Why ‘micro-upskilling’ is essential for productivity

Why ‘micro-upskilling’ is essential for productivity

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Could short bursts of learning, or 'micro-upskilling' be the answer to the UK's skills crisis? Shutterstock

As skills shortages hamper the productivity of so many businesses, one trade association is advocating for organisations to adopt ‘micro-upskilling’ to enhance employees’ capabilities. Rachel Aldighieri explains why this is necessary to address the UK’s skills crisis.

There is a growing pool of evidence of a national skills crisis affecting nearly every business. The Open University’s Business Barometer 2022 found over three-quarters of organisations are seeing reduced output, profitability, or growth due to the impact of current skills shortages.

Brexit, Covid and now rising inflation have left many businesses, particularly SMEs, with limited resources. It’s a brave organisation that chooses to invest in such times. Yet, investing in your people and expanding employee skillsets is exactly what will support business growth, as well as building staff satisfaction and loyalty.

But when time and resources are tight, a major challenge is how to ensure upskilling becomes an integral and enjoyable part of everyone’s role.

A recent Data & Marketing Association (DMA) poll revealed that 70% of professionals currently upskill for less than one hour per week. This must change if we are to address the talent crisis head on, by embedding continuous learning cultures into every organisation.

Direction, support and structure are really important to building a continuous learning culture and yet are often the main barriers. For that reason, the DMA is advocating for “micro-upskilling”.

What is micro-upskilling?

Micro-upskilling is about committing as little as one hour a week per employee to structured e-learning and professional development.

A little and often mentality creates a habit that can fit around other responsibilities without damaging productivity – that’s important as technology evolves and professionals increasingly struggle to find the time to upskill via lengthy training days. It can also allow skills acquisition in the short-term, while instilling a long-term learning habit that benefits both the employee and employer.

When people feel supported and that their career is being invested in – with clear, structured progression opportunities laid out –their relationship with an organisation is strengthened. There is a common misconception that recently trained employees take their skills elsewhere. Interestingly, the majority of respondents from the DMA’s Skills Census research applied new skills acquired in their current workplaces, with less than a quarter (23%) taking them elsewhere.

Upskilling is also key for talent retention. Recent research by Qlik found that 32% of UK employees changed jobs in last 12 months because their employer didn’t offer upskilling or training opportunities.

Putting people front and centre

For upskilling to be effective, leadership and HR teams need to create a culture of continuous learning and give direction, support, and structure.

These are some of the main reasons why the DMA is working with our community to introduce micro-upskilling as a key element of our membership, to help marketing professionals enhance their skillsets and drive responsible business growth.

We will also seek to add a people-centred pillar to our DMA Code. This expansion will cover two main areas – skills development and diversity, equity and inclusion.

While we believe micro-upskilling will expand the availability of highly sought-after creative, digital and data-driven marketing skills across our industry, there is little reason why this can’t be replicated in every sector. It is imperative that a culture of continuous, structured learning be developed across all industries and the entire workforce to address talent shortages.

Government must act

This skills crisis isn’t just the responsibility of business leaders and HR professionals. The UK government must deliver a more joined-up, unified approach to skills development. While the DMA aims to showcase the marketing careers that people with creative, data or digital skills can thrive in, there is a huge opportunity for other industry bodies to play a pivotal role for their respective industries.

In the coming months, we’d like the government, supported by industry bodies, to take a more proactive role in upskilling and reskilling the nation Initiatives such as apprenticeships and retraining schemes should be better utilised.

Skills gaps will only worsen if, as a business community, we do not actively seek a culture change now.

Upskilling presents an enormous opportunity to democratise and advance the skillsets of all talent – but we must act now to become more talent-focused, creating business cultures with continuous, structured learning front and centre. If we are to drive responsible business growth and improve employee satisfaction, this people-first approach will be essential.

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