We’re desperate to write an article that is free from any references to “new ways of working” but it’s proving difficult. We didn’t even make it through the first line in this one. However, the fact that hybrid and remote workplaces are here to stay has brought upskilling into sharp focus — so there was really no way of discussing one without the other. And don’t just take our word for it. Take the Fosway Group’s as well:
“The importance of enabling people to transition to new working conditions or remote working, upskilling and reskilling for new roles, or supporting employee wellbeing, cannot be overstated.” ¹
Sounds like it’s time we got into what you can do to bridge the skills gap in your organisation.
1. Identify the skills they need
The first port of call when defining your upskilling strategy is almost always going to be some training needs analysis. This isn’t just about determining what skills are important to empower — okay, it partially is, but it’s also more broadly about showing you:
- What skills and competencies are in place.
- Where the two overlap.
- What’s missing.
- Where the learning opportunities lie.
Soft skills have come to the fore since the start of the pandemic and they should be your priority when coming up with any plans to upskill your employees. The fact that soft skill-intensive roles are expected to account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 proves that they’re a need-to-have and not just nice-to-have. ²
So try to look deeper when assessing your employees’ skill sets. For example, there’s a big difference between being confident and being competent. Sure, Paul in Sales may always be self-assured when pitching new ideas, but how often does he actually follow through with them when they’re approved? Instead, you should be looking out for the hard workers that could do with a bit of help in the public speaking department to have their skills put to better use.
Identifying instances where one is more developed than the other will highlight who to prioritise and how to approach their professional development. Keep an eye out for rising stars who can shape the business in the coming years. More importantly, keep an open mind and expect that every employee will reap the benefit of upskilling in one form or another.
2. Figure out your priorities
Given what we just revealed, it’ll come as no surprise that training and developing soft skills should sit at the top of your list of priorities.
Pandemic-induced WFH orders put workplace collaboration to the test like never before; there’s nothing like a full day of Zoom meetings to expose how you and your team members may need some help in how to engage in small talk through a computer screen.
In fairness, none of us expected that we’d have to chat with our colleagues virtually just as much as we do in person and sometimes even more often than the latter! But in case you hadn’t realised, the hybrid setup is here to stay (sorry, we realise sarcasm doesn’t translate well over blog posts of all things.)
Anyway, your strategies should take this shift in stride and think about how you can improve on and enhance the skillsets of your employees to see better communication and teamwork across the board.
However, we don’t anticipate that HR professionals will get much traction with a strategy that reads ‘we need more soft skills now, please and thanks.’ That’s why it’s best practice to align your learning and development efforts with your business’ big picture objectives. For example, your organisation might have the specific goal of reducing the number of returns and/or complaints. Helping staff improve their listening skills (Paul in Sales might as well show up for work in noise-cancelling headphones) could deliver immediate, measurable results.
Pro tip: Soft skills are universal and enduring, so investing in any related development opportunities is a smart move. This is in direct contrast to hard skills training, which is always dependent on role, technology, and legislation.
3. Keep it engaging
If we’ve ever crossed paths before then you’ll know we’re all about employee engagement. We’re not suggesting that other L&D outfits set out with a different goal. We just mean we understand the power of tackling heavy subjects with a lightness of touch so we go all in.
Our thing is humour. And we’re not talking about a few dad jokes here and there (even though dad jokes are ace). We’re talking about courses and resources scripted by award-winning writers and featuring the most recognisable faces in British comedy.
You might reasonably ask what any of that has to do with career development. And we might reasonably answer that it’s because humour opens the dopamine tap to enable enhanced long-term memory and retention. Or as the science guys put it:
“…dopamine is vital for the ‘stamping-in’ of stimulus–reward and response–reward associations.” ³
What this means for your upskilling efforts is that they stand a chance of succeeding in the short and long term. Learners will be motivated to partake and they’ll be far more likely to absorb the message.
Our ambition to deliver the most engaging experiences possible also extends to the actual structures of what we provide. Microlearning (3-4 minute videos with a learning objective) undermines tired excuses about how there aren’t enough hours in the day to learn new skills. According to the National Credentialing Institute, microlearning can be up to 17% more efficient. ⁴
Suggested reading: Fancy a closer look? Check out this article on the secret to learner engagement.
Of course, ours isn’t the only gig in town. Just make your choice knowing that connecting learners with materials they’ll actually enjoy can make upskilling your workforce a rewarding endeavour for everyone involved.
4. Use personalised content that’s ready to go
There is another approach that can supercharge your strategy and that’s personalising your materials, learning pathways, and the entire interface you’re working with.
That probably isn’t surprising to hear. 77% of L&D professionals already believe personalised learning is vital to employee engagement; tailored is going to be better than off-the-shelf in pretty much every scenario.⁵ Going bespoke can, however, place strain on resources (financial and human) and it’s often overlooked for that reason.
Semi-custom content has the potential to deliver the same benefits without the drawbacks. It’s a happy medium between off-the-shelf SCORM-compliant courses and producing everything from scratch. While we don’t have enough space to go into great detail about the process here, this setup connects learning designers with an extensive library of high-quality video content that they can use as the building blocks of made-to-measure courses. Designers can add anything from branding to annotations to guarantee that resources are delivering a targeted and — you guessed it — personalised message.
Suggested reading: Desperate to go into great detail about the process? Peruse this article on delivering personalised workplace learning.
Said content can then be made available on-demand and across any device. That makes for an efficient, effective proposition that is, appropriately enough, tailor-made for the hybrid work environment.
Now if you’re wondering where you could find such materials, we have some good news: you’re in the right place. Better still, our library is jam-packed with content on upskilling, soft skills, and basically everything that a workplace needs to see longer-lasting learning. We should add that semi-custom is not your only option. We also offer readymade SCORM-compliant courses and a fully bespoke production service that will enable you to retain complete control over… well, everything.
All you have to do to get started is get in touch. We’ve watched our own training videos so you can expect our response to be the epitome of excellent communication skills and service (no pressure to us!)