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So looking again at that employee lifecycle, it doesn’t have to be you start here, and you end here, and you’re out.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, and with me is my good friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
Our topic today is on upskilling. So if you don’t know what upskilling means, it is to teach an employee additional skills and/or to expand their capabilities. So we’re… we’re upping their skills one way or another by adding them or expanding their capabilities. Upskilling has been a hot topic specifically in the last few years as organizations have struggled to attract, recruit, and retain employees at all levels. As organizations sought out creative ways to fill open positions, upskilling became one of the best solutions. Of course, upskilling is not new, and some of the best organizations have been doing this for a very long time, but for some employers, they had always hired people with the skills they needed versus considering training the employees who were already there. Not only does upskilling give your team the chance to build expertise and help them advance their personal and professional growth; it can also enhance employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance – factors which are all critical to the future success of both parties. In a blog posted on gloat.com, McKinsey found in 2022 that 70% of businesses were doing more upskilling than they did pre-COVID. There has been some confusion between the terms upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling. Upskilling, as we talked about earlier, is focused on helping employees become more knowledgeable and develop new competence that relate to their current position, while reskilling is about equipping workers to move into a new role within the organization and cross-skilling is the process of developing skills that are valuable across multiple functions. As the adoption of technology increases, the World Economic Forum predicted in 2022 that half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. Half of all employees. That’s a lot of people.
Well, the rise in automation and artificial intelligence isn’t going to push employees out of the job market as some people once feared. Once again, the World Economic Forum predicts that it will create as many as 133 million new roles.
Yes. And we’re… we’re certainly seeing some of that happening now as people have very creative job titles and new roles and different things they’re responsible that we didn’t have years ago. And although this is good news, these jobs are going to come with new sets of required knowledge, which is where the increased need for upskilling and reskilling comes into play. To help us understand upskilling even more, we have invited our friend, our coworker, and co-author of ours on “The JoyPowered® Team” book, Peggy Hogan. She is Purple Ink’s Vice President of Talent Services. This encompasses recruiting, career coaching, and outplacement. She is passionate about helping organizations be more effective at sourcing and retaining top talent, and she loves the powerful effect that connecting people to the right opportunity can have on their lives. So Peggy, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about this important topic of upskilling. Why should a company consider upskilling?
Well, in this labor market right now, I think, you know, we’re having a lot of trouble recruiting people anyway and finding that workforce, so it becomes even more important to really retain the top talent that you already have, so upskilling is a way to do that.
I would think that as an employee, I would really want to know I had career opportunities. And if a company is willing to upskill me, I… you know, and grow with me, allow me to grow there, I’d stay for, you know… I don’t know about forever, but for a very long time. So I think that’s really smart, Peggy. So Peggy, how… What should the company do to start? How can they approach upskilling?
Well, I think they first need to really take a look inside and see if they’re really doing much with learning and development. So you know, this is a specialization within HR, for sure, because you can really go to all different lengths. But one thing that a fully-fledged kind of learning and development department might offer would be a talk about career paths. And they would really define what those career paths can look like and then provide the training that supports the employee through that kind of lifecycle, if you will. Do they have an LMS? Is that something that’s going to aid them in providing some of that training, a learning management system? And I think they also want to really track and talk about what are the transferable skills that our employees might have? I think this often goes overlooked. We might look at job titles and make assumptions about what that job title might be. But we often don’t really think about what skills does the person have from that job that could possibly go into another department?
I can remember one time that I was supporting a business unit and they were really concerned about retention, and so we were thinking about how do we create career paths here? You know, people want to know, what can I do next, and what do I… how do I prepare myself for that next big role? Where we started was we really did a kind of a deep dive looking at where are people internally moving from, and we started to see patterns, right? And so we thought, okay, so if we know… if people, you know, get to the business analyst level, and then they start looking at credit positions, then what we need to do is how do we as HR provide training that will give them maybe some of the credit skills they didn’t get as a business analyst? What kind of courses can we offer? And then we actually built career ladders that we put out on our website, and you could click on them for each step in the ladder. What were the skills needed? And then you could click on those to figure out what classes we were offering. Now, it took us quite a while to build it, but I think it was invaluable. And so when employees said, “I don’t know where to go,” we had a place to send them that their manager could go to and understand and they can be better coaches. I just think there’s such value to this exercise.
There is. So one thing that I think a lot of organizations are not doing is really tracking transferable skills, or even talking about transferable skills. So for example, you know, someone who has really great attention to detail maybe would be great in a project management role, or maybe they would be great in accounting. And so then, you know, what can we do to help them get there, if that indeed is an interest to them? Maybe it’s relationship building that someone is really good at. So you know, let’s think about a career track that might really utilize and play upon their strengths in relationship building. Some other things to think about are the benefits. When it comes to a company kind of offering this, you know, there’s some benefits like tuition reimbursement or even paying for different credentials that they obtain. For example, you could even, you know, pay for them to become that project manager and get that PMP certification, or perhaps a recruiter, you’re going to pay, you know, to get career coach training. And they can do that internally and offer that as a benefit as well. And think about that career coaching as a benefit. This is definitely being done in organizations right now, but I don’t think most companies have ever even really thought about making it an official benefit. But if you have someone in your organization who can have those conversations with employees about what they ultimately want to do, that is really going to go a long way for keeping that employee, you know, working for your company.
So honestly, I love the idea of an internal career coach. I would also say spend some time developing your managers’ skill in career coaching, because every manager really does play a role in their employees’ development, and if you can equip them to have good conversations about other jobs that are available here and the career ladders that you have and the types of training program that’s going to pay such dividends, because we know that frontline employees really rely on their next-level manager. And the trust that’s there is really what keeps them working for you. And let’s… let’s equip them with the skills to have some good career conversations.
I agree. And, you know, I know for me, at least, I like to have a lot of stimulation and be learning and growing. And there is, I think, some research that shows that when you’re interviewing candidates and they’re more interested in the learning and development opportunities in the organization versus the salary, they will stay longer. So, you know, people want to grow, and they want to learn, and they get bored sometimes doing the same things. So it really… it’s really wonderful, I think, if managers just understand that and want to help that employee do what’s best for them and the company in the long run. A way of tracking, you know, kind of mentioned that earlier, a way of tracking some of that information is actually have a database of skills and certifications and even just interest that people have. We mentioned accounting earlier, project management, it could be that someone is bilingual. And when you hire them, are you putting that into a database so that you could do a search? We used to do this when I worked at a bank years ago. We had people fill out, you know, a form with their skills and interests, and then we would run a report, sometimes, when we were working on some internal positions. Now, that bank actually had a very robust job posting program, and almost every job within the organization was filled internally. And, yeah, it was really quite amazing, actually. And they did support it by having tuition reimbursement and kind of, you know, different programs that people could enroll in to help get them to that, you know, maybe next position. In fact, I started out in branch management and posted for a recruiting job, and, you know, otherwise, I wouldn’t have had that experience. And they took me in and trained me. But you’ve got to be willing to train and take that time.
Peggy, as you know, a lot of learning management systems also have the ability to track some of the things you just mentioned, about whether they’re bilingual, have taken certain classes within the organization, or whatever. So it’s not like a company has to start from scratch in building this database if they have an LMS system.
Yes, yes, that… it really is a great tool for so many reasons.
Peggy, what do you think about management training programs? I know decades ago, that was really the way that people got into large companies. But it’s really… I don’t know. I’m sure some companies still have them, but they don’t seem to be as prevalent. What’s your point of view on it?
I wish they would bring them back. I really do. I think that, you know, you’ve got to be thoughtful about where they’re going to start where they’re going to move. And, you know, if the employee can kind of stick with that program… I mean, I started as a teller. That wasn’t my favorite job, but I knew that there was… you know, it was after six weeks or 12 weeks, or whatever that timeframe was, and then I would move into a new role. So I think a lot of it comes down to communication with the prospective employee. I mean, most kids coming out of college or high school, they really have no idea what the roles are in companies. So being able to kind of be in there and learn a little bit, see what’s working for them. Are they a people person? Are they more of a kind of heads down spreadsheet analysis kind of a person? And then start to see kind of where could that person go to grow in their area of strengths?
And Peggy, you mentioned a few, but what are some other examples of upskilling that you’ve seen in organizations?
Well, I think, you know, a very classic one is we think of somebody who’s maybe in customer service, or maybe they’re in an administrative role, and maybe the organization is just starting an HR department, and they decide to kind of move that person into HR. Now I caution against that if you’re not going to give them the support and the learning and the tools to be successful in HR, but that’s sort of a classic one. Another classic, I would say, is really promoting someone, so you’ve got a salesperson, you’re going to put them into a sales manager role. Now, again, you’ve got to give the person the training, because a great salesperson isn’t always a great sales manager, so provide them with that leadership training. But maybe they’re not really going to stay in sales. Maybe you decide to move them into more of an account service type role, or vice versa, an account rep moves into a sales. There’s… that’s very easy, I think, to transition if you already know the products and whatnot. But that would be another way, would be maybe you’re in sales, but you’re going to work on a different product line or do more business development.
Peggy, earlier in my career, I supervised and led a group of administrative people who would tell me during their annual reviews that “I don’t want to get promoted, I don’t want to take on a different role, I just want to be a really good administrative assistant.” And I always told them, “but you can still learn and grow,” right? In… in the sense of you can upskill and stay in your same role, just be better at it. Maybe they had a particular expertise in PowerPoint or Zoom functions or, you know, whatever it might be, that they could still be learning and growing within their same role.
Right. I agree. And I think if you are having those conversations as a manager, you know… What do you like about your job? How are you using your strengths every day? You know, you might learn some things that, wow, they really do love this PowerPoint aspect of their job, and maybe there’s a need on the team where they could support other departments putting together these amazing PowerPoints. Maybe there’s another part of their job that they’re kind of, you know, it’s more of a grind for them now, and they’re not as enthusiastic about it. So… But having those conversations where an employee feels like there’s even a possibility of sort of creating a job that works with their strengths is the first start for sure.
So Peggy, what kind of out-of-the-box thinking do you think a company could have regarding upskilling?
Well, I think it might be, you know, looking at people a little differently internally, like, sometimes we think only entry-level people maybe could do a certain type of role. Maybe there is someone internally who, you know, might have… be more at the end of their career, who like JoDee mentioned, wants to scale back a little bit. So that would be one thing where it’s… it is upskilling in a way, if you’re putting them into a different role, maybe giving them a new skill set, something new that’s invigorating for them. So looking again at that employee lifecycle, it doesn’t have to be you start here, and you end here, and you’re out.
Peggy, you work with many different clients in many different industries to help them with recruiting. Are employers still insistent on hiring skilled candidates, or do you think they’ve become more open to hiring great candidates who could be trained later?
I still see a lot of resistance. I think people want their lives to be made more easy by bringing someone in who can kind of be up and running quickly, so I do see some resistance to training still. I’m trying to get them to be a little more open to it. But, you know, there are times that if we just cannot identify the right candidate at the right price point, that you do have to say to yourself, is a CPA required to be a controller at this $6 million company, or could we look at someone internally, give them a little bit more education, maybe, or a credential, or could we even hire someone…maybe they have an MBA, or maybe they were an accounting manager somewhere? But think, you know, a little bit more, I guess, about not having the exact credentials coming in. Maybe it’s a sales job and you want… You’re very specific about the type of industry experience that you think they have to have. Is that really critical, or can we teach them the business if they have that kind of sales ability innate in them?
Yeah, it really is a buy or build strategy, you know, can you… do you have to buy the talent, or can you build the talent? And sometimes it’s how long do you have before that person has to be, you know, operational. And other times it’s can we afford to buy it? No, we can’t, but maybe we could build it. And you know, at least for the short run, we’re going to be okay, but we’re going to have to invest some money to do it, and we still come out ahead.
I do see… I did talk to a client recently that’s a hospital, actually, and they have developed some programs where someone might come in with one credential, and maybe it’s a hospital assistant, and then maybe they provide them with the training to get that next credential that’s a little bit higher. So I think we are seeing some… a little more thought going into building that pipeline and getting people in there and then offering that training, too.
Oh, that’s great. That’s a buy and build strategy.
And Peggy, for our listeners, if they are interested in getting more out-of-the-box thinking on how they can upskill, how can they contact you?
They can reach me at Peggy at Purple Ink – with a K – LLC dot com.
And Peggy, you know, we like to ask all of our guests a JoyPowered® question, so what was your last JoyPowered® moment at work?
There’s so many to choose from, it is really hard to come up with one JoyPowered® moment. But I would say making a connection with a client to a person who I think might be a really good fit for them. That gets me super excited all the time. I also just got an email from a career coaching client that she landed a job, so always, always brightens my day when I hear that. So.
Well, thank you so much for joining us today.
Peggy, we love it when you come. Come back soon.
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity to kind of share some of these strategies.
We have a listener question today, JoDee. “What is the best way to start a total rewards conversation and mindset within an organization? I’m new at a well-established workplace and see how they are undervaluing the breadth and depth of their benefit offerings. I see doing this as a great retention and attraction tool, but I’m not sure where to start.”
So I think one of the best things that organizations can do to show this specifically is to share individual benefit statements with people in the organization. I had that for just a couple of times early in my career, and now we’re actually doing this right now for our Purple Ink team, and I do think it brings a whole new perspective of what… How much is your employer paying for your health insurance and contributing to your retirement plan? As a part of that, too, though, I think it’s an important for organizations to have a compensation or total rewards philosophy, right? And that philosophy, in simple terms, could be, “we’re gonna pay really well, but the benefits aren’t that great,” or, “we know we’re lower on the market salary surveys, but we provide amazing benefits.” So helping the people understand what really they are being… What is being paid on their behalf or paid to them can really be a surprise to people.
Yeah, you know, I’ve seen those total reward statements given out different companies to let people… remind them, here’s what the total value of your working here means. I’ve seen them used when someone’s thinking about looking for another job, you pull that out, have a conversation, you know, we want to re-recruit you to the team. Please know that, you know, your total rewards here is far greater than simply your paycheck. I’ve also seen some companies send them to people’s homes, rather than send them to the office, because you want them to talk about it with their family. You want their family to feel great about their… What they’re getting there. And it’s more likely that you’re not counting on them to take it home and then talk about it. Well, if they open it up at home, the spouse might say, oh my gosh, I didn’t realize that, you know, you’re really earning quite a bit more than that… than that paycheck for us. So I think it’s a good idea.
Great insight there. In our in the news section today, in a recent Preply survey of 1,000 American workers, they found the following. 95% of these Americans have had a coworker who talks too much.
Yes, I certainly have seen that.
Me too. Yeah.
The most annoying talking, 26% of the time, is about office gossip. And 22% of the time they’re talking about politics. In today’s world, I just don’t think that’s very wise.
Hey, I was surprised that the politics was that high. On average, chatty coworkers spend 90 minutes of the workday just talking.
Oh my gosh. Never ever, ever realized it was that much. Americans say the worst time to encounter their talkative coworker is when they’re trying to finish up and go home. I can… I can just right now picture different people that would like to swing by and have a seat as I’m trying to get everything wrapped up, get home, get dinner, do whatever it is I need to do, and they say, “Hey, you got a minute?” Oh, my gosh, I want to beat my head against the desk. But I didn’t. I’d smile and say. “Sure, What’s up?”
I’ve had those too. And a talkative coworker has prevented 71% from getting work done.
I’m sure that’s true.
Yeah. So how can we stop or prevent some of these conversations? We’d love to hear your ideas, but these are some of ours. I’ll tell you a quick story about my first one. This was early in my career. We had a manager who just would not stop talking and it didn’t matter what the topic… if it was about a client or what they did over the weekend. And we all knew it in the office, and so if she had someone in her office talking to her, we would call that person, or even back then we would have the operator page that person just so we could get them out of the conversation.
Oh my gosh.
Literally, sometimes it would be like, “Okay, I’m going in her office, if I’m not back in seven minutes have me paged.”
Funny. Another idea is, if it’s personal, think about telling that chatty person you want to know more, let’s… let’s go have lunch this afternoon, or maybe we could get together after work or whatever. But try to divert it, when you realize it’s personal, to outside of the work hours.
Right. I think, of course, we can always just be honest with them and tell them that you need to get back to work and don’t have time for talking now. That, you know, doesn’t sound real cheerful there, but you can say, “hey, I’m finishing up a project. I need to get this out the door right now.” There’s loads of different ways you can say that a bit nicer.
Sure. Now, if you’re braver than me, maybe just be honest and say, “Listen, you’re getting a reputation for being a Chatty Cathy,” and that maybe this is going to be impactful to them in a way they don’t want. I don’t know if I’ve got the courage to do that, but some of you listeners will. And you know what? Transparency, honesty… go for it.
Yeah. I would tell someone that.
And you would, and they’d still like you afterwards, JoDee. I know.
Another idea is to remind them to focus more on listening than talking. That’s something I tell myself many times is I feel like I can have strong communication skills, but communication skills includes listening skills, and that’s something I don’t always do well.
Fair enough. Another idea is to chime in early on, especially if you work with somebody who this is their pattern. Chime in early. Don’t let it get too far into it before you say, “hey, I need to schedule this talk for another time,” or, “I’ve got stuff that I need to get done.” Don’t be afraid to nip it in the bud as early as you can when you start to see it brewing to a much longer conversation.
Right. And one of my favorites is to perfect the art of interruptions. Christine Burrows, who is on our team, she has this down pat. She will many times say, even, you know, to me or other people or clients or networking people, “I’ve got five minutes here that I can talk and then I need to do this,” or just to say, “Okay, I’m sorry to cut you off here, but we need to move on.” She does it so nicely and so effectively, but she is, in fact, just interrupting them.
Yeah. What a great time manager, though, and you know what? I can’t imagine anybody taking offense with Christine, so I love that.
Yeah. And again, we’d love to hear some of your ideas if you have more. So please tune in next time and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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