Building key skills within your organisation is vital if you want to maintain expertise in your field. But not enough businesses are making it a priority, according to Kelly Palmer, writing for MIT Sloan Management Review.
According to recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, leaders across the world are more worried about missing expertise in the workforce than the headline threats of malicious damage to computer systems, political disruption or trade wars. Yet, the majority are failing to give it the attention it needs.
AN URGENT SITUATION
Global expert Palmer, chief learning officer at Degreed and co-author of a book advocating upskilling as a matter of urgency, has worked with companies across the globe tackling the challenge of developing technologies and business advances.
“To compete in the global economy, businesses need expertise not only in putting new tools to use, but also in the uniquely human skills that artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies currently can’t provide – things like empathy, creativity, and relationship building,” she writes.
Palmer advocates a radical overhaul of learning cultures, particularly management attitudes towards developing employee skills, after conducting a survey in conjunction with Harvard Business Corporate Learning.
The study showed that 22% of employees were not encouraged to better their skills. Only around double that number were helped by managers to find skills to allow them to progress. A mere 17% were offered assistance to plan learning programmes.
“These figures are dismal, but not surprising,” adds Palmer.
Some of this is down to leaders not knowing what to do about skill building in an era of rapid change. Nevertheless, Palmer asserts that it is possible to establish a successful pathway, partly by handing over much of the ownership to employees themselves, but also by expressing a clear intention to support individuals in their quest as part of a broader, company-wide mission.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE UPSKILLING
Here are her three golden tips for leaders demonstrating commitment to upskilling.
1) Create routes for everyone’s progress. It’s important to plan well, both for the future of the business and the satisfaction of employees. Your managers need to meet each person one to one to establish their career vision and give them dedicated time to spend on learning. It’s also valuable to maintain good relationships and pay attention to individuals’ progress.
2) Give your workers freedom to direct their own learning. It’s fine to create the opportunity to learn, but let individual employees follow their particular interests and decide the skills they want. They might be happy with online tuition, but if they want input from peers or mentors within the organisation, make time for this to happen.
3) Walk your talk and discover new skills. Set an admirable precedent by investing in your own continuing education and talking about your journey with your teams. Sharing what you learn, perhaps recommending books or articles, will help them to see the benefits of further study.
With employee skills rated as one of the top resources in a climate where expertise is king, it’s up to leaders to make sure their workforce is on top of the game.