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Jul 01, 2019Company & Culture

Take Upskilling Seriously—Your Employees Will Thank You

By: Cay Gliebe, Nancy Hauge
Take Upskilling Seriously—Your Employees Will Thank You

As digital automation becomes a more prevalent tool, it’s understandable that employees might feel a sense of anxiety about it. Innovation will always make some people nervous, in part because of its potential to upend the status quo.

But just because the status quo is familiar—and comfortable—that doesn’t mean it’s automatically better than what’s around the corner.

As history has demonstrated repeatedly, innovation and opportunity aren’t mutually exclusive. While some jobs eventually disappear, new ones that no one had ever thought of before are born.

To be successful in this climate, employees have to be willing to tackle new challenges, and they have to be equipped with the skills they’ll need.

While having the right mindset falls on the employee’s shoulders, there are plenty of things that employers can do to create a culture that encourages upskilling and growth.

Pinpoint What Kinds of Training Your Employees Need

If you’ve invested in tools that are going to make it easier to automate manual, repeatable tasks, you’ll need to figure out what kinds of upskilling opportunities your employees will most benefit from.

You might already have some ideas, but don’t finalize anything until you’ve talked to your employees. Create a survey or talk to them directly about what skills they’re missing or need to improve. They might have ideas you’ve never considered, simply because they’re much closer to the work that’s being automated.

Also, take the time to reacquaint yourself with the backgrounds of your employees. It is easy to overlook skills they have acquired in the past but might not have utilized in their current role. Again, a survey can help you create an inventory of unused skills and help you and the employee see new opportunities.

And keep in mind here that upskilling isn’t limited only to technical skills. Soft skills such as time management, improving presentation techniques, customer engagement, communication, leadership skills and creative thinking are all important too. Exposing your employees to a variety of training opportunities will help to maximize their potential for success tomorrow.

Encourage Coaching and Mentorship

The process that you used to identify what kinds of upskilling your employees need should have made it clear that upskilling isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. What each employee needs will be personal.

To make upskilling even more personal, managers need to understand what responsibilities lie with them when it comes to providing coaching opportunities. On-the-job training is one of the best ways to learn new skills, and managers are in the perfect position to provide those teaching moments. Try putting your employees on new projects they’ve never been involved with before to help them become accustomed to new tasks or new responsibilities.

Your employees might also benefit from having mentors. An employee’s mentor can be someone inside your organization, but they don’t have to be. The only requirement is that it should be someone your employee has chosen and trusts.

Eliminate Barriers to Upskilling

To make upskilling more effective, it’s critical that you remove any obstacles standing in the way of success. All-day training, for instance, can be counterproductive, especially if your employees are learning a lot of new information. In these cases, all-day training can be like trying to drink from a firehose.

It’s better to break training up into smaller segments. Lunch-and-learns are one way to achieve this. Online learning platforms can also make upskilling more convenient by giving employees the freedom to learn when it’s convenient for their schedule.

The Future of Work Hasn’t Been Written Yet—And That’s a Good Thing

Moving outside your comfort zone is, understandably, an uncomfortable experience for many people. But something happens when people are given the opportunity—and the training—for taking on new challenges. What they discover is that they can do more than they thought they could. And that realization can lead to a greater sense of confidence and satisfaction.

For this to happen, though, organizations have to take upskilling seriously. This requires a carefully considered approach. What specific skills do your employees need to learn, and how can you make it personal for each one? And finally, how can you make the upskilling process as easy as possible?

The future of work hasn’t been written yet. While some jobs will eventually be automated, there will always be new opportunities. Your employees just need to be prepared for them. And with the right plan in place for upskilling you can be confident that they will be.

*This is the first of five blogs co-authored with Automation Anywhere, the global leader in robotic process automation. Cay Gliebe is senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management for OSV. Nancy Hauge is the chief human resources officer for Automation Anywhere.