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11 Keys to Developing Employee Skills



  • Talent Management

11 Keys to Developing Employee Skills

Training And Knowledge Building For The New Year

Most leaders agree developing employee skills is critical to better performance. Unfortunately, employees don’t think they have the time to do it.

They’re so busy doing their jobs, they won’t – or can’t – take the time to learn to do their jobs better.

More than 50% of employees say time is a barrier to their development, according to a Highspark study.

Considerations when Developing Employee Skills

But consider this:

When employers increase training and education by 10%, they get an 8.6% gain in productivity, according to researchers at National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce. So someone performing at 50% can move near the 60% range with training. Someone killing it at 80% can catapult to 90%! 

Many best-in-class organizations are developing employee skills quickly and effectively with unique and research-proven strategies.

Here are 11 of those for you to consider and possibly implement.

1. Train for the Long-Term

Many training agendas are built around teaching one or two skills or learning a new technology or process.

World-class training focuses on skills and ideas that employees will need over several years, according to research from The RAIN Group.

That starts with training geared toward the organization’s future. Build a curriculum around skills employees will need for where your company is headed. You’ll want to work with top-level leaders to align the skills and knowledge base with the major vision and goals.

Of course, you’ll need to be prepared to adjust your strategy if short-term needs pop up. But you can keep the curriculum focused, organized and logical for the organization’s long-term vision.

2. Train Beyond Job Function

Best-in-class companies aim at developing employee skills beyond their job function.

“Companies that are world class spend more time training front-line employees and managers,” says Patrick Morrissey, General Manager, Revenue Optimization Business Unit at Upland Software. “They train (employees) to organize time, coach others, etc. They’re always preparing the next generation of leaders.”

To develop employee skills, offer a variety of training on soft skills, too, such as time management, public speaking and leadership. Let them choose what fits their career goals and the company vision.

3. Be Relevant

Organizations that focus on the long-term goal still create training content that’s relevant to employees in the moment.

Employees want – and probably need – to apply what they learn immediately. So the best training sessions and material are relevant to what’s going on in your company now and the industry overall.

You’ll want trainers to talk about real-time situations and give practical advice for working in or reacting to those. Then reinforce the information with follow-up reminders until the situation changes.

4. Create Learning Circles

Many employees have great ideas, performance hacks and creative approaches others in their group, or even across the organization, can benefit from knowing. To help employees share their insight, Rakhi Voria, a former Director at IBM Global Digital Sales, suggests “learning circles” for employees and managers. 

When Voria’s team was spread across eight locations, they created small, peer-led mentor groups. She paired managers with employees monthly. She gave the groups a framework for discussions, but the team members have the conversation and share takeaways. 

5. Embrace Failure

Build failure into your training process, suggests Christian Valiulis, CRO at APS Payroll, who shares his insight on Forbes Business Council.

At APS, they baked little failures into training so employees could recognize pitfalls before they stepped into them. So when employees make mistakes in training – and not actually doing the job – they learn the skill, plus a lesson from failing to do it correctly.

Important key: Create opportunities for small fails that don’t make employees feel defeated or afraid to try again. You want fails that are easy to identify, and rebound and learn from.

6. Train Equally

“Best in class organizations believe everyone deserves to be coached,” Morrissey says. “It used to be that you hammered people until you got what you wanted. Now you want to invest in coaching and development in ways everyone can learn.”

In some organizations, leaders focus on mid-tier performers. They might treat low performers as lost causes. And they might not even bother with top performers, who often simply follow their own rules.

But when you offer equal training opportunities, you might help employees find where they belong (or don’t). For instance, maybe a low performer is better suited in a niché role. Or maybe you’ll find a top performer who would be ideal as a mentor and coach. You can’t know that unless everyone gets a shot at the same training and coaching.  

7. Pair Them

Consider pairing veteran employees with newer employees for mentor-like training and skilling.

For instance, a sales leader likes to give new hires a shared quota with a veteran salesperson. That way, the newer employees can ask questions they may feel uncomfortable asking a manager and get real-world, real-time advice. And the senior employee has incentive to train reps well because of the shared investment in a win.

So look for roles where you can pair shared goals and employee development and coordinate the training relationships.

8. Tap Other Experts

The best training organizations don’t go it all alone. They steer their employees to industry experts for unique perspectives and motivation.

To enhance training, encourage employees to read blogs and/or watch videos from experts in their field – and their spheres of interest.

9. Stay Ahead of Challenges

Great training strategies won’t work if you can’t overcome the biggest challenges: finding the time to hold it and getting people engaged in it.

“To beat those challenges, the training must be executed and sponsored from the top,” Morrissey says. “Senior executives need to encourage it. Treat it as something baked into the regular calendar.”

If possible, make training and re- or up-skilling part of your operational calendar. Invite (or require) employees to be part of ongoing training and reward them for engaging in it and applying it to their work. 

10. Use Video to Manage Time

At H&H Products Company, the management team records short videos with training topics that are searchable.

Managers and employees who are experts on topics can share their knowledge, skills and theory in brief videos. Then those live on for new hires, upskilling and refreshers. Employees can access them at times convenient to them. 

11. Assess the Training

Regardless of the strategies and tactics you use to train, you want to assess how effective they are.

Any one of these assessment methods works:

  • Knowledge checks. Try quizzes or tests – formally in your internal communication tool or informally in email – a week, month and several months after training.
  • Simulation. Managers might role play during one-on-ones or ask employees to demonstrate new skills in real time while working.
  • Observation. Managers will want to oversee employees from time to time to make sure their skills are on target with the training. 

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  • Talent Management

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