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Your employees want to upskill: How can you support them?

Technology is evolving at breakneck speed and keeping up with the pace of these advancements is a challenge. In fact, research has revealed Australia is facing a major gap in digital skills across the workforce, with 87% of jobs requiring these skills as a prerequisite.

Luckily, the appetite for learning is strong, with a report from LinkedIn finding that 94% of workers would stay at a company longer if they felt it invested in their careers. An IBM study also revealed that employees are twelve times more likely to consider moving on when they feel they aren’t developing or achieving career goals. Staff turnover is demoralising for the team; it has a bottom-line impact, as it can cost an average of 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace them.  

So how can employers bridge the skills gap to engage employees and boost job satisfaction? 

Here are three areas for consideration.

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

Asking your employees what interests and motivates them should be your first step when building a training plan. Once you know the areas in which people would like to upskill, create a framework that employees can use to track their progress – commonly called a personal development plan (PDP). This should include the skills and competencies they would like to build over time and how they intend to get there. For example, it might involve setting aside time each month to attend online classes.

Developing digital competencies is becoming increasingly important. One study found  69% of businesses in Australia use at least one, often more, information and communications platform, such as cloud technology (57%) and cybersecurity software (26%), while another found that 56% had an ERP system in place. As businesses rely more on modern technology to manage daily operations, developing digital skills is critical for individuals and the broader business.

Foster a culture of learning

Leaders pave the way by creating a successful culture of learning. Making personal development a pillar of your organisation’s culture highlights that personal growth is a priority. For example, many companies have an employee recognition program to celebrate achievements. 

Here are some ways you can foster a culture of learning:

  • Offer a certification to employees who complete training programs
  • Set aside time each week/month for employees to upskill or attend a training session
  • Make learning part of your organisational values 
  • Create time for employees to share their learnings with others
  • Lead by example – demonstrate your commitment through continuous learning and improvement

The Australian government also offers a wide variety of funding schemes and incentive opportunities for upskilling, such as the Smart and Skilled program in NSW.

Introduce a mentor program

You likely have a wealth of experience and a range of diverse backgrounds within your employee pool. Introducing a mentor program is a great way for senior employees to develop their leadership skills and mentees gain valuable career insights. Some research showed that running a mentoring program increased managerial productivity by 88%, and 71% of Fortune 500 companies run some form of mentor program. 

Some considerations when designing a robust mentor program include:

  • Have clearly defined goals: What do you want to achieve? What does success look like for employees and the broader business?
  • Select the right support: whether you make this an internal program or bring in external mentors, establish parameters to keep the program aligned with your goals. For example, you could develop a template for 1:1 catchups that mentors/mentees can use to guide their discussions
  • Listen to feedback: evaluate your program by encouraging participants to have their say and share what changes they would like to see

Upskilling your team is essential to keep them engaged and to keep pace with the rate of technological change. Creating opportunities for learning and development not only shows your employees you’re invested in their future but boosts motivation.

These are just a few ways that business leaders can create an environment where learning is celebrated. Be sure to try a few tactics and find the ones that work best for your business – and don’t be afraid to iterate!


Read more: Let’s Talk: How can you drive motivation and teamwork amongst staff?


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Jason Toshack

Jason Toshack

Jason Toshack is the General Manager ANZ at Oracle NetSuite. With extensive experience leading high-performing teams across APAC, Jason brings valuable insights to customers to help their businesses succeed and grow.

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