Employers need ‘self-directed learners’ who are continuously upskilling

Upskilling ensures workers are agile and can pivot to a new role. Here are seven ways for employees to become continuous learners

Employers need ‘self-directed learners’ who are continuously upskilling

Everybody in the workforce, from MDs to graduates, needs to upskill constantly if they are to keep up with the technical skills relevant to their job, solve new problems and collaborate with peers to exchange knowledge and ideas, according to new research.

Consider the following statistics:

About 60% of occupations could see at least a third of their job tasks automated, according to McKinsey.

Moreover, Deloitte claims the half-life of learned skills is now about five years, which means what you learned to gain a degree or industry qualification could well already be out-of-date.

A Hays survey of over 2,000 people found 77% of employers are more likely to shortlist a candidate who has regularly upskilled.

However, while 96% of the professionals regard upskilling as ‘very important’ or ‘important’ only a minority are putting in the work to ensure they are keeping up with the changing demands in their sector.

“There’s still time for jobseekers to get the jump on their competition as only 14% of professionals said they upskill weekly, 18% monthly and 20% quarterly,” said Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand.

“Don’t be part of the 24% who upskill only once a year, the 20% who do so even less often or, worse yet, the 4% per cent who never upskill.

“Upskilling also ensures you can pivot to a new role or area of responsibility as things change.

“Employers want people working for them who are self-directed learners and motivated to succeed.”

Here are seven ways for employees to become continuous learners:  

1. Employees should be given stretch opportunities: “Taking on a project outside your usual remit is a great way to develop new competencies,” said Deligiannis. “If working on a project with people from other teams, you’ll also hone important collaboration and problem-solving skills. To find an opportunity, start a conversation with your boss.

Often managers are the key to having your name put forward to be part of an internal project. Alternatively, be proactive and identify an area where your company could benefit from focused attention and what you could do to contribute.”

2. Stay plugged in: Follow industry leaders and thinkers via LinkedIn, TED Talks, YouTube feeds, Twitter and other social media. According to Hays’s survey, 52% of professionals upskill by reading articles or professional literature, 49% attend conferences, seminars or webinars and 33% listen to relevant online content.

A further 25% view content online shared by connections, while 23% read books and seek coaching and mentorships. 16% have joined a LinkedIn Group relevant to their sector.

3. Join an industry or professional association: Membership of a professional association or industry groups can tick a lot of the boxes for skills and career building. “Before joining an association, ask about its continuous learning program as well as networking events and even mentorship programs,” said Deligiannis.

“Many associations offer reduced fees for those just starting out in a profession or industry so you don’t have to be an industry veteran to join.”

4. Relevant courses outside of the workplace: Formal courses are used as a way to acquire knowledge and skills by 47% of survey respondents but there is much to consider before you embark on any study.

Research any potential course for its relevancy to your industry, consider specialised certificates aligned closely to developing trends in your sector and check out online tutorials and Mass Open Online Courses.

5. Learn at work: Many employers offer free self-learning modules that reflect the skills a workforce must develop. Deligiannis points out that peer-to-peer learning is a hot trend too. “Ask a colleague to teach you a skill you want to acquire or set up a study group with colleagues. Peer-group learning sessions allow employees to learn from each other and explore relevant issues together, which can boost the learning process,” he said.

6. Career mapping: Career mapping can help you develop a plan for your career and focus your upskilling dollars and effort. Career mapping also makes it easier to pivot when necessary to align with changing trends in your industry.

7. Employer supported external study: If you want your employer to pay for tertiary study or a specialist course you must be able to explain how your learning will benefit your team or company. Bringing in new skills to your organisation and upskilling colleagues should be central to your pitch for support.

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