Recent economic uncertainties have some small businesses thinking about, and planning for, a recession. According to a recent survey, some of their strategies center, understandably, on cutbacks: things like reducing expansion plans, downsizing workforces, and even cutting back on services.
But the most common response is to secure their current assets, with nearly half saying they plan to pay down debts and increase their savings.
Employee upskilling is another strategy that will protect your valuable resources and pay off in the long run. It may be less obvious but is just as powerful. Ensuring your employees are up to speed on skills and knowledge is crucial in helping make your company recession-proof.
This article will discuss why upskilling is so important for your business. It will also share tips for making an action plan for integrating upskilling into your current business plan.
The value of upskilling for today’s employers
Upskilling isn’t a new idea. It’s a time-tested and well-known tool for helping employers retain top talent, cultivate future leaders, and stay competitive in the job market.
In fact, according to a survey by TalentLMS and SHRM, over half of HR leaders are planning to provide employees with upskilling (59%) and reskilling (55%) training in 2022. Another third of respondents report already having both in place.
Clearly, there’s value in investing in your employees’ ability and career development. But is now really the time to build up your L&D program?
Why upskilling right now is a good investment for small businesses
Upskilling is crucial during times of potential economic downturn because, much like building your savings and paying down debts, it creates a solid foundation for stability and growth.
Investing in your employees will strengthen your team’s abilities. You’ll build the skills to ensure your company has what it takes to not only survive a recession but continue to grow through it.
In addition, there are several compelling reasons for investing in upskilling now in particular.
It shows commitment to your employees
Employees care about training, especially now. Shifting attitudes around work/life balance and a changing business landscape have made opportunities for growth a benefit many employees look for in a potential employer.
And they may be more likely to seek out such opportunities during uncertain economic times.
Upskilling your workforce shows you’re committed to them. You’re preparing them to succeed.
Spending time and budget on employee training also reassures them that you want to help them grow with your company, not lay them off next month.
It helps people navigate a changing work environment
As remote and hybrid work have become more prevalent, the business world has seen the value of adaptability. Upskilling prepares your teams to take on shifting roles as technology and work models continue to evolve.
Add skills like communicating, using relevant technology, and managing customer relationships to your L&D strategy. These will help your employees, and your company, keep up with a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment.
It attracts more job seekers
According to a study by LinkedIn, after compensation, growth opportunities are the most important factor in job searches. If you want to attract and keep top talent, you need to offer them this valuable benefit.
Employees, like employers, have realized that training is essential to staying ahead of marketplace changes. When you offer career and personal development opportunities, you’ll get the attention of candidates who are serious about their careers.
As a bonus, you’ll also keep the top talent you have now. That’s because when people get the training they need, they’re more confident in their work. When they’re happier at work, employees are more productive and more likely to stay with their current employer.
It develops future leaders within your organization
Upskilling people for the jobs they have and for those they may step into in the future gives you two advantages when it comes to leadership staffing:
- It ensures you have candidates with the right leadership skills to step into those roles.
- It shows you care about your employees’ futures, which makes them more likely to see a future with your company.
Teaching leadership skills internally allows current workers to become the kinds of leaders you want and need in your organization. Being able to promote from within also helps you avoid the high costs of employee turnover and onboarding.
Action plan for small businesses looking to upskill
To ensure you get all the benefits of upskilling, you’ll need to incorporate it into your company strategy. Here are three tips to help you build a surefire action plan.
1. Focus on current and future skills
Upskilling is important for improving performance now and guaranteeing it for the future. Make sure you focus on both aspects as you plan out your training strategy.
Find out what skills your employees need today. Run surveys or check performance KPIs to look for skill gaps.
Do results show a need for stronger communication skills? Technical skills for navigating a virtual workplace? What about DE&I training to help build a more inclusive, enjoyable work environment?
Give employees skills they’ll need in the future. Look at your company goals and determine what needs training can fill. Leadership training, for instance, can prove invaluable for people looking to ladder up within a small business and can help you as your organization grows.
Similarly, what industry policy or technology changes might affect employee productivity? Offer training in technical skills and knowledge that will be relevant going forward.
2. Customize training
Training should be tailored to people’s needs and specific job roles. A one-size-fits-all training model isn’t always effective.
As employees set individual goals with their managers, note what skills they’ll require. Then add related training to your lineup.
Or create individual learning paths in your LMS that recognize employees when they sign in. It can then populate their home screen with relevant courses and make personalized training recommendations.
If you want to show your genuine interest in your team’s futures, give them what they need to succeed individually.
3. Create a manageable training schedule
Training should be a regular part of the employee experience, not an add-on that feels like a burden. Make sure training occurs during regular work hours but be mindful of people’s workloads.
Self-paced training can be an effective solution, allowing employees to go through training at their own speed. When people can complete their training at a time that doesn’t conflict with other work priorities, they’re much more likely to complete the training—and enjoy it.
Make upskilling an ongoing investment
Upskilling is an opportunity for your small business to attract high-quality candidates and set yourself apart. It’s also a great way to ensure your company will thrive even through uncertain times.
Your upskilling/reskilling strategy should be continuously evolving. Worker needs and industry skills will continue to change, and your strategy should change with it.
The one constant is that training should be a regular part of employees’ work lives. It will help them feel confident and succeed despite economic uncertainties. And when your employees succeed, so does your small business.
Christina Gialleli is the Director of People Ops, Epignosis