Head of Research, Policy and Standards Institute of Leadership and Management
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Skills training: how to equip your team to be fit for the future

Technology is changing our workplace and the job roles available beyond recognition, but there are certain skills that never go out of date. Here are some ways to prepare your teams for the future. 

1st Nov 2019
Head of Research, Policy and Standards Institute of Leadership and Management
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Businessman giving presentation in modern co-working space
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Anybody who has been working for more than five years can look back on their early days in the workplace and say, ‘we used to do that’, and the longer you've been in the workplace you see more practices that used to be commonplace become redundant.

Encouraging a learning mindset in new recruits should be key for any manager, as should taking an interest in and encouraging the process of learning.

It is undoubtedly the case that business practices change; how we dress, how we communicate, what is important and, of course, new technology can all mean new, and often big shifts. So, anybody starting work today will learn things that they will stop using sooner or later - but other things we learn are enduring.

Timeless skills

There are many things that you learn that are not industry or time-specific that will stand you in good stead throughout your career. So, although managers might well be concerned that they are recruiting new, talented graduates to dull jobs, or to jobs that will soon be automated such as telephone conversations being replaced by chat bots, or screening for procurement being done by AI or, as is the case in recruitment, interviews being done by robot, there are a few truly sustainable skills. These are the capabilities that managers should focus on developing.

The first is self-awareness. This is the first skill for managers to encourage in new entrants. Encourage them to ask: what are my strengths? What are my values? What do I need to keep developing? How do I learn? What ways of learning suit me best?

Self-awareness is a terrific starting point but there’s also much to learn about how organisations work – about formal and informal communication, office politics, understanding the dynamics of teamwork or managing upwards. These activities will continue to be essentials of organisational life for some time yet.

Skills development

What is required to learn these skills, in addition to an open mind and a discerning choice of material to read, watch and listen to? An ability to network is required – this is another essential that has a cumulative impact. Networks don’t shrink – you build and draw on them as your career progresses.

If managers feel that the jobs that they're offering aren't interesting, stretching or challenging enough for the new talent, we must ensure that the capabilities that are developed while doing the job are the sustainable ones. 

Encouraging a learning mindset in new recruits should also be key for any manager, as should taking an interest in and encouraging the process of learning. Now that won't make that rather dull work intrinsically satisfying. If the work is repetitive and there isn't much scope for autonomy, stretch or challenge, what can a manager do about that? One thing to do is to embrace flexible working in its truest sense. This encompasses people working at different times, for different lengths of time, creating space for new entrants maybe for one or two days a week to cover for a colleague who's on a different sort of contract.

When people go on holiday, rather than an out-of-office announcing, ‘I'll deal with this when I get back’, give somebody else the responsibility of dealing with those queries in that person’s absence.

Yes, of course errors and mistakes will be made, but errors and mistakes tend to be made anyway, even when we have the best intentions. So often, it's not about the actual mistake that's been made, it's how we respond to them, and calm, effective recovery from mistakes will always be in demand.

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Bridging the skills gap

Underpinning all of this is a requirement on the part of managers to put themselves in the shoes of their new recruits and say, ‘how can I keep these people?’, ‘how can I show I'm interested in them?’, ‘how can I encourage them to keep on learning?’, ‘how can I craft an environment in which we're both working to ensure that there are some exciting interesting and opportunities to grow and develop?’

If managers feel that the jobs that they're offering aren't interesting, stretching or challenging enough for the new talent, we must ensure that the capabilities that are developed while doing the job are the sustainable ones. They must be the capabilities that will equip them for a future in organisations that will, for some time yet, still rely on an ability to keep up-to-date and nurture effective working relationships.

Even this latest generation to join the workplace, who are predicted to change careers numerous times during their working lives, will find that some skills never go out-of-date.

Interested in this topic? Read Skills gap: how to futureproof your workforce through learning.

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