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How to optimise upskilling for all

With a difficult jobs market ahead, there is much that employers can do to support their employees to upskill and in turn, build a loyal workforce who are less likely to change companies or industry.

For the UK workforce, the threat of recession in 2023 is real, with forecasts suggesting that economic downturn could last the rest of the year. New research from Talent.com has found that half of UK employees feel that a looming recession is a threat to their job security, and the same percentage would be prepared to switch industries if their current one was threatened.

In contrast to this rather pessimistic outlook, 46% of UK employees would also like to undertake training to develop their skill set, to prepare themselves for an uncertain job market. This proactive response to potential downturn is backed up by personal responsibility. Of those willing to upskill, over half (52%) would be willing to fund training or further training themselves, and 53% would be willing to do this in their own time.

Despite employees’ preparations to weather the storm of economic uncertainty, it appears that their employers are not doing the same. With a difficult jobs market ahead, there is much that employers can do to support their employees to upskill and in turn, build a loyal workforce who are less likely to change companies or industry.

Clearly communicate the paths to upskilling
Lack of knowledge was highlighted as a key barrier to upskilling. Of the 1005 employees surveyed; 15% of respondents were unsure which skills they should learn, 5% didn’t know how to access training, and 4% feared that any training undertaken would not be recognised by future employers. This is an awful lot of uncertainty, for something that does have a clear solution.

Of those who responded that they do want to upskill, 1 in 10 say their employer is not offering the chance to learn new skills. On the flip side, for not looking to upskill, 34% cited that training isn’t offered, they don’t know how to access it, or don’t know what kinds of skills they will need for the future world of work. Although more pronounced in the cohort not looking to upskill (which could account for some of their reluctance) a significant number of employees do not know the paths to skill development.

Clear communication of career development has impact beyond an upskilled workforce. For the company, it can improve their employer value proposition – a very important factor to stay competitive in a tensed job market. According to another piece of research by Talent.com, 20% of jobseekers consider access to training one of the most important factors during their job search. Therefore employers should be motivated to support their employees to access training, during a time when employees are willing to change industry if necessary.

Offer financial support
Our survey found that when employees were asked why they are not looking to pursue training, the second highest reasons accounted for (after viewing their current skill set as sufficient to ensure employment) were that they don’t have the time (21%) or can’t afford it (16%). The data also made clear that the solution to this problem is firmly in an employer’s hands.

While 52% said they would self-train in their own time, and 53% would fund their own training, the number of respondents responding positively to the proposition of upskilling jumped to 76% when it was paid for by someone else. If access to training is hindered by financial or time constraints, the employer has an option to remove this barrier by funding training and offering learning opportunities within work hours.

Explain the benefits of upskilling to not yet convinced
Whilst many employees are keen to upskill, there’s a similar number who are not looking to undertake training. This is particularly true for workers aged 45 and over. Even though almost half of over 45s view a potential recession as a threat to their job security, 61% are not looking to upskill or reskill, with almost half believing that their current skills will be enough to get them through.

If 50% of employees are looking to switch industry, this could have huge implications for the businesses they are vacating. Rather than leaving upskilling to the individual, companies should explain the benefits and offer personalised pathways to their older employees, to make sure they retain the wealth of knowledge and experience these workers hold.

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