Upskilling: An Overlooked Wellness Strategy To Boost Productivity

February 08, 2021

There are many reasons why an employee might feel mentally exhausted or that they are not performing as well as they can. Holistic, comprehensive wellness programs do a great job at targeting many of the potential causes—inactivity, stress and anxiety, poor physical health, caregiving responsibilities, and more—by providing resources to support physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial well-being. However, there is one strategy that can boost employee wellness and productivity that may be getting overlooked. Upskilling can reinvigorate unsatisfied, disengaged, and underperforming employees.  

By having opportunities to learn and develop new skills, employees grow in their confidence and ability to perform daily tasks. Even for top performers, upskilling contributes to a better sense of purpose, direction, and fulfillment in one’s career and personal goals. It can sharpen an employee’s focus and mental acuity, reduce absenteeism, and increase job satisfaction. For companies, investing in employee career growth boosts talent retention, employee morale and engagement, and overall productivity; it can even develop a more competitive pool of candidates for future job openings. It’s also a great way to evaluate whether or not seasoned professionals are familiar with the latest best practices and technologies for a current industry or role. With this perspective, wellness programs can consider “career health” as a valuable component to overall employee well-being. It is both intricately connected to other aspects of personal wellness and directly tied to the work functions of an employee’s job.

 

Make Career Growth A Part Of Company Culture

Creating an environment where employees can grow professionally and personally is not only valuable to employers and overall productivity, but it is highly valued by the employees themselves. Recent research shows that 46% of employees would quit their job if their employer was not invested in upskilling. Fortunately, it is not difficult for companies to capitalize on this mutually-beneficial practice. 

Consider what the future holds for an industry or job. A large percentage of employees today report feeling worried about the future relevance of their own skillset. With technology and artificial intelligence constantly replacing the function of certain jobs and tasks, this isn’t an unreasonable concern. It can be stressful to feel as though the hard work of studying, working, and pursuing a lifelong passion may one day become irrelevant. Employers should look to what is on the horizon when it comes to technologies and best practices and prepare their employees accordingly. This isn’t just a good move for employee personal growth; it’s a strategic business strategy to stay competitive, relevant, and innovative in an industry. Employers can host company-wide programs where their employees learn about new technologies or skills.

Provide educational resources and tools. Much like on-the-job training, companies can also allow employees to use work time towards learning new skills relevant to their current job and career path. One of the easiest ways is to grant access to one or more of the many online learning platforms available, such as LinkedIn professional learning modules or a university’s virtual continuing education programs. Additionally, while it may require more upfront resources, employers can also fund in-person classes or employee trips to symposiums and conferences that focus on new technologies or industry practices.

Give employees opportunities to tackle new responsibilities and reasonable challenges. For an employee that has proven to be capable, dependable, and productive in their current role, employers should consider giving them added responsibilities. In a recent survey by Myers-Briggs, employees selected “undertaking work where I learn something new” and “undertaking challenging work that adds to my skills and knowledge” as activities they felt best enhanced their well-being. This also provides an opportunity for management to check in with staff and better understand their goals and where they hope to be in their career a year or five years (or more) from now. For those employees that aren’t sure, trying new things can give them a sense of direction and purpose. For those employees that have clear ambitions, taking on a new challenge can be inspiring and encouraging. However, it is important that employees aren’t left to fend for themselves. They should have access to help and guidance when needed, and if the stakes are too low or too high it can have unintended consequences (like creating more doubt, discouragement, or ambivalence towards one’s career).

Use teams to foster encouragement and mentorship. Employers can also assemble teams or projects to engage less-experienced workers with more-experienced workers or by bringing together employees with different expertise to learn from one another. Similarly, companies can pair employees with mentors within the company that have more experience or knowledge; they can give them the opportunity to meet up on occasion and check in on progress and ask questions. 

Recognize successes—big and small. Most of all, encourage employees whenever possible. Managers should acknowledge accomplishments and milestones in order to keep employees excited about their progress and eager to learn more.

Topics: Engagement, Corporate Wellness


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