While it sounds obvious, developing the right kind of skills in your workforce is a vital strategy for long-term success. After all, how can a company grow without a talent development program at all levels of the hierarchy?
It’s a thorny issue that has come into greater focus since the Covid-19 pandemic turned the world upside-down and remote work sparked a new range of challenges. Organizations have struggled not only to train employees for a changed workplace environment but also to keep them motivated without daily physical contact.
A whopping 85% of employees weren’t satisfied with their employer’s support of their careers, according to a study of nearly 15,000 people—AI@Work: 2021 Global Study—conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence.
Other findings were just as shocking:
- Eighty-seven percent believed their company should be doing more to listen to their needs.
- Seventy-five percent felt “stuck” in their professional lives, primarily noting a lack of career growth opportunities, feeling too overwhelmed to make any changes and that their skills went stale due to the changing work environment.
- Forty-three percent wanted to gain new skills and advance their education.
The report also stated: “As people continue to reflect on what truly matters to them in life, it’s up to organizations to step up and offer the right tools to help their workforce thrive. Those that don’t will risk losing their greatest asset—their people.”
So, what are the right tools, and what skills should you focus on if you wish to build a dynamic workplace culture?
In my consultations with companies across various industries, I have seen an increased need for managers to be more willing to not only accept feedback from employees, but also actively seek it. This can be achieved in numerous ways such as email surveys, audio or video conferencing and online town halls. Live question-and-answer sessions at which workers can pose any questions to senior management are extremely valuable, but perhaps best of all is to find time for individual one-on-one meetings with key players.
Says Chris Mullen, executive director of The Workforce Institute, “The importance of listening to employees and acting on their feedback takes center stage in 2022 as business leaders and people managers work to grow engagement, respect personal and professional lives, and, ultimately, boost brand loyalty. By establishing necessary support mechanisms, employers will be better poised to build a caring culture where people can enjoy meaningful work.”
But what kind of support mechanisms should be brought into play?
In times of crisis, I’ve noticed employees are particularly prone to worrying about the value of their contributions to the organization. The rise of remote work has made this a particularly thorny issue. I suggest managers go out of their way to ensure that employees know their efforts are definitely appreciated. More importantly, make a point of recognizing individual achievements in group meetings while recognizing successes of the group as a whole. Encourage workers to acknowledge ways in which their peers have had an impact. I’ve found that praise from co-workers is often more meaningful than from superiors.
What can you do to help those employees who feel “stuck” in their professional lives? First, discover the reason they feel stuck. Do they lack prospects for promotion? Are they working on projects that aren’t challenging? Quite often, it can be a reason they’re reluctant to express: a non-supportive attitude from their manager.
Dig deep into the reason and agree on a solution. Lay out a clear career path with measurable performance points, for instance. Assess what projects will provide the stimulation and satisfaction the employee desires. And if it’s a managerial problem, get to the bottom of specific issues and correct them. If you’re the manager in question, perhaps some self-analysis is required and an honest acceptance that you might be the one who needs to get unstuck.
In a constantly changing workplace, the acquisition of new skills is ever-more-important. Your high-performing employees know that for sure. Forward-thinking companies continuously introduce programs, both online and in-person, to upskill workers at all levels and for all aspects of their business.
Of particular interest after having lived through the pandemic are subjects which encourage flexibility in a changing work environment, effective communication (especially with work-from-home situations) and increased digital proficiency.
The bottom line is that smart companies regard existing employees as their future and invest in upskilling opportunities. When you encourage employees to take advantage of these opportunities, employee engagement and retention are likely to improve.