Common HR challenges and questions ahead of new training initiatives

digital bootcamp with a teacher leading a group of students

After more than a decade of training and upskilling tech talent across a wide range of industries, we’re familiar with the problems HR departments face when they need to initiate a training program:

  • What skills does the company need now and which will it need in the future?
  • Will you change existing roles or create new ones?
  • How do you get your existing team to embrace their upcoming changes and new responsibilities?

These are factors we help many businesses determine before they rethink and revolutionise their talent pipeline, but today we want to dive into deeper questions at play when it comes to reskilling your staff and ensuring that they receive quality training that will be applied to their roles. Here are three questions we hear from HR teams before they commit to a reskilling initiative:

How can HR ensure training is valued appropriately?

The traditional approach of hiring people into the business as ‘the completed whole’, matching their skills and experience to a long list, has disappeared. Even if you can find these individuals, the chances of their skillset remaining completely relevant is near zero and the speed of change, tooling, methodology, and skillsets required continue to evolve at pace within organisations.

In the unlikely event of finding an individual with the right skills and experience, what then is the likelihood of that individual also having the right personality aligned to the culture and values of the team they will be working with?

At the same time, the skills of your existing workforce are also changing at pace – with drivers towards AI and automation potentially meaning you have people with skills that are less relevant and skill gaps that need filling in other areas.

On the personality fit point, you have individuals in your organisation who are a perfect fit. Why take on all the risk and the cost if you were able to take individuals from one team, assess them for other roles, and train them in those roles? This is the value that training can unlock within your organisation, and training can be seen as an investment, reducing the need to let people go from the business and the risk and cost of hiring new people.

Additionally, training as an investment in individuals is a great way to reduce attrition – building a commercial case offsetting the cost of training against the cost of redundancy and making new hires as well as reducing attrition will always add up.

How can HR make training tailored, useful, and aligned with team challenges and broader business goals?

There are two parts of this in my mind. The obvious part is tailoring the training provided in terms of scope, duration, and practical real-world focus to address the specific challenges of different teams and business areas. In our experience, this is about focussing on what’s required to do the job, ideally developed and delivered by practitioners who have done the role but who can train, rather than professional trainers.

But this isn’t just about the training. The other less-discussed variable (particularly when cross-training and up-skilling individuals) is assessing individuals for their aptitude and potential to excel in the role you are looking to train them into. The assumption often is that if you deliver the training someone will be able to apply it. We’ve found this isn’t the case – everyone has their abilities and skills but you get the best result when you assess individuals for this potential and put them through training aligned to their strengths ultimately leading to roles they will excel in.

There’s an increasing drive to digitalisation but not everyone can do those roles. In fact, in the course of cross-training hundreds of individuals into tech roles, turning baristas into business analysts and warehouse workers into developers, their aptitude for a particular role is not determined by the traditional approach of assessing educational level (for example, whether they have a tech degree or not). This excludes many individuals who have all the aptitude in the world but have never had the opportunity to demonstrate it.

How can HR ensure that employees are applying their new knowledge?

You must establish regular feedback loops with the training team, the individuals who undertook the training, and the team they are working in. It’s unlikely that you will get this right the first time, and shouldn’t declare an initiative a failure if you don’t. The most important thing is that you iterate the training, improving it and making it more relevant. You’re never finished.

We find this is best done in an open informal forum where open questions are asked. Questions such as:

  • What parts of the training do you use the most/least?
  • For a part you do use, is it applied in a different way to how you were taught?
  • Is there anything else in your role the training should have included?
  • What do you feel is most relevant?