How to Keep Your Employees’ Skills Sharp

Skills will remain crucial to the success of our enterprises, our people, and necessary for building a future-fit workforce ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

Training magazine

It used to be that you went to school, earned a degree, and entered the workforce. If you worked hard, you could build a steady career over time. But in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing work environment that’s no longer the case. The days of sticking to one job and one skill set are quickly fading.

As learning expert Kimo Kippen once put it, “the currency of the future is skills and speed.” This not only applies to individuals seeking to build their careers, but also to organizations that wish to remain competitive in complex and global markets. In order to create a future-fit workforce, learning must be at the center of company culture. Quite simply, it is the most powerful and impactful way to build high-performing teams, attract and retain top talent, and ensure growth, agility, and advancement of people and business.

For these reasons, enterprises simply cannot survive without making skills-driven learning and development (L&D) a priority. But how should companies approach this kind of L&D programming? To get started, here are the top three elements every skills-based learning program should include – integrate learning in the flow of work, consider diverse learning modalities, and seek to not only educate but also to inspire throughout the journey.

Learning in the Flow of Work

On average, learners spend less than five hours per week learning. A major reason for this is that learning typically requires individuals to prioritize meetings and find time to learn outside of their typical workdays. The solution is bringing learning to where people are and enabling it to occur in the flow of work.

What this means is that building a skills-driven L&D program should start with considering where your employees already are. What systems are they using on a daily basis? How can you create an experience that simplifies the learning process and reduces friction?

These are questions that many companies had to think through as the COVID-19 pandemic first ushered us into remote work and later promised hybrid work and a return to a new normal. Social collaborative platforms like Microsoft Teams, while popular before COVID, have become crucial to business and cultural continuity. After all, employees satisfied with their social connectivity are two to three times more likely to maintain or improve productivity. That’s why Skillsoft launched the Percipio App for Microsoft Teams, making learning in the flow of work possible for thousands of employees around the world, with opportunities for learning fully integrated into the same platform where teams connect, meet, collaborate.

Personalized Learning for All Types of Learners

Simply stated, one size fits all learning is not effective. While groups of individuals may be expected to acquire the same knowledge or skills, learning preferences are oftentimes completely different and diverse, requiring a variety of modalities.

To address different learning needs and preferences, it’s critical to consider the various types of employees that will engage with the learning. Whether it be frontline managers and employees or middle managers, sales and account teams, offering learning options that are sensitive to diverse work needs and neurodiversity, ensures greater speed to adoption after learning takes place.

This kind of approach was incredibly useful when Skillsoft launched a multi-track aspire journey in March 2020 titled, Forging New Paths: Women’s Advancement In Life and Work, in response to how the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted women and resulted in 2.4 million women exiting the labor force. We knew it was important that we build a holistic, blended learning experience in order to help companies better support women at all stages of life and career. We began by considering who would engage with and benefit from this content: women looking to grow their careers, working mothers wanting to balance life and work, allies, mentors, sponsors, and organizational leaders. Using AI technology, we took it one step further to create a curated learning experience to empower women to unlock their strengths and forge new paths towards advancement in both life and work.

Content that Educates and Inspires

The last key element needed to create a strong skills-driven learning experience for employees is content that both educates and inspires – content that speaks to the mind and the heart, that reflects real people, real stories, real situations, that resonates with and reflects diverse situations, environments, and people.

When our team set out to build a new learning path for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, we asked ourselves how we could create content that would truly inspire learners. With such an important topic, we knew we had to be creative in our approach. Rather than leaning exclusively on experts, we infused the courses with real personal stories. This made for a much richer learning experience that put people first.

This approach may not work for all topics. We took a very different approach to our courses for Cloud Ops training, for example. Nevertheless, we must approach learning with the goal to provide employees with content that will inspire them in order for it to yield the greatest results.

Keeping Pace with the Future of Work

The future of work is constantly evolving and pushing us to transform with it. We’ve seen in recent years just how agile work environments can be. But one thing we can count on is that skills will remain crucial to the success of our enterprises, our people, and necessary for building a future-fit workforce ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

Elisa Vincent
Elisa Vincent is Vice President of Global Talent Enablement at Skillsoft where she leads strategic initiatives that foster the individual and collective success of the organization. She has more than 20 years of experience leading and transforming human capital management, leadership development, talent management, organizational design, and diversity, equity, and inclusion across global enterprises.