Hiring and retaining talent has always been near the top of the business agenda. But with UK unemployment at a 43-year low and an ever-increasing skills shortage, employers are beginning to feel the effects on their bottom line.
Sectors including technology, engineering, manufacturing and construction are all feeling the pinch. But competition for talent is increasing across the board. In fact, according to a recent study by Mercer published earlier this month, 92% of UK employers say attracting top talent is now their number-one priority.
How do employers tackle this fast-growing problem before it starts to impact their profits? High-quality, future-proof training could be the answer.
According to a survey by PwC, 52% of millennial employees placed “opportunities for career progression” as the most desirable quality in a workplace. This figure gives us a good indication of what the future looks like for businesses globally. Employees’ expectations are rising; they are empowered to take charge of their own career and will not consider opportunities in companies who do not take their professional development seriously.
We are entering an age where a smaller pool of highly skilled employees will hold the balance of power. They will also have the means to improve their own skills by using next-generation open-source learning tools. Unless employers can deliver the kind of high-quality, meaningful training that staff expect, companies will find themselves falling further and further behind in the battle for talent.
Businesses in every sector should look beyond their current training programmes and start to investigate solutions that will future-proof their workforce and help them become a first-choice employer long term. Companies must broaden the search for partners and develop highly engaging, results-driven training together. To do this successfully it’s important to accept that many employees’ experience of training courses is poor, even today. In fact, globally, Mercer found that 42% of employees believe their organisation’s training programmes are “useless and boring”.
One way to overcome this preconception is to create game-based training packages. This gamification approach has been tested by companies in many sectors and has transformed results in even the most technical of disciplines. For example, one large pharmaceutical company recently developed a web-based crossword puzzle to train new entrants on medical terminology.
The use of computer simulation, emulation and Virtual Reality (VR) for training employees is also gaining ground. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) last year invested £1.2 million in 16 state-of-the-art plant simulators for their National Construction College. VR is particularly good at engaging learners and can be used not just to train people in practical tasks but in corporate settings too. In fact, Deloitte has already started used VR to teach employees about corporate responsibility.
It’s also important to find partners who can not only deliver innovative training packages but help in the search for the next generation of star performers. For example, Working Knowledge helps unemployed people find employers who are looking to train them up. Catering supplier Nisbets, founded by Andrew Nisbet, and others have benefitted from such partnerships, while helping these people find pathways into employment.
Training has never been more important, and if companies want to stay ahead of their competitors in the race for talent, providing outstanding career development opportunities is going to be vital.
I'm a freelance marketing consultant who specialises in helping SMEs take their businesses to the next level. An expert at marketing strategy, I previously worked at number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy. I saw the value that smaller local businesses could take from the process too.