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Noura Dadzie

Taltent.com

Senior VP Sales

Read more from Noura Dadzie

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Removing barriers to training: How to support upskilling in a looming recession

Employers can support upskilling in a time of recession. Here are some ways to maximise your options.
learning illustration abstract development upskilling

According to official forecasts, the UK is heading towards a recession in 2023 that could last the rest of the year. In an uncertain jobs market, new research from online job search platform Talent.com found that just under half of the 1,005 employees polled were looking to upskill. Of those willing to upskill, 52% would fund it themselves, and 53% would even undertake training in their own time. 

What is stopping the learning?

Therefore UK workers aren’t lazy, and yet many still experience barriers when looking to upskill. Be it lack of opportunity, lack of funds, or knowing the most relevant training to pursue for their job role, employees aren’t currently accessing the skills they need to weather the storm of an upcoming recession.

It’s therefore up to their employers to remove barriers and ensure they can retain talent, remain competitive, and prepare their employees and their business for an uncertain jobs market. 

For those businesses that can remove the financial burden of further training, there is an opportunity to upskill their workforce

In an economic downturn, it stands to reason that money may come into play for individuals considering further training. In our survey, 52% said they would self-train, and 52% would fund their own training, but this jumps to a whopping 76% when asked whether they would consider training paid for by someone else.

Of the employees who said they weren’t looking to undertake training, 16% cited the reason as they can’t afford to, increasing to 26% of under-35s saying they both can’t afford to and do not have the time.  

It’s clear that for those businesses that can remove the financial burden of further training, there is an opportunity to upskill their workforce, benefit from these new skills and retain their best – and particularly the youngest and freshest talent. 

Employees unsure how to navigate training options

New skills are best applied when they are targeted, and useful to the individual in their job role. Undertaking extraneous training that is irrelevant to the trainee wastes time, and money, and puts extra pressure on the individual’s time. So it’s important to select the right training when committing to learning or deepening a skill.

Our survey revealed that lack of knowledge is a key barrier to upskilling. As many as 15% of respondents were unsure about which skills to develop, with 5% saying they didn’t know how to access training, and another 4% fearing their training wouldn’t be recognised.

Whilst younger staff appear keen to upskill, we see the most complacency among older workers

This was most pronounced in the younger age groups. Under-35s were the keenest to upskill – with two-thirds looking to diversify their skillset or have already done so – but of those not looking to upskill, 24% said they don’t know which areas to focus on. 

This is where employers can utilise their HR team, making time to discuss options and career development, with a clear focus on how training can play its part in providing a route to progression. Many younger employees have worked through a difficult period – with working from home becoming normalised in the establishing years of their careers. They may not have ever undertaken training and will require additional support to navigate it. 

Do all employees value upskilling?

Of all the barriers to upskilling, an individual’s lack of motivation may prove the most difficult to overcome. Over half of the survey respondents said they didn’t think they needed further training. 

Whilst younger staff appear keen to upskill, we see the most complacency among older workers (45+). Despite almost half of those over 45 seeing a potential recession as a threat to their job security, 61% are not looking to upskill or reskill, with almost half believing that their current skills will be enough to get them through. 

Whilst as many as 19% of employees would ask for a raise in response to financial pressures caused by a recession, this can be difficult to offer without demonstrable progression within a role or its responsibilities. Linking upskilling to both career and salary progression could provide useful motivation.

Employers need to take the lead

Clearly communicating the training offer is a great first step. For example, one in 10 of the employees in our survey keen to upskill said their employer is not currently offering the chance to learn new skills, and of those not looking to upskill, 34% said that training isn’t offered, they don’t know how to access it, or don’t know what kinds of skills they will need for the future world of work.

It’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure their staff are ready to weather the storm of an upcoming recession

This difference in perception of training options on offer – between those keen to upskill and those not interested – shows how employers must take the lead and communicate where training opportunities are available.

Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure their staff are ready to weather the storm of an upcoming recession. But there are gains to be made from an upskilled workforce.

Interested in this topic? Read Learning strategy: How to upskill an agile organisation.

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Author Profile Picture
Noura Dadzie

Senior VP Sales

Read more from Noura Dadzie
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