Why prioritising ongoing skills development is a vital prelude to growing the business
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Why prioritising ongoing skills development is a vital prelude to growing the business

Why prioritising ongoing skills development is a vital prelude to growing the business

Building a skills development culture can help you attract and retain valued talent


In nearly every industry, employees are looking for an encouraging environment with advancement opportunities. People want the room to learn and grow professionally. A key element in any organisation’s strategy for employee engagement and business growth must be ongoing learning and development. However, for many organisations that face competing priorities and razor-thin budgets, providing non-essential training often takes a backseat.

As more organisations adopt the cloud, it’s not an option to deprioritise or defund employee skills development. A survey from 451 Research revealed that 85 per cent of organisations reported deficits in cloud expertise. Managers expecting to hire their way out of skills problems face a shallow candidate pool. There simply aren’t enough professionals with cloud skills. As such, organisations wanting to maximise their adoption of the cloud must be intentional about investing in and nurturing cloud training in order to attract and retain high-quality cloud talent.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen how encouraging skills development increases confidence among employees and leads to a more innovative, agile, and collaborative work environment. Developing a culture of learning starts at the top of the organisation and becomes pervasive with time and intentional focus. From harnessing the real-world experience of seasoned employees to mentor early career team members, to investing in training that includes online and in-person courses, lab- and game-based learning opportunities, there are many ways to meet your business goals through employee skills development.

Here are a few strategies to consider that can help you grow your business success through intentional workforce skills development:

Commit to your skilling culture
Incorporate employee skills development into the company’s annual goals—tied to leadership’s performance metrics and each employee’s goals—to establish operational rigour that substantiates your desired culture. Consider specific strategic and operational imperatives that align to skilling gaps, as well as industry certification achievements that can bolster new business wins.

Managers should have an open and continuous dialogue with employees to align skills development and industry certifications to the individual’s current role and their short- and long-term career paths. Institutionalising skill building from the very top of the organisation ensures the culture is intentional about ongoing learning and curiosity.

Stay future-focused
What cloud initiatives are forthcoming in the next 12 to 24 months, and what cloud skills are lacking now? Think beyond the IT teams. Arming IT and non-IT staff alike, such as finance, sales, marketing, and even administrative staff, with cloud knowledge increases the organisation’s ability to deliver more quickly and collaboratively to meet customer needs. We call this building cloud fluency. By thinking holistically about the expertise and cloud competencies of your organisation, you can future-proof the skill sets you need within your workforce. A Learning Needs Analysis can help you build a data-driven training plan tailored to the requirements of your organisation. Start energising teams to lean into these development areas.

Identify champions
Acknowledge the skilled professionals in your organisation and encourage them to act as mentors and coaches to others. Create a process and structure to empower these champions to drive employee learning programmes. This helps build leadership opportunities for your champions—while creating additional mechanisms for employee growth—creating a flywheel. Before long, once-new learners step up as emerging champions.

Encourage dedicated time for skills development
For a culture of learning to take hold, it’s vital for leaders and managers to bake-in skill development time into their timelines and milestones so they can achieve priority objectives for their team and organisation. Empower employees to dedicate time during the work week to prioritise learning and build their skills. For example, on my team, we set aside time for learning once a month without meetings or other deadlines. While it may take time for this to take hold, consistently reinforcing your support of employees’ time to learn new skills will encourage them to take advantage of it.

Create sprint-style learning
Think about creating an agile—and repeatable—approach to learning in short timeframes or sprints. Establish a desired timeframe and design a learning programme that includes a team or multi-team challenge. This compressed approach helps organisations skill up or gain certifications quickly in a particular job function or domain but must be balanced with business demands. Employees need to feel the organisation’s commitment to making space for learning so they feel confident setting daily responsibilities aside to pursue their skills development.

Incorporate peer connection
Take advantage of interactive and gamified learning approaches to create peer connections and cross-functional synergies. Fun, hands-on, and risk-free learning scenarios can be a motivating way for employees to learn a new skill, enhance a current one, or experiment. Split employees into small groups to work on hands-on cloud projects to increase expertise and collaboration. Invite the winning team to present their project and key learnings during an All Hands meeting. And of course, don’t forget to acknowledge, reward, and create incentives for those acquiring new skills and helping solidify a company culture where this is the norm.

Building a skills development culture can help you attract and retain valued talent, help employees stay more engaged and innovative at work, and increase your overall business prosperity. With a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm, you can realise tremendous organisational benefits from cultivating a culture of continuous skills development.

Scott Barneson is the director of learning products for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Training and Certification

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