Nurturing a Greener Workforce: Empowering Sustainability Through Upskilling

Green business practices are the new gold standard necessitating the ability to measure an organization's environmental impact.

In recent years, the world has made sustainability and the adoption of eco-friendly practices a priority, with corporations responding in kind. Many organizations now demonstrate a stronger commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) operations. To illustrate, Skillsoft’s CSR at Work Report revealed that 42 percent of working professionals state that employee engagement in CSR efforts is best supported by training opportunities. Leaders have taken note, implementing new training technologies and reshaping business practices to minimize their carbon footprint and engage employees while benefitting the environment.

Such transformation doesn’t happen overnight, and it brings significant changes that demand new skills from employees. Green business practices are the new gold standard, necessitating proficiency in green technologies, improvement of business processes, and the ability to measure an organization’s environmental impact. Consequently, the demand for green skills has skyrocketed, with employment searches for such talents recording nearly triple-digit growth. Realizing sustainability goals may prove difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without these skills.

Some might argue that filling the green skills gap can be accomplished through external hiring. Reality, however, presents a different picture. While hiring new talent might appear to be a solution, it often only temporarily relieves a persistent issue. As the sustainability sector continues evolving at a whirlwind pace, skills are rapidly outdated, catalyzing the need to acquire new skills sooner than anticipated. For many organizations, the smart play involves upskilling their existing workforce. This process is not easy but well worth the investment and involves four key steps: assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Determine the starting point

To appropriately transform an organization, the first necessary step is a thorough assessment of the existing workforce’s green skills and identifying the areas of improvement. This initial evaluation is critical to understand the current competence level and helps in defining the starting point for future growth. The assessment should identify gaps in global standards or competency frameworks and account for the range of pre-existing skills and proficiency needed to lead sustainability projects.

Establish a plan

Once the assessment is complete, offering a clear understanding of skill gaps, it’s time to devise a detailed plan. Leaders need to map out SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals, deadlines, and schedules for green upskilling. For instance, if a key green strategy involves reducing energy consumption, the skilling strategy must include training on the various ways, tools, and necessary technologies needed to make that happen. Remember, good planning involves staying informed about evolving environmental landscapes, technological advances, and industry best practices.

Execute. Execute. Execute.

Remember, each organization’s path towards a greener workforce will be unique. But that doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Many organizations already have specialized learning and development programs. Leaders need to ensure that employees have access to suitable training materials, workshops, and tools that align with current programs. This approach ensures that ordinary operations continue with minimal disruption and team members continue learning in a manner that fits them best. However, it is essential for organizations to allocate extra time for learners for training. Our 2023 research shows that employees already have the desire to develop green skills; therefore, it is incumbent upon organizations to prioritize these.

Building a continuous cycle

Lastly, green upskilling is not a “set it and forget it” affair; it needs to be dynamic and adaptable to shifts in business objectives and strategies. This process is not a sprint but a marathon, necessitating regular monitoring and evaluation. Regular check-ins across the organization, tracking progress, and measuring impact are beneficial to align skills with sustainability goals. Periodically revisiting and updating the upskilling strategy keeps the process current with evolving circumstances.

By embracing the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation process, organizations create an environment that fosters green upskilling and cultivates a learning culture. This encourages improved results aligned with the company’s objectives. Prioritizing learning and development empowers the workforce with the necessary tools to stay competitive, develop essential business and leadership skills, and undertake training necessary for the company’s sustainability mission.