How Businesses Can Help Employees Improve their Skills
Based upon a recent McKinsey Global Survey, nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) of respondents management level and above affirmed they are currently dealing with a skills gap among their employees or expect to be within the next five years. With the vast majority of businesses experiencing or forecasting a skills-gap, how can they close or reduce this challenge?
Due to the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as the World Economic Forum (WEF) explains, the best scenario it sees is 54 percent of workers requiring “reskilling and upskilling by 2022.” However, the WEF points out that 3 in 10 workers susceptible to occupation disruption due to advancements in applied science obtained additional training in 2018.
It’s important to clarify the differences between re-skilling and up-skilling. Re-skilling is where workers who are displaced by industries becoming obsolete, such as coal miners, are forced to retrain for a new career, such as coding, teaching, etc. Up-skilling, in contrast, involves building and staying current in one’s field – a programmer learning the newest programming language or a marketing manager learning the latest search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.
Carve Out Skill-Improvement Time Blocks
Even for companies that strive to provide their employees with flexible time for a work-life balance, it doesn’t always guarantee companies foster a culture of self-improvement and upskilling. When personal, professional, and/or global crises occur, there’s not always time for employees to learn new computer programs or the latest programming language. However, by providing employees with a few hours a week dedicated to professional development, businesses give employees the opportunity to up-skill, leading to more satisfied employees, along with limited strain on the budget.
Arrange Worker-Guided Study Groups
When it comes to learning a new skill, according to Degreed via Harvard Business Review (HBR), workers will go to their peers 55 percent of the time, second only to reaching out to their supervisor for guidance, when looking to up-skill.
Few businesses are known to have developed a system for peer-to-peer learning in the workplace. According to McKinsey, “Learning & Development officers” reported businesses letting their employees put their skills into practice to develop additional skills, along with holding academic-type instruction and “experiential learning” for developing role competency. When it comes to structured peer-to-peer learning, fewer than 50 percent of businesses have anything established. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed responded that there’s no system established to facilitate skills development opportunities between co-workers.
From HBR’s “The Expertise Economy,” one reason that peer-to-peer learning is not the first choice for employee learning is due to a common belief that those who are proficient at a particular skill often exist outside the organization, such as a paid training consultant. This belief is reinforced due to external educational experiences normally condensed into a single session, compared to smaller and more frequent in-house sessions.
HBR argues that peer-to-peer learning leverages the business’ internal expertise more effectively. If more experienced employees share their expertise with less seasoned co-workers to increase their skills, it can be very productive. In fact, HBR lays out a four-point plan for peer-to-peer learning to maximize employee up-skilling.
By using HBR’s “Learning Loop,” businesses can help employees learn new skills and knowledge through four steps:
- Employees obtain new information.
- After assimilating the new information, they practice implementing the new information.
- After it’s been applied, they obtain feedback on the application.
- The employee then reflects on what has been learned to further assimilate the new information.
While this program must be tailored to every organization, it shows that by taking a personal approach to up-skilling employees and building on their existing knowledge and skill sets, peer-to-peer learning can be one effective approach to helping employers and their employees close the skills gap.