Continued learning and skills development is good for wellbeing
Good jobs, in which employees are able to use their skills, tend to lead to higher wellbeing. For high performance to be sustainable we need achievement, purpose, enjoyment and crucially learning. People who keep learning have greater satisfaction and optimism, report higher wellbeing, a greater ability to cope with stress, more feelings of self-esteem, hope and purpose.
This is also reflected in the 2017 World Happiness Report which found that people working in jobs that require them to learn new things are more satisfied with their lives and their jobs and experience more positive emotions day-to-day. In fact, skill use, training and development opportunities are part of what characterise ‘high quality jobs’, where people experience better wellbeing, better work-life balance and more positive attitudes to work. Whilst these tend to be associated with managerial, professional, associate professional and technical work, all occupational types can experience high work involvement, skill use, training and development opportunities. This includes work for Community Business and in the voluntary sector, where skills development can have an important effect on wellbeing and improving employability.
Opportunities for re-skilling and continued learning in the UK
Findings from the 2017 Skills and Employment Survey suggest that, at least since 2012, the UK is on a downward path in the demand of literacy and numeracy skills, a non-significant expansion of graduate-level jobs, and a decrease in required workplace learning and training.
The 2017 Taylor Review identified a job-skills mismatch in the UK. In 2016, 8% of graduates were working in jobs that required fewer formal qualifications, compared with just 5% in 2008, suggesting an under utilisation of available skills. Not only will this year’s graduates enter the most difficult jobs market since the financial crisis, possibly even the depression of the 1930’s, they already need to adapt to a labour in which more jobs have become automated. As a result graduates may well need to develop other skills such as relationship-building, empathy and negotiation.
What can you do?
Develop existing talent by upskilling and training individuals and teams. Well designed, targeted training and investment in skill development can be a worthwhile investment during this uncertain period, particularly for organisations where there is less core business activity. This can support the wellbeing of people as well as go some way in future proofing the organisation for the difficult trading times ahead.
In response to Covid, there has been a sudden increase in remote working and therefore an associated need for the digital and communication skills that enable people to work effectively in this environment. Investment in digital skills, as well as ongoing support and coaching can be designed to be effectively delivered to remote workforces.
Not all training of course needs to be an expensive endeavour, particularly when businesses are focused on keeping costs down. As Dr Ying Zou from Surrey University points out, informal and self directed learning is an effective alternative during this pandemic, which can also pay dividends for the employer in the long run: “Working from home generally increases individuals’ job autonomy which creates excellent opportunities for self-directed learning. Instead of attending externally-imposed courses, individuals can set their own goals and choose learning materials based on their personal preferences and aspirations. If time and resources allow, investing in staff development helps employers hold onto a skilled labour force and enjoy a head start when the economy recovers. In contrast, cyclical firing, hiring and re-training can be both costly and demoralising.”
Training ideally extends beyond the core skills needed for a particular job. To equip employees with a comprehensive set of skills to work effectively, training programmes that include subjects such as wellbeing, have been found to be effective using a wide range of approaches. The way in which training is delivered can have an important effect on wellbeing and can be different for different groups. For example, more intense job-related training was positive for young people and those living in deprived areas, while less intense training actually lowered wellbeing.
In what way could you use training to proactively maintain connection and demonstrate your commitment to employees during this difficult time, whether they are furloughed, remote working or working in a workspace under social distancing restrictions?