In today’s constantly evolving workplace, employees must continuously learn new skills. A 2017 Productivity Commission report emphasises the importance of upskilling to address “the combined effect of an ageing workforce and technological change”.
The acquisition of new skills is also a crucial element in both employee engagement and retention.
“When people stop feeling like they’re learning or adding to their CVs or creating new opportunities in their career, they start to look elsewhere,” says leadership and people management specialist Karen Gately, founder of HR consultancy Ryan Gately.
On the other hand, when you factor in today’s large workloads and jam-packed schedules, for many people there is little time left for learning. Here are seven tips to make upskilling more effective in busy workplaces.
1. Align training to individuals
A common mistake that organisations make is to treat learning programs as “a tick box exercise” where everyone receives the same training. You have to align the training with the individual.
Use an engagement survey to determine what staff want to learn and the skills they want to develop. Employers should then tailor training to target skills gaps, where it will be most effective. Considerable resources are frequently invested in leadership training for executive teams when more often it is new managers who would benefit most from training,
2. Instil a coaching culture
Managers should see themselves first and foremost as coaches. If you have a strong coaching culture within your organisation, a lot of the learning is happening on the job, with the boss at the moment.
A coach has the advantage of offering on-the-go guidance and feedback and can be creative in their capacity to coach people every day. It doesn’t need to be an event.
3. Set up mentoring
Encourage key talent to seek a mentor to develop their leadership capabilities. You can bring in an external mentor to come in on a Friday afternoon if the budget allows. There’s a lot more value to having a mentor outside the business than inside.
She advises allowing your employee to meet regularly with their mentor in work time.
4. Break training into bite-sized learning
Full training days can be problematic: they’re difficult to manage for employees who have already demanding workloads, and frequently marked by low retention of information.
Break training into bite-size learning, it works really well. Another easily digestible learning format is microlearning: three-to-five-minute chunks usually delivered online. Microlearning integrates into a normal workday and incorporates elements such as gamification, apps, interactive videos or whiteboard animations.
5. Ensure online learning will be effective
Online learning provides flexibility for people to learn at their own pace but it needs to be executed properly to be effective. A face-to-face component is important in making people more accountable and if you are going to invest in online learning, make sure the outcomes are suited to that person. Sometimes it’s a way for businesses to tick a box and say, we’ve done training.
6. Leverage internal talent
Look for internal talent that can help deliver training to develop new capabilities. Get your HR people, if you have them, to help that technical expert put some structure around it and then run some internal training programs.
There’s going to be some cost implications around taking people out of their jobs, but you don’t have to hire a facilitator and buy a training program.
7. Don’t forget to debrief
Set up a time to reflect on what the employees have learned. Find out if they need more support. It’s important to feed that information back into the business for future planning.