The business world is facing a skill crisis, a gap exists between the needed skills and the skills offered by the current workforce. In an attempt to keep up with the automated world countless job displacements and hiring recessions are becoming a common issue in the workplace. With the ever-changing technological shifts in today's workforce, it's becoming more and more challenging to attract, retain, and develop talent. Not all hope is lost, however, as the challenges of the skill crisis can be overcome with careful planning and development of a skill strategy.
A skill strategy lays out a blueprint for companies to better understand their employees, their operations and the skills they need to grow in specific areas. Developing a skill strategy involves identifying where the firm currently is, how to go about selecting desired skills and the highlights the people that would benefit from developing those skill sets.
There are a series of steps to take when developing a skill strategy that meets your needs. By understanding your company's and its employees' needs, you can successfully build a skill strategy into your company's culture. This article will outline a step-by-step guide to developing and implementing a skill strategy that best fits your company and its specific goals.
Understanding your current environment - Why
Looking at where you currently stand and comparing it to where you need to be is the first step in building your skill strategy. You should be able to analyse your current position by looking forward. Ask yourself, what do you hope to achieve with your skill strategy? Understanding your overall goal will help you to scope and develop your skill strategy.
To improve underperforming operations
You may be looking to address the underperformance of a specific department, highlighting specific individuals allows you to pinpoint who needs what skill development to overcome the underperformance occurring. As such, if someone in your sales team isn't closing as many sales as expected, it would make sense to develop a skill strategy that focuses on that individuals skill development. By determining what is causing the underperformance and what skills are necessary to help address the issue, you will successfully develop a skill strategy that boosts the sales teams abilities around customer service and closing sales to boost overall workplace performance.
The more specific you are, the better your skill strategy will be. Specificity here is crucial as we are trying to pinpoint the root of the business problem. Identifying where the problem is coming from will allow you to focus your skill strategy on the individuals and departments that need it, rather than wasting valuable time or money on those employees that don't.
To address skill gaps
You may have noticed that a particular employee is lacking the skills required for their job description, or that their job description is evolving, and they need to develop the skills to keep up with the evolution of the job. Either way, a skill gap may exist, and it needs filling.
By identifying this gap, you can determine what skills the employee currently holds and what skills are needed to bridge the gap, two valuable pieces of information when mapping out your skill strategy.
For long-term improvement
You may want to apply a skill strategy to reach a future goal or desired state to remain competitive. In this case, you are identifying where you want to be. You may decide that you want to reach (x) amount of sales by year (x). Here, you will know that you need to develop the skills of your sales and marketing teams. Knowing this information will help you decide how you can attain the long-term goal.
By having a clearly defined goal, you are one step closer to building a skill strategy; the goal helps you lay out where you need to be. From here, you can navigate how and who in your team can help you get there.
Evaluate and select the strategic option – Who
By understanding your strategic options you are able to know who to target your skill strategy towards and who can benefit from it. Take, for example, the revenue example that surrounds the sales team. Perhaps there are only a few individuals that are underperforming and not the whole team. Here, it would be unnecessary to train the entire team. Instead, pick and choose who lacks the skills or who would have the most benefit from skill development—specificity on whom you choose will deter you from spending unrequired time or money. Once you have selected your individuals, you need to identify the type of skill-building they would benefit from.
Upskilling aims to expand your staff’s skill-sets through training programs and development opportunities. Upskilling allows an expansion of abilities while reducing skill gaps to help staff to grow and transition to other roles within a company.
Reskilling is the process of helping an employee to develop entirely new skills to take on a new role, rather than of outsourcing or bringing in new employees for the part, letting you look to your pre-standing team to fill staffing gaps.
Transferable skills are both hard and/or soft skills that are developed through workplace experiences and can be transferred from one role to another. By identifying which employees hold the desired transferable skills, you can foster the development of these specific skills through upskilling and reskilling. Highlighting these transferable skills will allow you to link specific employees that are suited to the desired role. Imagine you have someone who shows they excel in the soft skill department, specifically in problem solving; employers appreciate those that are able to point out bottlenecks or inefficiencies in their workplace processes. By building a skill strategy around the idea of upskilling such transferable skills, you are able to boost the overall performance of the given employee in any given role, making them a more viable candidate for the role.
With each step combined, we now know that we need to upskill the underperforming sales team to solve the problem of limited revenues. Choosing the right training for the right people is essential here; in this case, the sales team member would likely undergo upskilling to improve their current role within the team.
Identifying strategic options – How
Once you understand your current environment and who you have decided to implement a skill strategy towards, you need to strategically navigate your reason for it. Is it to overcome competition, minimise threats or solve a problem? Knowing your strategic option will allow you to outline your skill strategies and implementation process.
How to gain a competitive advantage
Let's say, after step one and two, you've decided your current environment is one of the underperforming operations but can be overcome through upskilling specific sales employees. But you don't just want to improve your selling operations; you wish to do so at an exponential rate that brings you above all your competitors. So, you now know you need to gain a competitive advantage by improving operations through upskilling the sales team. With this knowledge, you know you need to complete a competitor analysis while boosting workplace skills in the sales department.
How to minimise threats
Your current environment may be filled with skill gaps, and with skill gaps come many organisational threats such as new emerging competition, changing technologies, and even security risks. Your goal would be to bridge skill gaps in the specific department that is lacking the required skills to minimise risks and maximise opportunities.
How to solve a problem
Long-term improvement can be to solve problems in the workplace. Your problem may be that you are not getting enough revenue from what you put into the market. Your skill strategy here would be something along the lines of fostering long-term growth in the sales team to solve the lack of revenues. By improving the specific long-term skill sets, you are ensuring the longevity of your sales team and the unravelling of such business problems.
With this information, you can see a roadmap for where you need to be and what you need to do to get there. Planning out your skill strategy is just as important as implementing it, so it's essential that you have the right idea of why you're developing a skilled strategy and how you'll go about doing so.
Implement the strategy
Once you have the right idea of why, how and who is involved in your skill strategy, implementation is the next step; here, you want to ensure all people at all levels understand it. To do this, use all means of communication to ensure the whole organisation understands the new focus and how it will impact their work. Bringing forward the responsibility to department managers will task them with the ability to apply the skill strategy in each given department.
Once everyone understands the who, why and hows to your skill strategy you need to focus on the training delivery. This is going to be how you implement the training into your workplace, you may choose to do an online, blended or virtual learning experience. It’s important to ensure you allow the time for the specific individuals to complete the training, whether it is through incentives or by cutting time out in their work day to focus on the training. Implementing the training in a viable way is the most important step here to ensure the individual can focus on and get the most out of the training experience.
You want to monitor and assess how the skill strategy is developing over time. You can measure KPIs before and after implementing the skill strategy. You can ask those who go through the skill development direct questions like how confident are you now? And have you noticed a change in your performance to get first-hand data on how successful your skill strategy really is and if it needs altering.
Finally, you want to make it part of your company culture, ensuring that you embed it in your everyday activities. Doing this is no easy feat, but persistence and constant support from managers will help employees to carry out the skill strategy and eventually make it second nature to their work duties.