The UK’s skills shortage has been widely documented. This is especially true in the technology industry where STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are severely lacking. While the intention to encourage companies to hire and train local workers first is generally supported, we’re now seeing the economic impact of protectionist policies here and in the US. Companies will merely set up shop elsewhere, as they’re doing in Canada and Ireland. This means that companies need to introduce continuous learning in areas that will help to future proof their organisations.
People leave managers, not companies. If you don’t have strong leaders who are being constantly upskilled and trained, they’re not going to be able to keep the people you need to keep. Leadership training is no longer a three-day offsite for the top 50 in the company; it needs to start much further down the ladder and be far more accessible. Companies must invest in interesting, scenario-based training content that leaders can do from a microlearning basis (3-minutes snippets), making it easily relatable and retained. On-demand microlearning for leaders also makes troubleshooting problems and upskilling easier with new learning content available continuously at the click of a button.
We know the importance of upskilling. An employer who keeps their employees skilled will increase loyalty and decrease attrition. But reskilling is also important, and this is where many local companies are coming unstuck. For too long, hiring people has been about matching the job description to the person verbatim. Companies that look for good people who can be retrained in new skills will come out on top; they’re building loyalty by putting faith in people’s abilities, while saving on the cost of constantly rehiring. Start by reviewing your skills gaps, and who in your organisation might be appropriately reskilled into those areas. Also develop more generalist job descriptions and figure out where to put people, once you find someone who is the right fit for the company, rather than a very narrow job function.
In the past, a forklift driver only needed to know how to operate their machine, whereas now invariably they’re working on a tablet or computer. Our economy is run on technology and being multi-skilled is now essential. For example, everyone in an organisation should know how to put their company’s branding into a PowerPoint presentation, or how to drive a virtual team. Digital knowledge needs to be universal across a business to ensure cross-functional teams can operate efficiently, and no one is left behind. Do a stocktake of digital skills in your organisation – who’s up to scratch and who could use some improvement? Find out what they feel would be useful general digital knowledge, and look for training content to address it.
In certain industries like IT, it’s assumed a person has the necessary hard skills to perform their role, but the real differentiator for people who start to move up in organisations is soft skills – things like presentation skills, working with customers, negotiation and emotional intelligence. These can be taught and companies need to invest more in these skills. I believe that training the entire person is more beneficial to them and to the company. Training means helping people to develop more holistically, which means better future leaders and a better functioning organisation.
A UK thinktank report states that men are less likely than women to go to British universities, yet women are still more likely to be ‘under-employed’, working part-time and paid less. A raft of issues including continued gender bias and access to and the cost of childcare, are causing this. But companies have a choice to do something about it. Flexible work and leave for mums and dads, training programmes focusing on women’s leadership development, and professional development offered around part-time or flexible workers, are all ways companies can help women in their organisation to reach their potential. Research shows that women account for less than one fifth of the IT workforce in the UK. We need to be investing in programmes that encourage more girls to experiment with technology, to learn to code, to consider a career in IT or make a career change to work in IT. Various organisations are doing great things to try to close the gap, but this needs to be supported on a national level across business and government.