How upskilling can improve employee experience

Why better skill-building leads to better workplace satisfaction

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist @ Gloat

February 2, 2022

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There’s one factor that will make or break your business, regardless of your industry, region, or headcount: employee experience. If your workers aren’t inspired by what they’re doing, there’s no way that they’ll be able to perform to the best of their abilities. And even if you might not be able to see it right away, sub-par employee experience will take a toll on customer satisfaction, output levels, and revenue potential.

If you have any lingering doubts about the importance of employee experience, just take a look at numbers: companies that invest in employee experience outperform those that don’t by 2x in terms of average profit and they’re twice as likely to be found in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Consequently, there’s no question that getting employee experience back on track needs to be a priority for 2022. So what can leaders do to improve it?

Recent research reveals that skills are a big part of the equation. Boston Consulting Group found that a significant predictor of whether employees are satisfied with their work experience is how enthusiastically they answer the question, “Does my job make good use of my skills?”. This finding in turn gives leaders a new question to answer themselves: how can upskilling and reskilling strategies be calibrated to take employee experience to the next level?

Mastering the basics

Finetuning your understanding of the basics is the first step towards turning skill-building into your secret weapon for improving your employee experience. Here’s what you need to know before building out your upskilling strategy:

  • What is upskilling?
    Upskilling describes any process that helps someone answer the following question: “What additional skills do I need to learn to progress in my current career?”

    Upskilling can help businesses stay competitive in rapidly changing environments and unlock the agility that workforces need to thrive. Since the World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of the global workforce will need to learn new skills by 2025, upskilling is quickly rising to the top of many leaders’ priority lists.

  • What is employee experience?
    Employee experience encapsulates what people encounter and observe during their time working at an organization. It’s the journey that your people take with your company, including every interaction that happens along the employee lifecycle, as well as the experiences that involve someone’s role, workspace, technology, manager, and wellbeing.

How to build an employee-centric upskilling strategy

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to creating an upskilling strategy, especially if you’re looking to develop an initiative that will improve your employee experience. However, there are a handful of best practices that every leader should keep in mind:

  1. Put your employees in the driver’s seat
    Employees want to see that their future with your organization is bright. They want to be empowered to grow with your business and take ownership of their professional progression. So instead of telling them what kinds of upskilling opportunities, they should pursue, why not give them the tools to take their growth into their own hands?

    By matching people to projects based on their skills, ambitions, and interests, talent marketplaces increase the visibility into opportunities within your workplace, inspiring employees to take advantage of them.

  2. Think about the cultural component
    You can’t have an impactful upskilling initiative or improve employee experience without focusing on your workplace culture. In fact, best-selling author Jacob Morgan says that culture makes up as much as 40% of the overall employee experience.

    Culture will also play a deciding role in the success of your upskilling initiative. Mercer found that the employees who are most excited about the prospect of skill-building are those that feel like their manager has their back, they work in a climate of trust, and they’re comfortable declining unreasonable requests.

  3. Cultivate connection with mentorships
    If there’s one initiative that can simultaneously improve employee experience and improve skill building, it’s mentoring. From an employee experience perspective, mentorships give people the chance to network and build relationships with their colleagues across the organization. Consequently, it’s no surprise that a CNBC survey found that more than 90% of workers who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs.

    In addition to cultivating connectivity, co-learning schemes are a powerful tool for skills since employees can see what their more experienced colleagues are doing and ask them questions directly.

  4. Prioritize experiential learning
    You can’t solely rely on L&D content to get your employees to build new skills. If your people don’t have the chance to put the lessons they’re learning into practice, they’re likely to disengage with the curriculum, and they won’t develop the competencies they’ll need. As Amanda Nolen, co-founder of the educational transformation consultancy NilesNolen, explains, “Learning requires involvement beyond binge-watching videos. Would you let a surgeon operate on you if she has binge-watched videos of other doctors in the operating room? Building skills, let alone expertise, needs a lot more than that.”

    If you want to get employees excited about upskilling, you need to integrate hands-on learning as part of your strategy. Talent marketplaces make it easy to identify projects, gigs, and shadowing opportunities that align with the skills that your employees are looking to build.

  5. Leverage the right technology
    Technology is another major pillar of employee experience. As “the central nervous system of the organization”, as Jacob Morgan describes it, it’s easy to see why the right digital tools are so crucial to creating a compelling employee experience.

    Although there are plenty of workplace technology platforms, none will impact upskilling the way a talent marketplace can. The two-sided platforms align employees’ interests with your business priorities, empowering your people to grow their careers with your organization. Talent marketplaces also identify the experiential learning opportunities that employees can participate in to acquire the skills they’ll need to reach their career goals.

  6. Level the playing field
    Upskilling can’t be reserved for a select few. In the past, biases and barriers prevented some employees from accessing the same breadth of learning opportunities as their colleagues. But if you want your upskilling initiative to enhance employee experience, you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to level the playing field.

    When it comes to democratizing access to opportunities, talent marketplaces are a game-changer. The platforms increase the visibility of both employees and opportunities so that no one is overlooked.

With the right approach to upskilling, you can simultaneously improve employee experience, and ensure your people develop the right competencies to perform in the new world of work. To learn more about turning skills into your next competitive advantage, download our ebook, The ultimate guide to the skills-based organization.

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