11 November 2021

The future starts now: why you should invest in digitally upskilling the workforce

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New technologies are developed at lightning speed, forcing business strategies as well as job descriptions to evolve just as fast. Companies are looking to keep up by recruiting talent with increasingly specific profiles. But that’s not an easy feat; in the current labour market, it’s harder than ever to attract and retain talented personnel. So how are leading brands fighting back? Investing in upskilling their current personnel is the clear move.

During the latest session of Beyond Digital, Sarah Catoul explained why and how she invested in improving the digital skills at AG Insurance in her role as Head of Digital Marketing & Experience. “When I started this project in early 2020, the main objective was to increase efficiency by improving the quality and speed of our output while reducing costs,” Sarah tells us. “But I also wanted to use this opportunity to increase motivation within the teams.”

“Upskilling the workforce works not only to increase efficiency, but can also boost employees’ motivation”

Sarah Catoul, Head of Digital Marketing & Experience @ AG Insurance

To get a good understanding of the starting point, she conducted a thorough assessment of the company. “I knew that there was room for growth when it came to digital skills, but first I needed to know what was the importance of digital within AG currently, how it’s organized, and what role specific technologies and software could play in this.” Sarah emphasizes the importance of an objective assessment. “As a digital marketing manager, you may have some assumptions about the role of digital in your company, but it can still be eye-opening to learn how others in the company view it. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the particular challenges and pain points that came forward in the assessment. What did strike me was how prevalent these challenges were. It’s important to be open to this from the beginning.”

Efficiency through governance and knowledge sharing

But that didn’t mean they could immediately start the digital training, Sarah explains: “Another thing that the assessment pointed out was the need to review our governance structures. We needed to define the responsibilities between departments and business units. So along with specific skills trainings, I organised a number of workshops focusing on governance. This resulted in a series of governance documents, such as project guidelines, and ready to use templates for briefings, planning and status reports.”

Simultaneously, a three-pronged knowledge sharing program was rolled out. “Firstly, we organized hands-on skills trainings that were open to members of all teams, regardless of their role or experience level. In tandem with that, we set up a knowledge sharing platform, a sort of internal wiki where people can find up to date training materials as well as extra explanation and instructions. And last but not least, we’re using e-mail to keep employees engaged. This consists of automated onboarding e-mails to new personnel, as well as periodical updates and newsletters to everyone.”

Motivation through inspiration

But how do you motivate dozens - or even hundreds - of people to not only follow the trainings, but to actually apply their new digital skills as well? Most managers will quickly recognize that offering these development opportunities does not guarantee enthusiasm. Nowadays, many companies offer or even require ongoing training to keep their personnel’s knowledge updated--but making them feel motivated to do is an entirely different hurdle.

Sarah acknowledges that motivation can be a challenge. “Our supporting teams worried about an increased workload because of the initial time investment in setting up the governance documents and knowledge sharing platform. And in other departments there was concern about picking up tasks seemingly outside of the initial job description.” More than anything, this requires change management using a positive approach, Sarah recommends. “I kept pointing out what’s in it for them. Indeed, soon enough the support teams noticed that they spent less time answering the same questions thanks to the templates and internal wiki. And the internal departments are seeing that their campaign briefings are handled more efficiently as the result of them using the more detailed campaign briefings.”

Employee empowerment through digital skills trainings

While the project is still ongoing, Sarah is confident that it’s already gaining positive results. Beyond the numbers, empowering personnel through digital upskilling can also improve the overall company culture. “The guidelines and templates as well as the skills trainings facilitate understanding between the departments. Thanks to this they can reduce the back-and-forth that may cause frustration and communicate more effectively and constructively.” And when the company culture improves, everybody wins.

Beyond that, the act of developing any new skill even has a positive impact in and of itself: “Let’s not underestimate the psychological impact of growing in your role and feeling empowered at work. Mastering a new skill has a notable effect on employee happiness, I can already see that people are finding a new sense of pride and purpose in their job. It’s really generating a whole new wave of motivation among the personnel,” Sarah triumphantly observes.

Given that growth and happiness are important factors in employees’ career decisions, and knowing how hard it can be to attract and retain multi-talented personnel, investing in digital skills within your company cuts both ways. With increased efficiency on the one hand, and better chances of retaining talented personnel, jumping on this trend sounds like a no-brainer. What are you still waiting for?

Want to join in on the discussion? Ariad’s digital professionals knowledge sharing club Beyond Digital brings together future-forward individuals working across industries in the largest brands in Belgium. No member fees, just a community of ambitious minds! Apply here for more information about this monthly event.