Upskill staff

Written on the 7 October 2009

IF you have a business which is not overly resilient, chances are that your employees will be worried about their future employment.

Those who are concerned about being made redundant and expect to have trouble finding another job will often start looking for another position before the axe falls. In many cases, their fears are unfounded and the business is in a strong enough position so that their jobs really aren’t in doubt. But it is hard to convince them to stay when things don’t look too rosy.

I had several businesses which I would call ‘rollercoasters’, that is, they had periods of significant growth and then there were periods of zero sales. When it is impossible to see when new business will come through the door, it is very hard to motivate staff and encourage them to stay until the good times come around again.

What I found was that the staff who had least faith in their ability to find another job were the most vulnerable. Those employees who were confident of walking into another job the day after they left us were more than prepared to stay around and keep working without being overly worried by the sales results.

If you turn this on its head, what it tells you is that you can create a more resilient climate within a business where people are not overly concerned about getting another job if things don’t work out.

Employees who are well trained, have good education and demonstrable skills and are in positions in demand within the industry have little to fear. Thus you can help take the pressure off them by ensuring that you create a business environment where people are encouraged to further their education, you offer opportunities for cross-skilling and you direct their work activities to allow them to improve their knowledge and experience.

In my last business, I arranged for an entire group of software developers to undertake a graduate certificate in manufacturing theory and practice. We rotated people though various jobs to give them experience in areas where they needed up-skilling and often gave them an opportunity to work alongside more experienced staff to build up their own capabilities.

Our business was more resilient as a result as we could move people around to cope with a changing workload and could easily cover for someone who was on vacation or relocated within the business. Our staff turnover was negligible as a result even though we did have some difficult periods. When we did finally sell the business, those who were not required by the buyer were able to find new jobs very quickly.

Rather than create a situation where the better skilled leave, you can actually create a situation where people want to stay because they are getting good opportunities for personal development. They also know that the training and experience they are getting makes them more employable.


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