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Help! My staff want to upskill: is it viable and can I afford it?

Posted by James Morelli-Green | 19-Jul-2017 10:11:41

Research frequently shows that offering the opportunity for access to training and upskill courses within a company can improve productivity and motivation amongst employees, and it's affordable too - yipee! In fact, research recently released from Groupon reveals that businesses are actively upskilling staff at an impressive rate, with nearly a third of employees in the UK taking measures to upskill through extra training and qualifications in the past five years. Wondering why? Well, more flexible working patterns and an increase in the availability of versatile online training courses means that UK employers and employees alike are seeing now as a perfect time to learn new skills, with a focus on workplace eLearning.

Groupon's findings also offer a glimpse into the motivations for upskilling, including self-improvement (52%), refreshing employee skillset (33%) and employees seeking to protect themselves from redundancy due to their current job becoming obsolete (5%). In many cases, quite the opposite to redundancy has occurred with 17% reporting that they have even seen training pay off with either a promotion or a pay rise once upskilled. Further, half of those who took part in the study also reported that they believe learning new skills through courses of further training would significantly enhance their earning potential.

The reasons to upskill also includes productivity and motivation. Over three quarters of those asked say the UK could boost its overall productivity if more people were afforded the time to learn new skills at work. Look at that! Employers are getting more from their staff and, as I've said before in a similar article, employees feel integrated and efficient, an asset to a company they are in tune with and feel a sense of accomplishment - in short, they are motivated. Indeed, an employee who struggles in a role or in a company that they aren’t trained to fully engage with is likely a demotivated, anxious and underperforming one, and no one wants that. 

It is viable to upskill?

However, for many employees and employers the cost of staff training has often been the main barrier to beginning the process of staff development. Around 61% believe that learning new skills through face-to-face and blended distance learning courses is too expensive for the average person, with most Open University courses costing around £5,000 each. With this in mind, half of respondents now say they are more likely to consider an online training course as they are significantly cheaper for individual payers and for employers purchasing the courses, particularly in bulk.

In addition to the costs involved, factor in the time spent having to attend face-to-face sessions or dedicated live virtual classes, and things start becoming a little more of a time issue also. Oftentimes, this eats into evenings and 'family time' for learners and can lead to lower retention or success rates, so it's worth factoring in flexible working hours or factoring learning time into the working day too. Don't panic over losing productivity just yet though! While this isn't something easily achievable with face-to-face and blended learning courses, there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it's not the blinding torch of the night-time security officer wondering why there's an employee sat in the dark studying at 11pm. Most online training and upskill courses have a bite-size learning function built in, allowing the learner to study at their own speed and for short periods of time, and this also allows them to log-out and then pick up where they left off later on without losing any progress. This flexible online approach means that the learning can take place cost-effectively and can be completed during work hours in bite-sized chunks, at their own pace and without any significant loss to productivity, thus freeing up their evenings once again and improving retention and success rates for employees...and that also means success for employers!

In the study by Groupon, secretarial or general business skills have proved to be the most popular type of new skill to learn, with 19% of learners choosing these areas in the past five years. However, Engage in Learning Account Director, Mark Edmonds, says, "Our hot topics are definitely our legal compliance modules with Data Protection and Information Security accounting for over 25% of course completions in the last year. Reducing risk of non-compliance and the resulting penalties and/or loss of reputation is at the top of any company's agenda, therefore it is no surprise that we get contacted every day by organisations looking for best of breed learning in these areas". Couldn't have put it better myself, Mark.

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Jon Wilson, managing director at Groupon UK, also comments, “No matter how old you are, where you live, or what stage in life you’re at, you should always have the opportunity to keep learning. For some, the cost of traditional face-to-face courses is a barrier which is why we’re now seeing such strong demand from customers for high quality yet affordable online learning courses. Whether it’s to improve yourself, chase down a promotion or future-proof your career, there’s plenty of reasons to learn new skills”.

We at Engage in Learning not only agree with that sentiment, but also strive to provide businesses, large or small, with cost-effective and flexible online learning programs that get results. Our courses are tailored to fit the needs of learners around the demands of their working day and are also available in any language. Contact us and see where you can take your career.


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