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Real business story

Help your staff with upskilling or they’ll look elsewhere

By helping staff achieve their working ambitions, companies that prioritise the upskilling of current and new employees find that staff stay longer and can help boost overall productivity.
Derek Eassey, VP at Brandwatch

Upskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills and expanding their capabilities so that they can fulfil their role to the best of their ability, or even progress higher up the career ladder. Businesses now recognise the importance of upskilling employees to retain employees. We caught up with business leaders who have made the move to upskilling and reaped the rewards.

Make upskilling part of the culture

To make upskilling effective, it must be build into the culture of a business rather than being a one-off exercise. At Brandwatch, the company has developed a successful upskilling and career progression strategy, which it calls “career universe”. As part of this strategy, employees develop a document detailing where they see themselves in one, five and ten years. This is then shared with their manager.

“We have career ladders for teams so that employees can see where they currently are and what they need to do to move their careers forward,” explained Derek Eassey, VP of Brandwatch’s People Team. “We also gave mid-year check in performance reviews and end of year full reviews where the employee and manager visit where they currently stand and what commitments are being done on both sides to push and evolve their career.”

Derek believes that it’s vital for managers to have a solid grasp of their employees’ aspirations so that they can upskill them appropriately. He believes career aspirations should never be a surprise to a manager, and it is the responsibility of them and the employee to keep these aspirations “top of mind” so that both parties are pushed to develop new skills.

Upskilling and development doesn’t have to be in-house to be a part of a company’s culture though, as Stephen Oakden, director of BE Design, demonstrates. “Our company is focused on upskilling staff by paying for them to attend university courses,” he said, pointing out that over half the company’s staff attend university one day a week to focus on upskilling and development. The company also works with material suppliers and manufacturers to organise courses for its staff so that they can learn about new developments in their industry. “It helps our team develop their design and engineering skills in new and relevant areas,” he concluded.

Invest in your people, reap the rewards

With so many employees at LAC Conveyors & Automation having worked with the company for ten years or more, CEO Chris Unwin recognised that stagnation amongst his workforce was a looming problem. That was when he came up with the idea of developing a part of the business specifically for automation.

The benefit was twofold: the company was able to meet rising demand for automation while also upskilling, motivating and enlivening his workforce. As part of the upskilling process, Unwin provided additional training to his existing staff, giving them the opportunity to innovate and grow.

The result? Thanks to the upskilling opportunities, LCA has grown considerably in just two years. It’s not just the output that has increased, but the size of the workforce too, which has almost doubled. “The best way of identifying potential issues with motivation is to speak to staff,” Chris said, “for example, if it’s a lack of motivation due to a perceived lack of progression or opportunities, sit down with them and discuss a career plan or if there are any new areas they’d like to train in.”

Derek agrees that taking the time to upskill your employees can have a huge impact on your business. “There is a notable positive correlation between development and high performance. When people are inspired and motivated, they tend to do their best work. They also understand the business better,” he said, adding that companies that don’t prioritise upskilling will end up losing out. “If we are not giving our employees an opportunity to innovate and do more, they are more likely to look elsewhere.”

  • location: South East (England)
  • business size: 100-249 People
  • business type: Digital, technology & computer services

Top three takeaways

Upskilling is vital for employee and business development.

Make upskilling and development a part of your business culture

Talk to your staff about areas they would like to progress in and work on a career plan with them.