A recent Employment Tribunal highlighted the need for businesses to play their part in upskilling their staff to meet the demands of the workplace. Improving the skills of employees is not just good for the individual worker but positively benefits the firm too.
Skills imbalances are high in the UK with 40% of workers either over-qualified or under-qualified for their job, and a similar number are working in a field unrelated to the one in which they studied. These startling facts were revealed at the launch of a new report, Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom to help boost the business growth and productivity of UK businesses (OECD, 2017)
Worker should have been supported by better training – Employment Tribunal case
A business recognised that it should have provided more training to a worker who went on to claim unfair dismissal and discrimination at an Employment Tribunal.
Ms Gomes, 59, had worked for an estate agency as an administrative assistant since 2009 when mistakes in her work were pointed out by managers. In a subsequent meeting, a manager said she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency”. Following this remark, together with other comments made, Ms Gomes went on sick leave suffering from work-related stress. In an internal grievance case, the firm acknowledged it should have provided more training. Not satisfied, the employee resigned and took her case to an Employment Tribunal.
Concluding that a younger employee would not have been treated in the same way and that the firm did not handle the grievance procedure properly, the Tribunal supported the employee’s claims.
Benefits of positively upskilling employees
Hard-pressed SMEs can build a happier workforce and save time and money by upskilling their staff. Upskilling, sometimes called retraining, refers to improving the skills and capabilities of existing employees rather than looking to external solutions.
The benefits include:
- Increased productivity – ensuring that existing staff keep up with new technology, processes and best practice means that employers maximise their resources. Upskilling staff is said to be one of the keys to unlocking the UK’s current productivity gap.
- Reduced recruitment costs – by looking in-house firms can save time and money on recruitment efforts i.e. on advertising, interviewing and on-boarding. Not only that but upskilling can be an effective solution during skills shortages. The manufacturing, technology and construction sectors have claimed that finding skilled staff was in fact their greatest challenge in recent research of 1,000 UK SMEs.
- More engaged workers – research has shown that employees who are learning and developing are happier in their jobs, stay longer and have better employee engagement. This means they will contribute more to their organisation and staff retention will be improved. It’s not just technical skills but ‘softer’ skills such as communication – research has shown that there is a shortage of cognitive skills while there is a surplus of manual and physical skills in today’s labour market.
- Equal opportunities – upskilling your employees regardless of age etc. is also a fairer practice. Businesses could explore tapping into support such as the Union Learning Fund which promotes learning in the workplace with a focus on older and low-skilled workers.
- Fewer grievances – investment in the training of line-managers and supervisors means they will be more aware of the need to better support staff where additional training is needed. Such training should reduce risks of damaging claims arising about unfair dismissals. The provision of this training can itself be useful evidence at tribunals.
The Chronologic Workforce Management System can help you keep a check on the skills of your employees and log new ones. The HR module is a useful and cost-effective way of collecting and gathering HR information in one place.