Upskilling and reskilling employees is a vital part of organisational success, contributing to growth, efficiency, retention, productivity and wellbeing. Yet its potential has not been fully realised and embedded into the lifecycle of an employee.

We become what we prioritise

Take a moment to think about your daily to-do list; perhaps you have a constant stream of meetings, reports to complete, client consultations, proposals to write, you may even have a virtual or face-to-face coffee and catch-up scheduled with colleagues or friends. But how many of you have a scheduled task for your personal and professional growth – protected time to read, learn, watch or do, when it comes to upskilling and reskilling yourself?

For many, learning and development still feels intangible or aspirational rather than a necessity that warrants a place on the golden to-do list. In this age of hyperautomation, skills are becoming obsolete very quickly making people more conscious of their need to remain relevant. With the labour market tightening, organisations are struggling to remain competitive, stay on top of changing trends, retain their best talent and fill key positions with the right people.

Focus on capability gaps and value-based learning

According to the 2023 Wiley report ‘Closing the skills gap’, up to 20% of unfilled job postings are due to talent shortages. For example, technical skills are in shortage, and the skills gap is becoming increasingly wider. 55% of generation Z (those considered to be digital natives) admit they lack the skills to keep up with core technology trends such as AI and cyber security, while at least 50% of professionals claim that technical or hard skills have a two-year shelf life.

But amidst the digital emphasis, we should not underestimate the value of soft skills. The Skills Builder Partnership with the CIPD, KPMG and the Edge Foundation found that soft skills were valued higher than digital skills, numeracy skills, technical skills and sector specific knowledge. Today, the current pace of change calls for more adaptable critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders to fuel people and business growth. Therefore, bridging the gap between what we are spending our time doing and what we could be doing to construct a focused future is more crucial than ever.

Despite its dual benefits, professional development is often put on the back burner in favour of operational work that yields tangible results. But to gain competitive advantage and enable employees to excel in their careers, organisations must equip their people with the capabilities to meet today’s demands as well as those of the future. In fact, 67% of UK employees have stated that professional development is essential to their job satisfaction.

What gets measured, gets managed

Each year, many of us are required to complete mandatory training on topics such as compliance, anti-money laundering, and cyber safety to name a few. So how can tailored professional development be mandated too?

Organisations must identify what current and future skills they require and provide employees with career development tools and internal mobility options to enhance engagement and improve workforce skills. For employees to succeed, they must be motivated with the right resources, skills and support, whilst also being held accountable for their work. The organisations that can empower their workforce and act quickly on valuable opportunities will always benefit in the long-term.

While accountability exists on both sides, implementation can often be challenging. One way to do this is to formally embed learning and development into your KPIs or make it part of an employee’s compensation package. Every quarter, employees could be tasked with learning and applying new knowledge to their work. The right KPIs would create a targeted and forward-looking approach to learning, allowing employers to measure the impact and effectiveness of learning on the organisation whilst enabling both parties to become more agile and responsive to future trends. Over time, learning and development will become an integral part of an employee's lifecycle, resulting in a behavioural shift.

By aligning learning strategies with business strategies and identifying and developing the capabilities needed for success, learning and development (L&D) leaders can help to revolutionise their organisational approach. The organisations which succeed in doing this and invest in expanding their capabilities will remain flexible and agile, and generate the talent they require to succeed in the age of hyperautomation and economic uncertainties.

Written by

Ben White

Ben White

Certified Business Psychologist, MSc,BSc, GMBPsS Growth Enablement lead

Ben is a seasoned learning consultant, executive coach and certified business psychologist for Capita. He has a wealth of experience working with clients and suppliers, which offers him a unique insight on what normally works and what doesn't when it comes to behaviour change programmes.

Ben works within the growth enablement learning team where he partners with business development to provide clients with the optimal solutions to drive success through their people.

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