How Upskilling Your Employees Will Help Your Company Be Innovative

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Teaching your current employees new skills to better perform their role—and potentially new roles down the line—will help keep your company agile.               

Carter Liebscher|
November 19, 2019

By now you’ve realized how valuable your employees’ ideas are. Their particular perspectives obtained through their personal lives, previous work experiences, and current role lend companies unique opportunities to innovate.

Some organization champions know this, taking the necessary steps to hear their employees out consistently. Other organizations might believe crowdsourcing employee knowledge to be valuable, but only as a one-time effort rather than as an ongoing project.

By making innovation a priority and a habit, you’re regularly upskilling your employees such that they and their organization will enjoy current and future success. Here are the reasons why investing in ongoing training programs for current employees makes for a healthy and innovative organization.

Closing the Skills Gap

If finding a single qualified candidate for a position is hard, then finding a qualified candidate requiring little to no training is near impossible. 

Companies struggle to fill vacant positions, with HR departments finding that candidates lack the necessary skills for the roles they’re applying for. However, some companies might turn down even promising candidates that don’t tick every box, from number of years experience to having the “wrong” type of education. 

Over 60% of companies searching for qualified candidates leave positions vacant for 12 weeks or longer, forcing those promising potential employees to miss out on learning those necessary skills. The employee pool then becomes shallower the longer the position is open, forcing current employees to pick up the extra work that piles up. That’s not an increase in productivity—it’s a fast route to employee burnout.

By focusing on your current employees—that is, retraining them for their current roles and teaching them the necessary skills for others—you’re providing them the time to learn and try their hand at different types of responsibilities. They would feel more like an investment than a quick fix for a temporary company need or issue.

Saving in Training Expenses and Making Up Lost Productivity 

One of the primary reasons companies want to hire either highly specialized employees or experienced professionals is simple but short-sighted: training someone from the ground-up is expensive. Training a new employee can cost up to 30% of the position’s salary. A position with a salary of $40,000, for example, could run an employer $12,000. Employing an experienced employee may save your company money in the short-term, but you risk damaging employee morale and inspiring a high turnover rate as a result.

High employee turnover is just as, if not more, expensive than training. Obviously, a high turnover rate will mean a company spends a great deal on a litany of new employees already. Additionally, an experienced employee dissatisfied with their work or environment (or both) will be harder to replace than an inexperienced professional. Not only will you pay for the initial training, then, but you’ll be paying for the accumulated lost productivity from onboarding a number of new employees that were hired with the short-term in mind. 

Are we saying you shouldn’t hire any new employees? Of course not. Associate positions will require—and deserve—a thorough and sincere training and onboarding process, and it’s hard for companies to provide it for free. What we’re saying is to take a closer look inside your walls and determine if a new position is needed or if an existing role needs to be updated.

How Innovation Fits Into the Equation 

Encouraging employees to think intrapreneurially may be a later step in the employment process—employees may need to feel comfortable at their company and in their role before espousing ways to improve the company. Even long-term employees, especially those disengaged ones, may figure that their input has little impact.

By upskilling your employees—that is, introducing new responsibilities and setting aside the time to learn them—they will feel that they’re a valued member of the company. To cite a specific company, Amazon announced that it will invest $700 million in upskilling 100,000 of its current employees, retraining them on new technologies. That’s a big-name, high-performing company investing in long-term employees.

Eighty-four percent of employees at top performing companies receive the training they need to be successful in and out of their specific role. These are focused, versatile employees that will bring themselves and their organizations success.

Just as your organization shouldn’t train an employee once, your organization shouldn’t invest in an innovation program only to abandon it. The benefits to doing so are numerous, from boosting employee morale to engaging new and existing customers to, well, saving money.

Is your organization ready to implement an effective, stable innovation program?

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