Skills shortages: Teaching employees to collaborate
We may currently be witnessing massive jumps in technology but it does not mean we can afford to forget about older or more traditional skills. A lot of competencies we may consider to be outdated are still broadly used today, even playing an essential role in many businesses.
The finance, travel and public sector, for example, have built up a lot of their businesses around coding and programming that soon no one in the workforce will know how to use. As a wave of baby boomers are set to retire, businesses can’t ignore the fact that they will soon be facing a new kind of skills shortage and that they need to equip their existing employees with the skills they may lose in their baby boomers’ departures.
The solution? Collaborative learning. This will encourage employees to share their knowledge with one another, and will ensure that your employees have all the necessary skills, not just the newest and most exciting, needed for your business. Our recent study with IDC even outlined the clear, positive connection between collaboration and business performance.
So how can you help your employees to better work and learn together?
Embedding collaborative technology into company processes and culture will help employees to better communicate and share their skills. Cloud-based shared learning portals, for example, provide employees with an easily accessible and simple means to exchange information, encouraging employees with particular skills to impart their expertise and for other employees to seek out this new knowledge.
Social media has enabled us all to be better connected and grow our networks, becoming an integral part of our private lives but its importance for the workplace also should not be underestimated. Companies need to make use of integrated social tools internally, such as using instant messaging, creating discussion forums, internal blogs or other forms of user generated content. This will help generate new conversations, enable employees to have contact with colleagues they would not normally work with and, most importantly, foster a true culture of collaboration.
Re-define company structures
This does not mean you should physically pull down walls to create open plan work spaces but rather refers to the need to break down metaphorical barriers between employees to further encourage open communication. Strict reporting lines should be removed in favour of flatter hierarchies so that information can easily flow between colleagues, stimulating exchanges of expertise, rather than knowledge only moving in one direction.
Flatter hierarchies also allow for greater internal mobility. Employees are able to see that their career development and progression is not only possible through a promotion in their own department, but also by moving sideways into new disciplines. In gaining employees from other fields of expertise, business lines and departments can boost their knowledge spread.
Classroom training is also a great means to physically bring colleagues together, but again technology plays a key role in maximising these sessions. Sharing materials and video lectures beforehand means that training sessions can take the form of group discussions and practical workshops, rather than just a lecture. Employees are encouraged to interact with one another and even have the opportunity to physically demonstrate and apply their learning and skills.
We are social beings, naturally pre-disposed to want to learn from and work with one another. Companies need to make sure they recognise and facilitate this to safeguard their business for the future. The advantage of a multi-generational workforce is that each generation brings and possesses different skills but as that workforce evolves, companies need to make sure that they do not lose any of those precious skills along the way.