New Year, new skills: an opportunity for employers to show commitment

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James Eiloart
SVP, EMEA
Tableau
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As we sink our teeth into a new year, we’ve now become all too familiar with the short, dark days of winter.   

But the beginning of a new year also brings the optimism of a fresh start. People are keen to face new challenges and experiences. With January comes thoughts of professional and personal progression, career change, and an eager interest in developing new skills to achieve objectives in the year to come.

In fact, learning new skills is a key factor in employee happiness and LinkedIn’s annual list of the most sought-after skills by employers, finds data analytics to be one of the most in-demand skills for 2017. With the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) revealing that a growth in big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) will add an estimated £322 billion to the UK economy by 2020, the use of data and analytics in business is more crucial than ever to future success.  

As such, data skills could be the perfect way to boost an employee’s career, add more value to the company and ensure employees are happy within their role.

What can employers do to ease this New Year, New Skill itch?

Employers can demonstrate their commitment to career development by investing more to attract and retain talent. Whether this is through comprehensive training or fast track development programmes, it is clear that in order retain talent businesses need to prioritise career skills and progression.

However, a lot of organisations are missing a trick by failing to respond to the needs of employees. With an influx of millennials in the workplace, companies should consider reevaluating their current models to ensure their existing training and development programmes are still effective and relevant to a generation of employees who will likely have different attitudes and needs.  

Training also needs to reflect advances in technology and demand for new skills. For instance, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) conducted a recent survey of British firms that employ engineers and IT staff – a surprising 50% of those surveyed reported they could not find the skilled employees they were looking for, and 59% said that the shortage would be “a threat to their business in the UK”.

50% of those surveyed reported they could not find the skilled employees they were looking for

It’s clear that employers need to upskill their staff. That’s why, when it comes to internal training, identifying those key skills and the tools needed to support their development is vital to the future of employees and in turn, the business.

In addition to fostering a data analytics culture in your company, there are a number of ways to train and equip employees. Here are the four key points I’ve found effective for fostering employee development:

Cross-department training

Employees with adaptable and collaborative working environments tend to be more productive and efficient with their work. The same thought can be applied to internal training.

One way of doing this is through providing cross-department opportunities. For example, bringing the marketing team alongside the sales team to learn about latest negotiation techniques. Or sharing new technology tools across departments so that teams understand the ultimate benefits to the business.

This allows employees to improve their proficiency levels within their role and outside of their current responsibilities. Additionally, it can be motivating for employees to learn how processes work throughout the business, from start to finish and how they contribute to the final results.

Looking externally

You might not always have external experts available internally to deliver a workshop on a current industry trend; which is why looking beyond the four walls of your office provides a great opportunity to explore new and diverse subjects.

At Tableau, we have monthly meetings where we bring together the entire EMEA business. During these meetings, we invite a diverse range of external experts – from business partners to NGOs – to share their key learnings and present examples of how data analytics is supporting their work. Employees walk away with a fresh perspective that helps them tackle challenges and develop new ideas.

Self-paced training

In a lot of cases, small businesses don’t have endless resources to pour huge sums of funding into training. In-person training will always remain a preferable method of employee training; however online solutions via videos, webinars and whitepapers are an effective way of up-skilling employees.  

Take data analytics skills as an example. There are a number of online training videos and courses that allow employees to learn at their own pace, and then apply that learning to their day to day work. Some great resources are online learning platforms such as Lynda.com and Pluralsight which offer a number of tech and data courses and at varying levels of expertise.  

When resources are tight, it’s important for employers to be flexible in their approach to training. This means being aware of the latest online training tools and giving options to employees so they can learn at their own pace and at a time when it’s convenient.

Keep training relevant

This may seem obvious but providing training that is relevant to not just the role but to the broader industry landscape is vital for the continuing success of your business. Matching skills and jobs has become a high-priority for many businesses which now recognise that skills are a critical asset for employee motivation and retention.

What does this mean for employers? Ensure you are aware of what’s happening in your industry – the latest trends, research and developments – so that you bring bigger picture thinking to the kind of training you offer. With this perspective, you’ll be well placed to offer the most relevant training to employees.

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