Upskilling a team, especially during a global pandemic, has never been harder. People are pushed to their emotional and mental breaking points, having to balance working from home, potentially managing children studying from home as well as the constantly changing environment. However, it’s never been more important to upskill and create adaptable workforces that can work in any given environment and provide solutions. 

The pandemic has meant that companies suddenly had to adapt to working digitally completely. No longer could you simply pass a piece of paper over or sit with a colleague to discuss a task. Everyone had to find ways of working remotely and without any other human contact. 

Technologies such as messaging apps and task assigning software came to the forefront as teams tried to coordinate tasks remotely. As well, being able to use workplace suites such as Office and Google Workplace apps more efficiently. That was a priority, especially in traditional industries that struggled to adapt.

But now we’re nearly a year from into remote working. How can we continue to upskill employees and teams to ensure a more adaptable and resourceful future of the workforce 

Speak to your employees about what they want to do with their careers.

Upskilling is a fantastic incentive when retaining talent.

Whether at an annual or quarterly review, having an understanding from your employees about what they want to do with their careers will help you to upskill in targeted areas.  

Ensuring that they are accredited in all areas of Microsoft Office Suite or G Suite can help to push their careers forward, as these have now become regular parts of working life, and a good understanding of workplace suites ensures efficiency when working. Similarly, there may be job specific training courses employees want to go on to improve their skills gap. 

All of this can be understood by simply having regular update conversations with employees. These don’t have to be done in person, if your office is slowly reopening, or changing to fully remote, then using a video call software works just as well.  

Similarly, by understanding what your employees want to do with their careers can help you to understand how you could upskill their role within your company and align it with the business strategies. Perhaps you want to introduce a new offering to your clients. You can begin to upskill employees who show interest in this area. Either by sending them on educational courses or by offering them a part study part work system, whether that be through funded degree or an apprenticeship. For these kinds of training programmes can help to ensure that your companies’ goal and the individuals aspiration are connected.  

Look at what accreditations your company may want to pursue. 

If your company wants to invest in an ISO standard, perhaps the ISO 27000:1, or similar, then you will need skilled employees in areas that you may currently not have. 

This could be digitally converting processes that are done largely on paper into digital ones, making them ultimately more secure. All of these accreditations require some form of upskilling. 

If you want to tender for government departments work, often you’ll need certain levels of data storage practises, understandings of specific programs and similar. Having employees that are skilled in certain areas or show aptitude towards certain tasks be the ones who undertake the learning as required, means the company is able to tender for specific clientele they may have not before.

Create adaptable upskilling processes. 

Whether you’re returning to the office or not, it may be worth looking at how either you can change training to be independent learning or make it in such a way where close contact isn’t required. 

Obviously, in areas such as factories or specific in person products, training will be required one to one, but largely training can often be done remotely, making it more autonomous. This means that regardless of whether an employee is in the office or at home, they can still have opportunities to learn to grow and follow their passion. 

This removes any discriminatory boundaries as well. For example, if an employee is registered as disabled and has to work at home for a period of time without being able to physically go into the office, then remotely upskilling means they have the same opportunity to learn. 

Perhaps traditionally in your company has come from manager too the person they manage. But maybe it’s time to look at external upskilling sources, such as online courses that are provided centrally. 

Essentially, rather than from your employment organisation, this means that regardless of the task the employer set, an employee will know the fundamentals of it. This also means they may be able to look at it in a way that doesn’t reinforce traditional ways of the company’s been working, and maybe find a way to improve the process and speed it up. 

Identifying the skills gap.

Most companies think that they have the right people with the right skills. During an interview they can test to identify whether they’ve got the right person for the job. Often until a period of work has been done, it is hard to confirm whether you thought you were right. Largely this is correct, and people manage to find companies where they are good at what they do and are able to use their skills to further their job and to further the company they are currently working for. 

However, an astonishing 74% of business leaders are still concerned at a lack of availability of the right skills in their companies according to PWC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey.

What are the right skills? A few years ago, skills required may not be the right skills now. Marketers, for example, will need to know more about relatable marketing and be able to reach people personally, rather than seeming an aspiration

Before, taking notes on paper may have been an important skill whereas now, being able to dictate, and send a copy to everyone digitally is just as important. 

Being able to run live streams and video calls, even to the point of communicating virtually, is now considered desirable. For some people, who are so used to going into the office and putting post it notes on people’s desks, rather than dropping someone an email or a message, have had to adapt and upskill to a new level. This is a skills gap in the ability to use technology most efficient efficiently. 

The pandemic has shown that being efficient and proficient with basic technology are skills that people struggle with the most, and the inability to blend offline to online working. For example, there are apps that allow you to take a photo of a note page, upload it to the Internet and then convert it into a written document with very little trouble. Yet some people will still write everything and then type it out, which can take twice as long and cause delays. 

Identifying the skills gap in your employees and helping them to understand where they might need to learn and providing opportunities for them to learn and to grow is incredibly important. 

Offer open opportunities. 

Within your workforce you may have people who are doing jobs that they thought they would enjoy or do simply because it was the job on offer. However, they may have untapped potential that you haven’t realised simply because they’ve never been offered the opportunity. 

When offering upskilling opportunities, either through education, training or conference attending, create a certain percentage of those opportunities that are open to anyone within the team, not just those who may need it for their job role. 

This may help you to discover people in your team who are actually very good at jobs that you may need doing or may be better suited to a role where someone else is struggling. Having these often opportunities can ensure that your team feels like that they can move, improve their careers and that you will be able to be there to support and progress them through certain elements of their careers. 

Similarly, offering opening opportunities means that your company is able to access the full potential of it works rather than just being targeted. While there is nothing wrong with targeting and often, targeting is the main way that you will upskill your team, having opportunities that are there for anyone can be a great way to ensure that your team are ready to go and ready for anything. 

Authored by Steven Cox is Chief Evangelist at IRIS HR, a leading international HR consultancy, specialising in the support of global HR and resourcing from large corporations through to entrepreneurial start-ups.