Inhibiting your employees’ sense of purpose – in a static, go nowhere environment – is a sure-fire way to obliterate any sense of team morale or job satisfaction. It’s the death knell for productivity and overall profitability for any business. You feel compelled to grow your business; why shouldn’t your employees feel compelled to grow as individuals? That’s why we can think of no better way to improve your business’s bottom line than to improve the skills of your employees.
Upskilling your employees not only boosts productivity by instilling confidence, making employees less reliable on external resources and generally allowing for more work to be done, but promotes business growth and employee satisfaction. These are all indicators of a successful business. But what so many employers and entrepreneurs so often get wrong is the types of skill enhancement they focus on, ultimately achieving a poor ROI (return on investment).
With a business to worry about, frivolously spending resources on skills transference will only put you in the red. You need to be strategic about how you provision training and focus on achieving tangible results from your investments. That’s why skills enhancement should always begin with a good induction for new employees, not just because it requires very little in the way of expenditure but goes a long way to establishing the right attitude and work ethic in employees from the get-go.
A formalised, structured induction will let employees know what is expected of them and establishes the short-term skills necessary to start working immediately. Crucially, it should assist in preparing new employees for the culture of their new workplace – acclimatising them and assisting their integration into new teams.
Another fairly cost effective but potentially very beneficial consideration is to focus skills enhancement initiatives on an employee’s weaknesses, as opposed to concentrating on what they’re interested in or already good at. Employees will naturally educate themselves in the fields that interest them. But supplement that by encouraging them to subscribe to relevant content like webinars or seminars, read more about their interests, and spend free time researching those topics.
Working on their weaknesses and ironing out the pain points that inhibit optimal productivity means generating a potentially huge ROI. Solving problems by eliminating their cause rather than attending to the symptoms is a far more productive, efficient way to go about your day. Compliment this practice by identifying future supervisors and leaders and give them the tools necessary to fill those positions within their teams. If they’re effectively able to communicate and lead a team, they will be able to put out fires – should they occur – without you needing to step in.
Modern businesses are increasingly flexible, innovative and adjustable to meet new customer demands, or alternatively, disrupt the market with entirely new products or services. Rather than outsourcing those skills, incentivise employees who take on those new responsibilities with soft skills that might benefit their new position, then ultimately promote them to a permanent role. As skills investments go, it’s going to directly affect your bottom line, improving productivity and preventing reliance on external, often far costlier, skills.
There are other relatively inexpensive methods of skills transference worth considering. One-on-one mentoring, for example, lets new and junior level employees have close working relationships with more experienced staff members. It doesn’t even have to be a formal program. All that is required is a commitment to set aside some time each week or month to provide feedback, assist with decision-making and direction, and offer general support and encouragement. Think of it as an extension of onboarding.
Perhaps the most effective solution to permanent skills enhancement is creating a workplace culture that encourages learning. Because it requires relatively little monetary investment, it affords an optimal ROI.
A continuous program of ongoing skills development is a popular choice because it means catering your spend to adjust to what’s required from employees on the fly – a flexibility that should match your business. Remember that skills quickly become obsolete in the modern digital era, and front loading your employees with an impressive list of skills, while certainly beneficial, is costly and may eventually prove pointless if they aren’t always put to use.
In the end, it’s all about effective communication – that you communicate with your staff as much as they want to communicate with you. That way you get a sense of what is required while they’re updated on what is expected and, together, you can fill in the holes with appropriate skills. It means building the right attitudes, encouraging leaders to step forward and boosts team morale by encouraging collaboration – something that mentorship will echo.
By Pieter Scholtz – leading business and executive coach and South Africa’s Co-Master Licensee for global franchise company, ActionCOACH