SA COVID-19 lockdown – the perfect time to upskill yourself

Investing in training your employees will result in well-rounded individuals and will enable you to retain the best talent within your organisation.

Johannesburg, 26 Mar 2020
Erin Meehan, Learning and Development Facilitator, Ovations.
Erin Meehan, Learning and Development Facilitator, Ovations.

It is in the interests of companies to upskill their staff instead of hiring in new skills. But what’s the most efficient way to go about this without affecting productivity in the workplace?

Erin Meehan, Learning and Development Facilitator at Ovations, says: “In any established organisation, learning is the process by which an organisation improves itself over time through gaining experience and knowledge. It is key that knowledge gained by employees through different experiences and learning interventions is transferred on, within the organisation. Learning is necessary if you want your business to be competitive in a constantly changing environment.”

Businesses can choose from a virtually limitless number, and type, of courses when upskilling their staff. However, there are three main categories of skills development, says Meehan. “Firstly, we have technical training, which is critical for service providers in the ICT sector who require employees with highly developed technical skills that are at the forefront of the industry. 

“Second comes soft skills training. People skills or emotional intelligence affects our relationships, communication and interaction with others in a personal and professional capacity. In an environment dictated by technical skills, these are not enough for an employee to be truly effective, but all careers require at least some degree of soft skills to make the hard skills valuable. 

“Finally, leadership development is needed to enforce strong and effective leadership within an organisation, thereby ensuring individual and company-wide success. Providing leadership development opportunities can also improve morale, loyalty and profit.”

When choosing a training or skills development programme, you need to take several factors into consideration to determine your employees’ training requirements, adds Meehan. “You need to assess the employee’s current skill level and ability, as well as the current and future needs of the organisation, combined with the career aspirations of the employee, and consider how the proposed course would add value to all of that.”

There are various course delivery approaches out there, ranging from online to face-to-face to a hybrid of the two approaches. Meehan believes that a blended training method achieves the best results. 

“Two factors come into play here,” she says. “Firstly, people learn differently: we are all unique individuals who benefit from different learning styles and retain information differently. While one employee may prefer training in a group or with others, another employee may prefer an individual online course. Recognising and understanding that different learning styles are best suited to different employees, will improve the speed and quality of learning.

“Secondly,” she continues, “certain courses are best suited to be delivered using different mediums, which can include approaches such as online, classroom, seminars, etc. Just as understanding individual learning styles is necessary, it is also important to understand the most suitable method of delivering training to ensure employees achieve the best results.”

Deciding which staff members require further training and/or education can prove challenging. However, says Meehan, “it’s important that an organisation invests in developing all of its team members. Learning and development is not stagnant. We live in a world of constant change and it is important for businesses to evolve with that change. They also need to make sure that they equip their employees to deal with these rapid changes.”

Not only will investing in training result in well-rounded, highly developed employees, it’s also key to retaining the very best talent in your organisation, she says. Therefore, it’s important for a business to understand all of its employees’ needs and to invest in their development. 

“The majority of South African companies employ people from different socio-economic backgrounds and, as a result, not all employees may have had the same opportunities in terms of education and skills development. It is important to keep this in mind when planning career development with employees.”

Meehan concludes by listing three elements that go into ensuring a successful learnership:

  • Have a facilitator who can engage with learners and impart knowledge that they can retain and use in a practical environment.
  • Regarding the learners, you need to ensure that you have the right people with the right attitude on the training courses. Also ensure that you choose individuals who understand the opportunity that is being presented to them and are prepared to use it to their full potential.
  • Have mentors who are skilled and knowledgeable in their chosen area of speciality and who can support the learners.