Investing in your employees is always a good idea.
IDC estimates that highly proficient teams responsible for core IT activities are almost 20% more productive than less proficient staff, with highly proficient developers working nearly 90% more productively than the average developer.
The return on skill development is high. And in order to make skill development initiatives successful, leaders and team members need to embrace their value.
Here are three keys to making time for skill development—plus outlined strategies for actually making it happen.
Key #1: Make skill development a part of organizational and team culture
WHY? When skill development is apparent and celebrated from the top down and across different teams in your org, employees will recognize its importance and know that it’s something they shouldn’t feel ashamed to make a part of their day—which will contribute to the achievement and progress of your organization.
HOW IT'S DONE: Small, meaningful changes at a culture level can have a big impact on your skill development initiative. Start by writing the organization’s commitment to skill development into the company or team core value statement—this helps eliminate confusion about the organization’s support for professional growth. Consider launching a monthly lunchtime learning program or developing job-swapping and mentoring opportunities among employees. On the team level, set aside 15 minutes each week for someone to share a skill with the group—preferably one related to a current or upcoming tech project.
Key #2: Reward and recognize the investment your team members are making
WHY? Who doesn’t love being recognized for their contributions? Taking time to develop tech skills requires dedication, so reward a job well done and encourage employees to find time for skill development in their own schedules. Incentive programs help motivate team members to grow their skills and keep pace with their peers. A company-wide recognition system can also help unite your teams under a common goal and create comradery and connection among its members.
HOW IT'S DONE: Come up with positive, easy ways to communicate achievement in private and public ways. You could try:
In a central location where everyone can see, listing the names of every member of your team accompanied by the technology skills they have proven proficiency in
If you set up your program with team goals, displaying progress charts with aggregate information about how the team is doing
Sending out emails or put announcements in your internal newsletter congratulating teams on their new skills or project wins
Bringing in lunch or going out for coffee to mark the achievement of your team mastering a new skill.
There are many ways to go about celebrating your team for acquiring new skills —get creative!
Key #3: Block out specific times for team members to concentrate on skill development
WHY? No matter how much you embrace or reward skill development, if your team members feel like they don’t have the time to develop new skills, they’re not going to do it.
HOW IT'S DONE: The key is to approach skill development in small increments—here a little, there a little—at a team’s preferred pace. Could a weekly meeting be cut from 60 minutes to 40? If so, the remaining 20 minutes could be used to sharpen skills. Provide or encourage your teams to find skill development resources that are flexible and able to be consumed in bite-sized segments so they can easily slot into anyone’s schedule.
BONUS: Leadership is everything
Organizations must reinvent themselves to support ongoing skill development and see ROI from these initiatives.
Support from the top of your organization will help reinforce the idea that skill development is an integral part of the business and crucial to staying agile. Good leadership encourages employee-led and objective-led skill development, and stays in-the-know about how teams are coming along. Finding time can be a challenge, but the benefits will far outweigh the initial hurdles.