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7 Steps to Upskilling Your Workforce

7 Steps to Upskilling Your Workforce

Jo Donelan

Looking to grow your business, stabilise in a post-Covid world or want to upskill your team for the future? Here is the seven-step process to upskilling your team for the next 12 months.

1. Identify the Gaps

Firstly, if you have not already, it’s time to identify skills gaps by performing a skills gap analysis.

Your organisation might have changed that way it operates over the course of the pandemic; in fact, it will be unusual if things are the same as pre-Covid.

You might not have had a chance yet to sit down and document everything that has changed in the last six months – now is the time.

Do you have new products, services, or processes? Do you have more or fewer employees? Has your business goal shifted?

The goal here is to find the tasks that employees undertake each day; there is a chance there will be new tasks that a role has not been assigned to yet.

When you have this list, you may find there are gaps in your team that you may want to fill to strengthen your business in this new Covid landscape.

Once you have identified the gaps, you can then start to build around this – the next step is to start putting in place a programme to upskill your current team members.

2. Create Tailored Personal Development Plans

Once you have the information you need on where the gaps in your team are, you can set about upskilling your current employees with the skills they need.

The most effective way to do this is to create personal development plans (PDP) for each individual. Most organisations will have some form of PDP for their employees, but whether they’re a working document, or whether they get stored in a file and never looked at can vary between organisation.

Take note of the word ‘personal’ when creating PDPs with your employees – it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Each employee will be at a different stage in their career, with different goals and aspirations. What was important and relevant to them pre-Covid might not be the same now – some individuals might be wanting to take a step back and go part-time; others might have been inspired during the pandemic to take on more responsibility.

No matter what stage employees are at in their career, there is always room to learn and grow.

French author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921 Anatole France said: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

3. Implementation

Implementing these PDPs means offering employees a strong support network to meet their goals in ways that suit them.

If your team have areas to work on to be able to develop new skills, what kind of support and training are you providing for them, and how will they access this learning?

Most larger organisations have training budgets – it has never been more important to look carefully at where your training budget is going. There will likely be a mix of remote and non-remote employees, and they all need to have access to training resources.

Additionally, there are many different ways people like to learn – some prefer traditional classroom type learning, others prefer to learn ‘on the job’ as they are doing the task, some prefer self-directed learning (where they undertake their own training on an agreed topic).

Typically, you might have employees undertaking training in different parts of the business in the form of secondments – is this still going to work in the Covid era? You might need to tailor your usual training programmes to comply with social distancing measures.

4. Coaching and Mentoring 

Coaching and mentoring are great ways to upskill your workforce. These two different development methods often get confused when they are, in fact, different.

Coaching is a more role-based, performance-driven type of development which happens between an employee and their manager.

Mentoring is more focused on personal development – a mentor can be an external person who helps you grow your skills, which of course ties into professional development, and why the two often get confused.

While mentoring has translated relatively well in the remote-age (Zoom calls are great for mentoring sessions), coaching is more difficult to implement – have you addressed this in your post-Covid team?

People don’t leave companies; they leave managers – you might have heard this phrase before. While it’s true to a certain extent (in fact, data shows that in ‘bad’ companies, neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ managers make a difference, but another study found that 65% of people would take a new boss over a pay rise) coaching your team members is an excellent way to strengthen your relationship with employees.

But being an effective leader is about understanding yourself, your strengths and limitations. If you aren’t confident in your caching abilities, there are plenty of external organisational coaching businesses available.

Internal vs external coaching is something that your company will need to decide on, and both have their benefits and drawbacks.

For example, external coaching might cost more, but it can achieve better results. This is because external coaches don’t carry preconceptions about your business or your employees.

It is highly recommended that you include coaching and mentoring to some extent in your upskilling process, how you choose to do it is a decision you need to make within your organisation.

5. Track Progress Closely

As your team develops, an essential part of the upskilling process will be to track their progress.

After all, how can you see those PDPs come to life if they are not regularly reviewed?
Sitting down and reviewing employee progress is a key part of the upskilling process, and the more regularly you do this, the better.

Leaving it more than six months between reviews can lead to employees feeling disengaged with their PDPs or even feeling abandoned.

As you review employee PDPs, take note of how they feel their progress is coming along, what parts of learning new skills or developing their current skillset are they enjoying and what they are struggling with. PDPs can be altered and adapted along the upskilling journey – some employees will hit goals sooner than expected; others may take longer.

Everyone who is on a professional or personal journey feels motivated to keep it up when they feel supported, and it is up to you as their manager to do this.

Regular check-ins encourage team members to talk about anything they might be struggling with that they don’t want to bring up in general day-to-day conversation.

Being physically and emotionally available for your employees will help them grow; transparent and reliable leadership is a key element of every successful company.

Once the 12-month PDP period comes to an end, it’s time to review your employees' progress using the measurable goals you set out in the original plan.

6. Manage Change

A big challenge for managers during times of organisational change, like during a period of upskilling, reskilling or the addition of new products and services, is managing the mindset of change in your employees.

Generally, people are resistant to change; it’s an evolutionary response.

But for successful upskilling to occur in your business, change must be accepted and understood by all.

The following are ways to successfully manage change in your team as they go through their upskilling journey -

  • Don’t erase the past – if your organisation or the roles of your employees have changed due to Covid, remember to acknowledge the past rather than trying to erase it. Programmes and strategies that your employees have worked hard on in the past suddenly disappearing can make them feel disheartened – let them know that their previous work is appreciated, but that change is now necessary.
  • Actively listen – don’t fall into the management trap of thinking that you ‘know best’. Being open to feedback and suggestions from your team during the upskilling process is essential if you want your team to grow.
  • Communicate changes – there is nothing more isolating for team members when changes occur in the business, and they aren’t informed – it makes them feel disregarded and causes them to become disengaged. Always communicate changes to your team before you implement them; this transparency will strengthen the upskilling process and your entire organisation.

There will be times when, despite your best efforts, there are skills gaps in your organisation which call for external talent to be brought in.

Finally, let’s look at how recruiting new talent will be an essential part of upskilling your team for the next 12 months.

7. Recruiting New Talent

In the post-Covid era, many organisations are looking to cut costs, and halting recruitment is a strategy some businesses implement to free up budgets in the short-term.

But let’s think about the following 12 months. This will be possibly the most business-critical period most companies will go through in a generation.

If you get to the point where you recognise that there are critical skills gaps that cannot be closed with your existing team members, you will need to think about recruitment.
Plugging a skills gap is essential to keep your business afloat, but it becomes critical when you want to grow, which many companies do.

In the coming year, many organisations will be introducing new products and services, and it might not be feasible for your current team to grow in the time needed to make this a success.

You will know from your skills gap assessment which skills you need in your business, and sometimes it isn’t possible to train current employees to be proficient in new skills for a variety of reasons. It might be too far out of their knowledge remit, or they might not have time to learn alongside their busy current role.

When it comes to recruiting, doing so in times when others are holding back on their recruitment can produce great results. The talent pool you have to recruit from is more widespread when your competitors have shut down their recruitment programmes
In recruitment, working with an expert will get you better results than opting for a general service provider, and will free up your team’s time to work on things that will help you move the needle in the months ahead.

We’re here if you want to have a conversation about how Hatty can help you get ahead through the coming months.