more condensed programs.
Consider All Types of Learning
When feasible, in-class executive educational programs from a respected learning institution is a popular, traditional option for up- and re-skilling. Equivalent online and blended options are now widely available. More informal learning opportunities can be created within an organization itself, such as job-shadowing, mentorship programs and gamification events organized by different departments. Pairing younger employees with industry veterans in a knowledge-sharing partnership can also be highly beneficial.
Don’t Forget About Soft Skills
Workplaces have seen a crisis in the decline of interpersonal and communication skills. This is not just a priority for customer relations, either. Electronic conversations can be brisk and at times toxic, creating an uncooperative working environment. Employees need to be able to rely on each other and work together to tackle complex projects and solve unforeseen problems when they arise, even in a “virtual office” setting. Skills in navigating difficult conversations, negotiation and diplomacy are needed now more than ever, along with traditional ideals of tactfulness and common courtesy.
Champion Continuous Learning
The ideal of ongoing improvement needs to be built into the corporate culture, and this starts at the top. When senior leaders demonstrate their own willingness to learn and grow with professional development opportunities, it filters down to the entire workforce. It is essential to get feedback from employees at all levels: Is the training as beneficial as it could be? Is it seen as a burden? What incentives and rewards for participation and success are being offered? Is there proper coverage for an employees’ regular duties when they are engaged in learning initiatives during work hours? Asking questions and communicating about skill development should be ongoing.
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