As businesses pivot to adjust to the world the pandemic is reshaping, leaders need to make sure employees don’t get lost in the shuffle. Instead, employees need more support than ever as they adjust to remote work and new business requirements. They need new skills, as well as new technology and the training to use it to its fullest potential.
To maintain productivity and competitive edge, it’s essential for businesses today to develop new skill sets, in areas such as AI, SaaS and remote collaboration. But for human resources and business leaders, it can be a challenge to know which skills and competencies to prioritize.
The problem is that leaders whose job it is to oversee learning don’t always have the knowledge they need to adequately determine which skills their organization needs more of. But this is critical knowledge to have, and leaders can partner with employees to find out. Creating a learning culture that combines identifying the most relevant skills with involving employees in the skills development process will boost engagement, increase skills and contribute to the company’s success overall.
Keeping up with change
Rapid changes in technology have increased the breadth of skills and knowledge required for productivity in the modern workplace. Not only are more skills needed, but training must be continuous and dynamic, because those skills are changing fast. The half-life of professional skills was once 10-15 years; today, the half-life of a learned skill is five years, and it’s even shorter for technical skills.
This skills challenge has only increased due to the economic impact of the pandemic. In the face of new circumstances and constraints, organizations must rapidly innovate to effectively operate and maintain a competitive edge, finding new ways to work smarter and adopt new solutions. This increases the need for reskilling, scaling and changing skills to strengthen organizations now and in the time following the pandemic.
Increasing employee empowerment and engagement
HR, learning/development and business leaders in today’s increasingly specialized organizations often don’t have and should not have the detailed understanding of the work being done in specific parts of the organization – and that means they don’t necessarily know exactly what skills are needed.
There are several steps required to address this challenge. First, learning leaders need to have specialists on the team who work well together and have the knowledge to actually find out which skills are most relevant: This is an approach many organizations are developing, bringing on agile leadership that are more involved and investigative as opposed to just trying to predict everything.
The second step is to include the learners in the journey. Who knows better what skills are needed than the employees who are actually doing these jobs? Engaging employees and empowering them to identify the relevant skills – and then develop and build those skills – can go a long way. Not only does it help with overall productivity, but it increases employee engagement, and the value of employee engagement can’t be overestimated.
The benefits of a dynamic skills culture
Organizations will realize multiple gains from building a collaborative process of skills acquisition. These include:
- A more competitive edge: Organizations that have a workforce that possesses the skills needed for success now have a competitive advantage over organizations that don’t. This is one of the hallmarks of long-term survival.
- Greater productivity: Well-trained employees positively impact the productivity and success of your company.
- Increased talent attraction and retention: 77% of employee turnover could be prevented by employers, a report by the Work Institutefound. It also found that employers could expect to pay $680 billion in employee turnover costs in 2020. Employees are fully aware of their career options and have little hesitation going elsewhere to get their needs and aspirations met. Organizations that don’t do all in their power to upskill employees and promote from within are asking to contribute to that $680 billion sinkhole.
- Increased engagement: It is extremely frustrating and stressful to employees when you have a disconnect between what skills are available in the employee population and what skills are needed to effectively succeed in their work. Employee engagement will suffer and ultimately employee burnout in the organization can follow. So, changing this scenario is very important.
Enthusiasm or focused attention towards a particular task is the most common metric for engagement. Engagement is also measured by an employee’s willingness and commitment towards the goals and missions of the company they work for. When employees are engaged, it has been shown to have significant benefits in terms of their attitudes, health and work performance.
Working together toward change
No one could have predicted what 2020 would bring, but all can learn valuable lessons from the upheaval it brought. Businesses have had to become more agile, quickly transitioning to remote work environments. This cascaded into new digital skills requirements for many employees – along with the regular spate of training needed to update skills and remain competitive. Learning leaders have wrestled with the best way to prioritize upskilling and for whom. Their help comes from the employees themselves, who know first-hand what skills they need to move forward. Creating this type of collaborative interchange will help organizations identify, build and re-build important skills on a constant basis.
Flemming Goldbach has worked with digitalization of work processes since 1999, focusing on helping organizations implement and take advantage of Microsoft technology in order to obtain greater productivity and better collaboration. As vice president of product for LMS365, provider of the leading learning management solution built into Microsoft...