BlackboardThe pace of change taking place inside companies is happening at unprecedented speed. Technology has disrupted nearly every industry – making many routine jobs obsolete. Companies now compete with foreign companies in every part of the globe, and workers now compete with a broader pool of applicants.

Employees must constantly evolve their skillset to remain competitive in this fast changing world. While managers can’t force an employee to want to grow professionally, they can help facilitate the hungry employees’ quest to develop themselves. If you do, not only will employees have the satisfaction of growth, but you will likely save a fortune by reducing turnover (due to employee satisfaction) and will have a better prepared workforce.

But with the constant demands of daily life placed on both employers and employees, sometimes professional development falls through the cracks. Don’t let it. Here are four tips to help ensure that employees keep their skill set sharp:

  1. Employees keep up with trends: No matter the industry, employees need to keep their skillsets fresh if they want to advance (or even not lose their jobs). Therefore, it is important to assess whether employees have the skillset necessary to thrive not just during the interview process, but repeatedly over the course of their stint with the firm. If not, you must clearly communicate that with the employee(s) and devise clever solutions. In the fall, IBM required some employees in its service division to take a 10 percent pay cut for six months as they spent up to one day a week in training programs (the company dubbed this as a co-investment). The employees targeted were identified as those who “have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements.” Work-force experts note this type of plan is unusual, and not every firm will take that kind step. Still, give credit to IBM for coming up with bold ideas to keep employees remaining at the forefront of their industries.
  2. Employees are fully aware of training opportunities:  A survey of 1,487 employers conducted jointly by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about two-thirds of them offered coaching and mentoring programs, and 61 percent provide on-the-job training. But when 1,606 workers earning less than $35,000 were polled, only 36 percent of them indicated their employer offered any of these.That study indicated a large disconnect between an employer’s offerings and employee knowledge of them. Which is too bad, because 64 percent of employees who know job-training is available to them take advantage. Therefore, it is vitally important for employers to communicate that these training classes exist. Many times, employers will let workers know during an annual review, but given the rapid turnover in many industries (especially low-pay ones) a once-a-year reminder won’t cut it. Inform them regularly through all different channels.
  3. Consider tuition reimbursement/college flexibility programs:  The majority of people post high-school begin some form of higher education. Unfortunately, the majority of them don’t finish. According to a report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the two largest reasons why young adults drop of college were they “needed to go to work and make money” and “they couldn’t afford the tuition and fees.” College reimbursement, and plans to schedule employees around a class schedule, would go a long way in helping to mitigate some of these issues. Starbucks made big news this summer when it announced a plan with Arizona State University to subsidize much, if not all, of employees’ college costs. Although the plan seemingly costly, the company noted that the plan would improve employee retention, thus saving on hiring and training costs. Many other companies have these type of plans to varying degrees, although some companies have cut back on their tuition assistance programs in recent years. Of course, your companies should make decisions based on your needs, workforce structure  and financial situation, but some form of help with college education would communicate to employees that it cares about them professionally.
  4. Encourage employees to continue investing in themselves: Managers can train, mentor, coach and listen, but at the end of the day, the employee must partake in the willingness to grow. When hiring, managers should identify people who are not just eager to work hard, but are willing to expand their horizons. Once on board, continually encourage those employees to think about new skillsets to develop. Be open to connecting employees to people inside and outside of the company to help them grow. Remind them of conferences, classes and even webinars they might want to attend. Above all, encourage them to be life-long learners.

Learn more about how Red e App connects employees to opportunities within their companies.

Amee Kent
Red e App Marketing Director