Written by Kevin Heisey
on December 08, 2022

Whether you are migrating legacy technology or implementing automation, Cloud technology or low-code/no-code platforms, you’ll inevitably identify skills gaps. It may seem like the quick solution is to hire new staff with the skills you need, but the current people in your organization – those who are familiar with your business, culture and systems – are often the best option to upskill and train to support new capability needs. Your own employees are readily available and potentially the quickest option when it comes to learning and applying new skills. They know your culture, your existing technology and your systems which allows them to learn and apply new skills in a way that more directly and effectively meets your needs.

Technologists are tuned into the speed-of-light pace of technology evolution. Beyond compensation and benefits, ensuring that their skillsets are sharp and constantly evolving is a top priority for them and is a key factor in employee retention. Salesforce’s “Future of Work” research found that 70% of knowledge workers feel that having more opportunities for workplace learning makes them more productive and engaged. 67% say they are more likely to stay with a company that provides continuous learning opportunities. How can you ensure your people have opportunities to learn on the job and meet your evolving skills needs?

Empower People to Develop Their Own Learning Paths

Organizationally, managers should work with their direct reports to connect their professional interests with operational goals and organizational gaps to develop personalized upskilling roadmaps that help them achieve their professional goals while positioning them for growth within the company. Additionally, this works to ensure that you are providing the upskilling opportunities your employees seek.

Ideally, they will have opportunities to learn and practice new skills on-the-job, but when that isn’t possible, support their upskilling however you can, including formal training enrollment where appropriate.

Dedicate Time to Upskilling and Measure Your Progress

One of the biggest roadblocks to learning can be lack of time. Near-term priorities can squeeze out longer-term investments in upskilling. To ensure there are adequate learning opportunities, dedicate specific time to learning or set specific standards and measure to see how well people are doing. Find an approach that fits your organizational culture. You can establish that employees should dedicate 2-4 hours per week to learning, or you can clear a specific time, for example, Wednesday afternoons, so there are no conflicts.

Measuring progress makes a big difference. It’s much easier to overlook or put off intended learning time if it isn’t scheduled, measured and evaluated. Don’t think of it as a strict mandate to be monitored. Think of it as communicating organizational permission that indicates how much the organization prioritizes and values upskilling and career development. It empowers staff to know developing new professional skills is a true expectation that goes beyond lip service and platitudes.

Encourage People to Learn in Cohorts

When someone identifies a new skill to learn, encourage them to ask around the organization to see who else is interested in developing the same skill and create a learning cohort. Create a collaboration space and have the cohort go through training together. Knowledge workers learn best through discussion, practice and teaching others.

Learning cohorts give employees organizational permission to pursue learning that can be even more effective than dedicating and measuring individual learning. A person thinks, “If I’m part of this group, I must commit to and engage in the group activities.” They are more likely to devote time to learning and have a more valuable experience when they train in cohorts.

Train as Teams in Hands-on, Practical Environments

You can work with vendor partners focused on Knowledge Transfer who embed with your teams and train in their normal work environment. Training in a hands-on, practical environment eliminates the trade-off between delivery and learning as teams deliver while learning, it leverages the benefits of learning in cohorts and it allows teams to learn by applying new concepts directly to the work they do. Training teams through guided, hands-on application in their normal work environment quickly delivers business value from your upskilling investments.

Your People are Your Most Valuable Resource

Your people are often the best suited to meet emerging skill needs. They know your business, culture and systems and can quickly apply new skills and deliver value. Upskilling is a long-term investment in people that builds their professional knowledge and skills and helps them grow in their careers. When upskilling opportunities are prioritized, people metrics, like engagement and retention, go way up. In an era where how we work changes rapidly, prioritizing upskilling can payoff substantially.