Learning and Development

5 ways to upskill your talent right now and why it matters

Engaged employees are the lifeblood of any successful enterprise and that’s especially true in times of difficulty. It’s why businesses often rate human capital as their most valuable asset. Staying agile and responsive during a crisis requires companies to lean into their talent for creative and innovative solutions to unprecedented challenges.

Taking the opportunity during a crisis to also invest in that talent can pay huge dividends both in the short-term and the long-term. Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report indicates employees that feel engaged are more likely to provide better customer service that can translate into as much as a 20% increase in sales.

By investing in upskilling your talent, your leadership team communicates that they value people over profits and will protect those human resources during a crisis. A focus on learning and development can also foster a sense of community among a remote workforce and provide much-needed avenues for healthy interactions in virtual professional environments.

Providing resources for career advancement to your employees sends a powerful message that you value their contributions and that you’re interested in making sure they feel heard and seen. At a time when your business community may be feeling a bit rudderless, creating a space that clearly communicates solidarity can be incredibly empowering.

And of course, there are clear tangible and financial benefits for everyone, including shareholders. Companies who invest more in their talent in terms of providing benefits, resources, and training also tend to see payoffs down the road in employee retention and loyalty.

Here are five things you can focus on to help employees upskill their talents in ways that will be mutually beneficial both in the short and long-term no matter which industry you’re in.

1. Bridge the digital divide.

The pivot some companies have made recently to a remote workforce has been a great opportunity to give employees the skills to survive and thrive in virtual work environments. Training on hosting dynamic Zoom meetings, operating workspace messaging platforms like Slack, or creating team hubs in Microsoft are all ways to level up technology skills. McKinsey Global estimates that by 2030, 14% of the workforce will need to be retrained because of job losses due to automation, so providing employees with skills to bridge this digital divide is crucial.

Focusing on comfort with technology can not only tackle some of those career skill gaps but also place your company in a better position to innovate in the future. Equipping your talent with advanced technological skills helps you weather not just this public health crisis but other challenges experts say should be part of your economic forecast and financial planning.

2. Focus on Soft Skills

The kinds of skills necessary to be successful in the workplace aren’t always easy to capture on a resume. Many employers cite the most valuable skillsets as those that align with soft skills like communication, teamwork, resiliency, and adaptability. Without strength in these skills areas, you may be seeing warning signs like increased employee turnover or a lack of collaboration between departments that leads to missing critical project deadlines. 

However, interpersonal attributes can be notoriously difficult to cultivate through traditional avenues for training and development so start thinking about creative campaigns to move the needle on soft skills initiatives. Finding ways to encourage, measure, and value soft skills like accountability is also vital to helping a remote workforce be successful. Nurturing these skills should take place not just among the leadership and management teams, but across your entire workforce in order to foster a positive and effective learning environment.

3. Invest in peer coaching

Developing a coaching or mentoring program can offer additional benefits in a crisis, providing a support system of sorts during major transitions while it helps employees develop leadership skills. When an effective mentorship or coaching program is running on all cylinders, it can encourage a deeper bench of talent within your workforce.

However, peer and coaching initiatives can not be launched haphazardly or without resources. In order to be successful, these efforts should carefully coordinate matches that will be of mutual benefit and to provide training on how to be a coach or mentor. Adding this responsibility onto the shoulders of untrained employees can feel overwhelming in times of crisis unless they are provided with the skills, resources, and time to support others.

4. Launch Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives

If you haven’t delivered in the way you would like on diversity and inclusion initiatives within your company, now is the time to try new approaches to tackle this worthwhile endeavor. In the same way that communication and leadership skills are highly valued in business environments, a management team that understands how to promote diversity instead of paying it lip service is a significant asset.

Helping your talent develop a truly inclusive company culture goes beyond just promoting tolerance. Creating a thoughtful virtual and physical workspace requires listening and seeking to understand and center the needs of vulnerable and underserved populations both as employees, clients, and customers.

5. Offer Language Training

Offering your employees a chance to learn another language can have an immediate benefit both for resume-building purposes but also for your company culture. Inclusion starts by lifting up the voices of all the people your company serves, including those who might speak other languages. Offering language learning shows you’re serious about inclusion and fostering a learning environment that is thoughtful and diverse.

Employees who speak multiple languages are obviously an asset, but there are also distinct advantages to embracing deeper dives into other cultures that bring a diversity of thought to the product development, design, and sales process. An increasingly global economy requires innovation that speaks its language and leadership that recognizes the value language training brings to the boardroom table.

Start by making a critical investment in your greatest resource: your people.

Kaz Weida
Kaz Weida is a freelance journalist and photographer who is passionate about crafting content that helps entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes tackle challenges. When not at her keyboard, Kaz can be found in the kitchen indulging in a little craft cocktail inspiration.