Four Ways to Improve Employee Skill Development and Mobility (Strategy Brief)

Both the workforce and workplace have changed drastically in the last few years. Organizations must explore new and sometimes untested ways to allow their employees to advance even in this new environment. Although the fundamental concepts of discovering and assessing skills across the enterprise are still at the core of creating a more capable and mobile workforce, new ways of accelerating skill and competency development are now being used. 

Besides the most obvious challenge (a lack of budget/ resources), two major other complications plague organizations looking to increase the capabilities of their workforce: A lack of career paths and a lack of career coaches. These two obstacles, a lack of options and a lack of internal or external support, show that increasing employee capabilities is not a high priority in many organizations. 

Organizations that are looking to have a more capable and mobile workforce must allocate budget for increasing the capabilities of their workforce but must do so in a focused and direct way — by auditing their career pathing opportunities and finding ways to increase employee mobility, and by investing in internal and external coaching resources. 

While organizations understand the importance of teams and team development, there are many competing training priorities. Few organizations believe they are in the position to excel through the use of teams. With the amount of teamwork expected to increase significantly over the next few years, now is the time to identify better ways to prepare employees to participate and lead in high-performing teams. 

Organizations that make use of these aspects of career development are more likely to see increases in several business metrics, not just career development-specific metrics. This shows the importance of these activities in helping the organization achieve its overall goals and helps justify an increase in budget allocation to these activities. 

To improve your organization’s ability to increase the capabilities and mobility of your workforce, you need to determine what people, processes, and technology you have in place to help talent management professionals increase skill development. Organizations should ask themselves the following questions:

Who is accountable for maintaining and improving employee capabilities and internal movement? 

Which metrics are most useful when determining the effectiveness of employee skill development practices? 

What resources, in terms of time and budget, can be allocated to improving employee skill development and mobility? 

What are the most important steps we can take to develop more people to participate in and lead high-performing teams? 

  1. Create more opportunities for coaching, mentoring and peer-to-peer feedback
    Coaching and mentoring have emerged as critical tools to improve individual and organizational performance. Organizations see better business results where coaching and mentoring are valued and encouraged and practiced from the top leadership on down, according to Brandon Hall Group research. Look for ways for employees to develop and learn new skills that may fall out of formal promotion or fast-track programs. 
  2. Use stretch assignments, job rotations and participating on teams from day one 
    Practice, either in-person or virtually, enables employees to refine skills in a safe environment before going “live” with them. Special project work or stretch assignments are economical ways to build skills while contributing to the business rather than taking employees away from their jobs to learn. Modern technology has evolved to the point where experiential learning is possible without actually being on-site, and these options should be explored for any organization struggling to create on-the-job training.
  3. Think creative when it comes to career pathing.
    Personal and career growth are top drivers of employee engagement, according to Brandon Hall Group research. During times of disruption, it’s easy to emphasize getting work done to the extent that employees are not provided needed opportunities to grow in their jobs and their careers. The fix for this problem is to give your employees opportunities to help self-select their career-pathing and to give employee-driven learning more importance in your organization. The last few years have taught us all to be more self-reliant and employee development is no exception. 
  4. Learning and development curriculum that is personalized for individual career plans. 
    The first step for a personalized curriculum development is a robust needs assessment (which can be automated for large-scale operations). A needs assessment will help determine what training needs might be, or it may turn out that training isn’t needed, but rather performance support to help reinforce what had already been trained on. 


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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