A five-step toolkit for upskilling your employees

A five-step toolkit for upskilling your employees

In today’s working world, more and more companies are recognising the need to train their employees to adapt. But how do you install a training programme that works?

As many as half of all jobs are expected to be “significantly affected” by automation, according to the OECD, and that could create a skills gap as employees struggle to fit into new, or altered, roles. Companies are already seeing the gap, with 41% saying that the biggest recruitment challenge facing them is competition for talent, while 38% say the biggest challenge is a lack of qualified candidates. Almost half of companies (45%) say that when they need advanced digital skills, they are now most likely to train existing employees. 

Photo by Temple Cerulean on Unsplash

Embrace the future

In the digital world, the speed of change is such that companies and their employees must embrace the need for lifelong learning. Many major companies are doing just that. As part of its three-year, £3bn digital transformation plan, Lloyds Banking Group is increasing its training hours for staff by over 50%. Meanwhile, Amazon has announced plans to spend $700m on upskilling 100,000 employees across its entire business. 

“As a technology company committed to driving innovation, we have a responsibility to help workers access the AI training they need to ensure they thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow”.

– Jean-Philippe Courtois, executive vice president and president of Global Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft.

Getting started with a training program for employees can be daunting but the process can be broken down into clear and distinct steps. What follows is our recommended five-step plan for upskilling employees. 

1. Sell your idea 

When Booz Allen Hamilton wanted to train five thousand new data science professionals it branded the initiative as the Data Science 5K, which is more engaging for employees. Consider how you will market your training program to colleagues. Focus on evolution, rather than transformation, because this will be an ongoing process. Emphasize career and business benefits, rather than HR requirements, so that staff understand the value of the process. Consider ‘gamifying’ the process by publishing leaderboards and other information that will encourage teams to compete to complete the most training. 

2. Identify your needs 

This can be the biggest hurdle for many leaders. Where is the skills gap in your organization? It can feel like there are gaps everywhere, that they are too wide, and that no training programme could accomplish everything you need. As with any big task, however, the key is to break it down into manageable steps. List your functions and try to create a picture, however general, of the roles and departments that need the most upskilling. Validate that with interviews across the organization, estimate the number of people affected and then conduct skill assessments with employees to get a clearer picture of your needs.

3. One size does not fit all

Do you offer instructor-led or self-paced training? Should your programs be short and intensive or long-term and more casual? The answer is most likely all of those. Different people learn best in different ways, but your choice of the programme depends on what is being taught, how the training will fit with existing work commitments and more practical concerns such as whether your trainees are all in one location or scattered around the globe. 

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

4. Think about the ins and outs 

When The Walt Disney Company designed a 15-month program to train female employees in software engineering, it created a grueling application process that whittled 169 applicants down to 112. Disney selected just 20 of those for its first cohort. How to admit employees onto the programme is a crucial step. Some training will be open to all, but some will be limited for a variety of reasons. Can managers spare the trainees? Can their work be offloaded? When they have completed the training there should be a clear re-entry and skill application programme. Set expectations and establish steering committees to ensure that the training is effective. 

5. Measure, measure, measure! 

The effectiveness of your training can only be optimized if you track and measure it at every stage. The effect on revenue and strategy should be your most important metric, but it is also important to monitor behavior and activity, knowledge retention and assess completion rates and satisfaction with the training. 

Corporate leaders who can increase and accelerate their planning for and investment in cultivating talent will be the ones who gain the edge on the competition, in a business environment that is only moving faster. 

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