The world of work is changing at light speed. As a result, 35 percent of Colorado workers say they are worried about their future job prospects, and three in 10 are specifically concerned about how the future of work will affect them, finds new research by Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado's largest workers' comp carrier. Given that millennials—who make up 90 percent of today's workforce, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—place a high priority on career development, Colorado employers would be wise to take these concerns seriously."
Echoing both the desire and need for today's workers to engage in a cycle of lifelong learning, one of the best ways companies can boost retention is to help their employees reskill through a robust professional development program. Bonus: Your business will reap the rewards of your employees' new skills.
The goal is simple: “We want every Pinnacol team member to remain employable and ready for the future, so we have developed a framework for moving forward that is flexible and supports Pinnacol's future needs," says Barbara Brannen, Pinnacol's vice president of human resources. The company, Colorado's largest workers' comp carrier, will offer training that encompasses a combination of technical and professional skills, both crucial for competing in the workplace of the future.
Of course, most small businesses lack the resources of time or money to invest in a stand-alone professional development program. The great news is that there are many ways to access low-cost but effective training opportunities that will benefit your workers and your company, today and in the future.
1. Take advantage of online resources
The internet is bursting with online course options, through services like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, which offer courses for everything from learning to code to honing leadership skills. Consider offering your employees a stipend they can use to access training that is of interest to them but will also help them do their jobs better. For example, they may choose to learn to master a new skill, such as graphic design, or boost their existing skills in an area like developing emotional intelligence. Another great option for tech skills is Udacity's "nanodegrees," that include such current needs as data science and artificial intelligence.
2. Provide cross-training
If there's only one person who knows how to prepare sales pitches, you are going to be in trouble if that person leaves. Teaching employees how to do multiple jobs not only protects you from departing knowledge, but keeps their workday fresh and interesting. Even if the jobs are outside their traditional function, rotational assignments—e.g., having a production employee spend a week shadowing sales or the sales manager learn how the HR team screens candidates—can help create a more cohesive team. Exposing employees to various departments and tasks promotes an understanding of different job functions and also gives your employees the advantage of knowing more about the company and its processes.
3. Try a reverse mentoring program
Most of today's workers, no matter their generation, are pretty tech savvy. You would never want to stereotype a boomer as being social-media averse, for example. Nevertheless, older generations can typically benefit from learning some of the cool tricks "digital natives" are known for, from Excel shortcuts to coding basics. Conversely, younger team members can increase their proficiency by working with more experienced workers, who can give them advice on how to respond to thorny client issues or network effectively.
It's clear that continuous learning is the way of the future, says Brannen, noting that what is needed today will not necessarily be true six, or even three, years from now. That's why your programs must be ongoing, rather than one-off efforts.
And it's important to communicate that this is a priority—although 98 percent of employers offer development tools, only a quarter of employees say they actually deliver well, finds one new survey.
So, whether it's online courses, informal mentoring or group discussions of interesting podcasts, the resources are there for the taking. The payoff will be the ability to bolster your team's skills for the future of work, while making it easier for you to attract and retain top-tier talent.