Phil Underwood outlines how employers can help future-proof their organisations by supporting staff development

While there is much uncertainty in today’s post-Brexit business landscape, history and experience tells us that firms tend to rise to the challenge of change, evolving and adapting to succeed. To do so, they must have sufficient staff and employee development plans in place to prosper in the future.

Disappointingly, research from the CIPD revealed that 25 per cent of UK employees don’t receive adequate support with professional development. The same survey also showed a drop in overall job satisfaction, and an increase in the number of people job hunting. At a time when organisations need a strong team to trade their way through any turbulence, this is concerning.  

Developing a workforce enables employers, managers and owners to ensure skills match the pace of the industry, which is vital in meeting current and future demand. However, workforce development is often low on the list of business priorities, with operational pressures meaning most focus on the ‘here and now’.  

Skills determine employment opportunities for every individual; the more knowledge, the better the job prospects. Career development opportunities are cited as the second most influential factor (after pay) when considering a new job role, revealing that most people have a strong desire to develop professionally in the future.

By ensuring development processes are in place to equip staff, a business will have the necessary resources to future-proof an organisation, and more potential to adapt, evolve and innovate. But what skills are in highest demand from employers, and how can they be acquired?

1. Problem solver

Often, employees are closest to the problems being faced by an organisation and are aware of the solution – but are held back from acting because of a lack of confidence or an inability to effectively communicate issues. A problem that could have been solved quickly becomes time-consuming, with managers’ or colleagues’ involvement wasting money and resources.

To build an army of problem solvers, organisations should equip employees with practical and accessible tools to ensure they can confidently and consistently communicate solutions. Leaders should visually outline the process of addressing problems, while encouraging staff to discuss potential solutions.

This exercise will help build a culture of good practice and independence. Employers will gain first-hand insight into how employees think and who needs additional support, while potentially uncovering novel new solutions.

2. Team worker

Teamwork ensures flexibility and increased productivity within a business. Interpersonal skills are essential to getting along with others and creating a culture of collaboration. While one of the most priceless assets to any organisation, it can be difficult to achieve in a group that contains a broad mix of personalities and people.

Visual training tools help employees to communicate their thinking more quickly and effectively, which is much more impactful than words on a page. Encouraging employees to visually and openly discuss ideas makes them more accessible, and allows thought to be developed and debated openly by a wider group.

Team brainstorms and group meetings are techniques that can be implemented regularly. Interactive inclusion will encourage even the most reserved employees to communicate with their colleagues and engage with the organisation.

3. Independent learner

The business needs of the future are certain to evolve, as will required skillsets. Employees need to both upskill and reskill to keep up. Organisations that have a stagnant workforce cannot adapt quickly to change, or be prepared to address new trends in the marketplace.

Personalised development plans that fit employees’ specific needs will nurture new skills and – through practical guidance and resources – can easily be transferred to the workplace. Self-guided training resources provide real examples of problem solving, giving staff control over professional progression.

Employees who own their development plans are more engaged, empowered and generally happier, translating into a workforce of people who are advocates of the business, and active players in achieving success.

Phil Underwood is a business mentor and author of Art of Enterprise