How to decide on your workforce development priorities as we recover from Covid

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Written by Sarah-Jane McQueen on 21 June 2021 in Features

It’s time to think about how you can optimise your employees’ talents - and keep them happier in the process, says Sarah-Jane McQueen.

Professional development has been a major factor in job satisfaction for some time. Last year, 73% of employees surveyed said that they would be likely to stay at their company if there were more skill-building opportunities. 

So how do you pick your L&D priorities as we emerge into this post-pandemic world?

Variety is the spice of life

It might sound cliché, but it’s true: people are different. Some might prefer to engage solely in classes that teach specific skills; some are more willing to take on additional responsibilities or shadow someone. 

As a general rule, the 70-20-10 principle is a good place to start. It suggests that 70% of learning should be experiential: completing tasks and resolving issues that come up in the course of assigned tasks.

This suggests the need to assign new duties regularly, otherwise you risk your employee falling into a pattern of monotony. Meanwhile, 20% of a person’s learning should be social: interacting with teammates to solve tasks, and perhaps having a mentor.

Let’s embrace the new ways in which we can connect and learn, and continue to do our best to promote satisfaction and development at work.

Lastly, just 10% of learning is formal - think online courses or face-to-face seminars on particular topics. That said, not everyone will enjoy this schema. It should be tweaked as the employee figures out what works best for them - which brings us neatly to our next point: feedback.

The importance of feedback

Not only is feedback important in determining what style of learning suits a person best, but it should also play a huge role in deciding what sort of learning they should be doing.

It is no use trying to shoehorn an employee into specialising in a certain skill set because of company needs. A manager and employee should be able to sit down together to discuss career goals and how to achieve them.

This way, the employee is motivated to succeed and the company benefits from an engaged employee. It can be useful as an employee to know that a company is looking for a particular skill, especially if it is presented as an opportunity to somebody who isn’t sure of their course.


In this case, the conversation should focus on where learning that skill might take them within the company and wider industry, and any additional steps that might be needed to succeed.

Changing priorities

Let’s think about the difference between a junior staff member and a more senior one. It can be particularly useful to keep a flexible approach when it comes to junior staff.

They may feel that they will reap more benefits from having a mentor than they would from being thrown in at the deep end of a project, especially if confidence is an issue. On the other hand, they might be more comfortable widening their skills base with courses before they fully commit to shadowing someone in an area they haven’t quite got to grips with yet.

A manager, on the other hand, will likely have to learn on the job a little more: being able to make good hires, tackle disputes between colleagues, and possibly even firing someone are all situations in which experience trumps theoretical knowledge.

The way to get that experience? Having the uncomfortable first opportunities to feel out the situation, with some guidance from someone more adept in the area.

COVID and work

Talking of shifting priorities, COVID has altered which skills we consider essential. Amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution, reliance on technology has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Perhaps your organisation will prefer more tech-savvy skills as you embark on new eCommerce ventures or migrate to the cloud. Any shift in the company’s direction will necessitate rethinking workforce development priorities.

Equally, with remote classes at our fingertips, it might be hugely more accessible for your employees to partake in upskilling courses, and they should be supported in doing so. 

Let’s embrace the new ways in which we can connect and learn, and continue to do our best to promote satisfaction and development at work.


About the author

Sarah-Jane McQueen is General Manager of the team at CoursesOnline.


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