The enterprise's guide to employee skill development

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In business, agility is key. Organizations that adopt and adapt to newer trends in the market tend to lead the way. And one way to do that is by investing in their employees regularly.

Employee skill development is the practice of creating dedicated programs to upskill and reskill employees. You’re not just responsible for hiring the best talent but also for nurturing and developing their skills so they’re prepared for any challenge that comes their way.

Also, when your workforce constantly improves their hard and soft skills, the business benefits from improved outcomes as a whole.

Let's look at the benefits of employee skill development, the process of identifying skill gaps, and methods you can use to facilitate this process.

What are the key benefits of employee skill development?

There are many advantages of investing in career development and training programs:

Lower turnover rates

LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report found that 93% of employers are concerned about employee retention. Many individuals have expressed that they're more likely to quit if there's no potential for internal mobility or professional development in the organization. 

Add to that the rising costs of hiring and training another employee, the burden on organizations will quickly increase. So investing in professional development is vital in preventing that.

When you look at it from the employee's perspective, it tells them that you value their contributions and are committed to their growth. This translates to loyalty and better engagement rates—leading to longer tenures and lower turnover rates.

Attract better talent

If you want to attract the cream of the crop, you need to offer tangible benefits. One way to do that is by providing benefits like regular training and mentorship initiatives.

Job candidates are measuring employers on several factors—and it’s not limited to the salary package. They want to know whether the company invests in them, and if they do, how they do it.

For example, if you're a hospital or healthcare clinic, candidates may want to know what techniques you use and if they'll have the opportunity to hone those skills. This is why healthcare professionals use specialization and mentorship opportunities to indicate what they'll receive.

Higher employee engagement

A report by Hypercontext found that 30% of employees consider having access to learning and development (L&D) opportunities the reason to be more motivated and engaged at work.

When you allow employees to develop their skills, especially when actively seeking these learning opportunities, you turn them into brand advocates. They'll be more emotionally invested at work due to higher motivation levels.

You can observe these patterns through the level of participation, efficiency, and productivity. Also, these incentives mentally stimulate minds, which could result in higher employee engagement.

Improved succession planning

As many job candidates have also mentioned that internal mobility is a factor for them while looking for a job, succession planning is key.

Investing in employees and preparing them to take on managerial roles will save time spent on finding potential hires. Also, it gives employees a clear look into how the organization helps them chart their career path. 

For instance, if senior-level employees retire, someone must be capable of taking their place. At that level, finding the right person becomes harder, so organizations that invest in skill development guarantee seamless transitions.

Better organizational performance

Twenty-five percent of skill sets for jobs have changed since 2015—by 2027, that number is expected to double. If you don't invest in skill development, your organization is at a higher risk of reduced organizational performance, as employees won't have the skills to perform competitively.

Unless and until you make upskilling and reskilling a priority, you'll become a laggard in the market over time. And even if you try to hire candidates with those critical skills, it'll be hard to retain them as there's no development incentive.

Continuous skill development translates into better performance as employees know how to tackle challenging situations, develop core competencies, and actively contribute to business goals.

How can you identify skill gaps that hinder growth?

You can’t develop an employee skill development program without knowing what skills need to be improved in the first place. Here’s how you can do help them realize their full potential:

Industry-specific skills

You need to monitor what trends are hitting the market closely and if non-negotiable aspects like regulatory standards and techniques are evolving.

For example, staying informed about different payment and security standards like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) in the finance industry is critical. Offering employee training sessions or L&D budgets for conferences can help fill the skill gap.

You can also conduct competitive benchmarking to see skills your competitors are hiring for and whether you have them. The idea is to stay ahead of the competition. Alternatively, if clients or prospects inquire about specific services or specializations, it might be time to add them to your L&D roster.

Technical skills

Technical skills are tangible, often certifiable, and relate to specific tasks, tools, or technologies. There are several ways you can gauge what's lacking:

  • Ask for feedback from leadership, managers, and employees directly.
  • Conduct regular skill assessment tests and note areas that need improvement.
  • Ask managers to review the quality and output of the work that’s done.
  • Introduce new tools or technologies and notice how quickly employees adopt them.
  • Talk to IT employees to understand the most common queries. 

The idea is to understand if employees need help with simple technical skills, too—in which case there are bigger knowledge gaps that you need to address. Also, if your workforce is too resistant to change, that's another problem you need to tackle internally.

Soft skills

Even employees with the best technical skills will fail to contribute positively to the workplace if they can't communicate or collaborate effectively.  

In SHRM’s Workplace Learning report, 84% of employees say that getting soft skills training is important to them. Leadership training was cited as the top skill they want to learn, with communication, collaboration, and time management skills coming close.

An image showing the different skills training organization provide versus what employees want.

Conduct self-assessment and performance reviews to determine where employees are excelling and lacking.  

Alternatively, you can collect direct feedback by sending a short survey or doing quick polls during meetings or training, asking attendees soft skill-specific questions. Colleagues often have valuable insights into each other's communication, critical thinking, and problem solving abilities.

8 methods to facilitate skill development in your organization

Here are eight ways in which you can invest in your employees today:

1. Self-paced learning

Many employees prefer learning on their own time. Self-paced learning lets them do that. It lets them take ownership of their own growth and enables you to gauge interest in specific skills and assess them based on their proactive approach to learning.

There are several options you can implement for this type of learning: 

  • On-demand courses
  • Short online training videos
  • Technical worksheets
  • Pop quizzes
  • Reading materials
  • Podcasts

2. Individual mentorship

This is one of the oldest methods of learning. Typically, mentors are mentees paired together, and they create their own learning and development plan. This can be job shadowing or even one-on-one sessions on specific topics.

This approach works best for junior employees who struggle to navigate the workplace. The personalized learning experience allows mentees to ask questions, seek guidance, and gain firsthand insights into the role's nuances.

On the other hand, mentors gain leadership skills and fresh perspectives, which is helpful to their professional growth.

3. Team workshops

Team workshops are great for live training sessions, seminars, or conferences. This type of collective knowledge sharing allows employees to learn from each other and get diverse perspectives on happenings in the industry.

You can hire internal or external experts to facilitate these sessions based on current skill gaps. For example, if senior employees in your finance consultancy struggle with using new data analysis tools, hire an onboarding specialist to take them through the tool's workflow.

4. Employee feedback

Organizations that rely on employee feedback are the ones that'll succeed in the long term. The reason? They can quickly identify the concerns and skills gaps through anonymous feedback.

 Also, feedback is never one-dimensional. You can do it in many different ways:

  • Top-down feedback from leaders
  • Peer-to-peer feedback
  • Self-assessments
  • In-training feedback
  • Post-training or meeting feedback

Encouraging open yet anonymous feedback gives you a holistic view of what skill gaps are present and how they impact the workplace.

Tip: Use Poll Everywhere to either run anonymous surveys, poll for feedback during meetings or training sessions, or keep an open-ended backchannel open for unsolicited feedback.

5. 360-degree performance review

These review sessions provide employees with comprehensive feedback based on input from their team members, managers, and subordinates.

The goal is to understand their performance from multiple perspectives while removing any bias. This is particularly helpful for creating a personalized learning plan based on internal and external assessment.

6. On-the-job training

On-the-job training is one of the most effective methods for skill development as it lets employees put theory into practice. They can immediately put new skills into practice and learn what works or doesn't. An example of this would be job rotations.

The real-time feedback and correction it offers accelerate the learning process. Plus, because the training is contextualized within the employee's role, it ensures high relevancy and immediate impact on performance.

7. Live simulations

Certain professions, like medicine, require hands-on training before you receive a certification. However, these trainings come at a cost. If you do make mistakes, it could cost your employer their reputation and a lot of money in terms of legal and insurance fees.

Live simulations mitigate that. You can practice complex techniques using assisted devices without creating risk for the employer.

For example, emergency medicine mannequins with recorded devices let trainee doctors practice their first aid skills like CPR. This allows them to be prepared for what's to come through hands-on practice.

8. Conferences & seminars

Encourage employees to attend industry and role-specific seminars and conferences. These act as a gateway to meet people and get more insights on how to do things better, impacting how they perform at work.

Also, these gatherings usually have hands-on workshops for specific skills, letting them get what they need. For example, if you notice a need for particular skills like Tableau for financial analysts, but it’s not a huge skill gap internally, provide access to such external resources.

Invest in your employees to reap the rewards in the long term

As the years pass by, there's a lot you need to account for. From technological advancements to newer regulatory standards, observing the market and the gaps in your internal workforce is crucial.

Employee skill development isn't merely a perk or an occasional organizational activity—it's an ongoing process if you strive for longevity, innovation, and market leadership. Employee feedback lies at the center of this entire process.

Talk to your employees about their and their peers' needs and what they need from you. Use a tool like Poll Everywhere to gather anonymous feedback during meetings, training, or their workday. You can open up a backchannel to receive anonymous submissions or even get peer-to-peer feedback using Activities like presentation feedback and emotion scale to make it more intuitive.

Want to know more about how you can use it to identify employee development opportunities? Schedule a demo with us today.