Article

4 factors that will help your organization benchmark skills

By Sarah Nicholl

Your organization is likely at some stage of digital transformation, throwing the need for technology skills into overdrive. To hit company goals, your teams need to gain new skills and level up ones they already have. You know team members are actively taking courses on Pluralsight that align to company priorities, and that’s great! But maybe you still don’t have visibility into how that learning is translating into improved skill proficiency. Your team seems hesitant to measure their skills. Why?

The answer is likely a result of one of the four primary influences that impact the success of upskilling programs: mindset, design, leadership and on-the-job application. Skill proficiency data, like that offered by Skill IQ, can be a powerful metric to leverage to prove skill gains, but some employees may be nervous to measure their skills over time. Addressing the four skill development influences outlined below will give them the confidence they need to demonstrate their skills with cold, hard data.

Mindset

Mindset is often an overlooked factor in people’s motivations and actions. Behavioral economics research shares two theories that apply to learning in the workplace—and both can be tied to how employees view taking an assessment for work. In addition, there are two influences that also impact employee attitude. Here’s what might be holding some people back from showing their newly-improved skills:

Prospect theory

People assign more value to a loss than to a gain, which means they are more likely to avoid an assessment fearing a bad result than they are to take one for the chance at a good outcome.

Endowment effect

People overvalue items they own simply because they own them. This can lead them to overvalue their current skill set and devalue any future growth in that area, especially when they lack an immediate incentive for growth.

Professional reputation

People closely guard their professional reputation, especially at work. They may perceive assessments as a threat to their character and work to actively avoid them.

Future of work

Progress in technology—such as artificial intelligence and machine learning—can be positive, but employees may perceive these advances as threats to their jobs. This amplifies their feeling of uncertainty when it comes to moving forward and taking an assessment at work.

Mindset really comes down to whether your employee feels ownership over their development or if they feel ownership of their current skill set. If they feel ownership of their development, they will be open to taking a Skill IQ and using the results to inform their upskilling path. If they instead feel ownership to protect their current skill set, then they will avoid assessments and act defensively. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help them overcome a fixed view of their current skill set.

The first thing you can do is to clearly communicate the benefit of benchmarking their skills against the industry. Skill IQ helps employees get a sense of how their skills compare to the industry, giving them insight they don’t get by only comparing themselves to their internal team. You can be clear with employees about how Skill IQ results will be used in the organization. Employees want to be reassured that their results are for development—and separate from promotion or demotion decisions.

Design

Design refers to the structure of your learning program and how you make it available to employees. Whether your program design is very simple or extremely comprehensive, it should help employees ground the materials in how work is done within your specific organizational context. It should also incentivize employees to participate and provide a few paths for employees to get started and understand what’s expected of them as participants. Here’s one example:

Sample program design

Having structure to your program gives your employees the guidance they need to navigate it with ease, especially when it comes to taking and retaking Skill IQs.

Leadership

For your program to work, you need employee buy-in. And in order for that to happen, leaders—both executives and direct managers—need to support the program by setting the tone for development, communicating expectations and continually showing how the organization values growth.

Here are three key ways leaders can show their commitment and create positive momentum for your technology skill development program:

Give context: Have your executives help employees see the value in participating in the program and the importance of learning in the organizational context. This can be through a formal communication or a town hall gathering. When possible, share examples of employees who have upskilled to solve real business problems.

Make space: Ask managers to be direct in communicating their support for the program and how they plan to support it—whether that’s through holding upskilling time sacred, making themselves available to coach team members or both. If managers are not on board with learning, employees won’t feel comfortable participating and skill gains will be minimal.

Check in: Encourage managers to ask their teams about their skill development, and have managers actively offer suggestions for how to apply those new skills at work. This can be done in one-on-ones or during team meetings.

On-the-job application

Employees need to apply the skills they’re learning to a real-world environment. What better place to do this than on the job? This helps them see the role their new skills play in the company and helps them to retain what they’ve learned. After all, when learning is not applied, it is quickly lost (and this will definitely show in Skill IQ results).

To build and integrate a new skill, employees typically need about three months to learn a new skill and use it on the job. With this in mind, we recommend you have employees take a Skill IQ, sharpen their skills by taking courses and apply newly-acquired skills at work before encouraging them to retake the Skill IQ at the three month mark.

Employees need to be given opportunities to apply what they’ve learned so they can further solidify their understanding of new tools and concepts, improve how they work and demonstrate skill gain. This is critical to the skill development journey—and one that’s far too often given passive attention.

 

We live in a data-driven world. Organizations are moving full steam ahead on their digital transformation strategies to improve company metrics—including ROI and customer experience. A key catalyst to the success of those strategies is your company’s collective technology skills. Making sure your teams are on track to acquire the right skills and levels of proficiency they need to hit company goals is a top priority. Set your learning program up for success by helping employees gain a growth mindset, designing a program that’s easy to follow, encouraging your leadership teams to get involved and providing team members with opportunities to apply their new skills.

About the author

Sarah Nicholl has focused her career on extending the reach of learning through technology. Over the past 20 years, She has consulted with companies globally to help them design enterprise learning programs supported by effective learning platforms and provide guidance to align learning programs to business outcomes. 

Sarah holds a Masters of Education focused on learning, work and change, and has authored whitepapers and methodologies to help make workplace learning scalable and effective. Today, Sarah serves as a Senior Enterprise Customer Success Manager with Pluralsight where she works with strategic clients to build technology capabilities using Pluralsight, the tech skills platform.