Your greatest asset is your staff. The people who come in every day and collect a paycheck each month will determine whether your company barely survives or successfully thrives. Your employees can disengage from their work and do the bare minimum, or they can push themselves to do better and learn more – it’s all up to you. Employees are motivated by their environment and leadership. When management prioritizes skill-building and growth, most team members will step up to the challenge. If you are looking to upskill your staff to increase productivity, then follow these six steps to engage them in their careers. Image source: Bigstock Invest in Training Resources The best way to increase the skills of your employees is to provide them with training resources. It is unreasonable to expect your staff to enhance their skillsets on their own time and on their own dime. Plus, if your employees are building their skills outside of work without your support, they are likely building up their resumes so they can find another employer. As you determine the best training investments to upskill your staff, consider improving the soft skills of your team as well as their hard knowledge. More than half (57%) of 2,000 leaders surveyed said they prioritize soft skills over hard skills. It is easier to teach an employee how to write a few lines of code than to help them learn emotional intelligence or good communication skills. Investing in employee training can help lower turnover rates. More than 90% of employees say they would stay at a company that invested in them. Employees will invest back if a company cares about their careers and abilities. Tie New Skills to Day-to-Day Operations Even if you think you have a strong training program that upskills your staff, your team members and your managers might think differently. Only 12% of employees feel like they apply their skills in training to their jobs. Even managers don’t believe that current training offerings help staff – 62% of managers don’t think the skills learned in training actually helps employees. This ineffective training adds up. Companies waste $13.5 million per year per 1,000 employees on ineffective training programs. If you want to make your training and upskilling productive, look at what employees need to know. Identify the skills that are taking too much time or holding them back during the day and then fill those gaps. Your staff will appreciate the ability to work smarter as they apply their newly-acquired knowledge to their work. Look for Individualized Online Resources Managers often make the mistake of investing in team-wide or company-wide training programs. It’s not uncommon for companies to offer classes on Microsoft Excel, as the vast majority of employees likely use this system at least partly throughout the week. However, you can save money and more effectively upskill your employees by looking at individualized training options. For example, while 80% of the company will need Excel for various functions, a marketer might need to improve their Photoshop or WordPress knowledge. An effective manager can find a training seminar or online resource to help that marketer grow, even if they are the only person in the company who needs those skills. Start by looking at online tools like Lynda and other online resources that your team may need. The best part is that many of these classes are cheap or even free – so you can upskill your staff without the cost. Encourage Employees to Tell You What They Want to Learn If you’re not sure what your employees need to learn or how they can improve, ask them. Have your managers meet with your employees and let them tell you what they wish they knew and what creates bottlenecks, then pair these staff members with the right training to solve these problems. This also gives your team an opportunity to share how they think the department can improve to make the company more effective. Promote Cross-Training Within Teams Think of the top employees who you rely on every day. Would you be okay if they quit tomorrow? Experts estimate that it costs companies an average of six to nine months’ salary on average to replace an employee. If an employee makes $50,000 annually, it costs between $25,000 and $37,500 in lost hours, recruiting, hiring, HR resources, and onboarding to replacing them. Even if your employees don’t quit, there is always lost time because of sick days, vacation time, bereavement, and parental leave. You can cut down on this lost income and downtime with cross-training. When other people on the team can step up and fill the shoes of missing staff members, the office can keep functioning even when someone is gone. Plus, this is a great way to upskill your employees. Team members learn what other people do (which build camaraderie and trust) and grow their skills to master other parts of the company. The training is also relevant because it will be applied multiple times per year. Recruit Employees with the Right Skill Sets Of course, the best way to upskill your employees is to bring in workers who already have the knowledge and skillsets needed for the job. The right hire, whether they are filling a gap or taking on a new position, can bring in a fresh perspective and skilled strategy to your team. Finding the right hire is often easier said than done. Remember, managers, are racing against the clock to not lose nine months of productivity in an open position. This means they are more likely to rush through the interview process or choose one of the first candidates that come through. While these employees might be good, an unskilled employee requires several hours of onboarding, training, and investment. Take your time in the hiring process and test your candidates to verify the skills they claim on their resume. You may even want to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to collect and rate candidate skills. ATS can help you improve your quality of hire, enhance the candidate experience, facilitate collaborative hiring, among others. Here is an extensive list of the advantages of an applicant tracking system. It may take longer to find the right hire, but it will save you much more in the long run. Take away You can’t upskill your employees overnight. Training needs to be effective, individualized, and applicable. When your employees see that you care about their skills and career goals, they will give back and invest in your company. That’s how you build engagement and a strong-skilled staff at the same time. About the author Christine Soeun Choi is a digital marketing associate at Fit Small Business. Currently based in NYC, she has a background in business studies and math with a passion for business development. Outside of work, Christine enjoys taking photos, exploring artwork, and traveling.