The Path to Success is Paved with Skills

Foundational skills for the individual are key to organizational success, but are far from universal

By Kara Finney

How many workplaces, no matter what size have asked the questions: Where are the workers? How do we address what seems to be increasing labour shortages? What if they are already working, obtaining further education, or retired? Can we wait until people start coming back? Will they come back?

In August 2022, Statistics Canada reported what workers look for when considering a job. The top five include Salary and Benefits (85.4%), Workplace Health and Safety (82.2%); Job security (71.2%), Relationship with supervisor and colleagues (78.5%) and Job Autonomy (71.2%).

These primary needs are non-optional if workplaces want to keep workers, let alone attract more. But with the ongoing threat to workplace economic success, even survival – and with an understanding that the skills needed to thrive in the new world of work are ever-changing, employers also need to reconsider workplace training as a critical piece of any retention strategy. Skills development can no longer just be a ‘nice to have.’ Training must be strategic. It must meet the need of the worker and the workplace both in content, focus, duration, and timing. 

Skills for Success

Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM) provides training within the Skills for Success framework. These are the foundational skills needed for work and life. Details on the nine skills that form this framework are available from Employment and Social Development Canada.

The key to skills training isn’t just the targeted skills response but that it is actually about transferring the skill to performance. Using relevant workplace content, the training response takes you through skill attainment to successful performance. 

“Soft skills, also referred to as “power skills,” were important prior to the pandemic. But the need to build relationships virtually and work with reduced oversight has made soft skills in the workplace even more important.

In fact, in our 2021 Global Career Impact Survey, many of the top skills that respondents identified as upskilling needs within their teams or organizations were soft skills. Among them were management and leadership (34%), critical thinking (24%), creativity (24%), and problem-solving (20%). In his report, Bersin also predicts that organizations’ focus on these skills will grow. Companies will reassess their leadership models and the skills leaders need to succeed in their roles. – From – Future of Work: Workplace Trends

This information directly relates to the Skills for Success framework and its relevance. With skills including Adaptability, Problem Solving, and Collaboration, to name but three of the nine, it shows the importance of looking to this framework for workplace delivery – both in pre-employment and within the workplace. There are several delivery models that WEM uses in its skills responses.

Build training to support positive change

In partnership with a major manufacturer in Manitoba, the workplace and WEM have developed a system towards successful worker engagement and success. This workplace understands that it isn’t just about where the individual is today but where they can be with the right supports and how they can show the desire to be a part of your workplace.

WEM has worked with a major printing company for over 10 years. The company, like many, had consistent issues finding the workers needed to meet their growing needs, let alone their current needs. The response? Workplace training.

First, the importance of an assessment to determine where individuals were at was the starting point. Those folks who were ready or close to ready were hired. The workplace set time aside during the workday for them to be a part of a training program to provide upskilling in specific areas. For those not yet ready, WEM provided a response to support movement to readiness. The company then used the appropriate assessment for both before and after, so that each worker entered and left the program based on their skills.

Everyone can benefit

Often the response WEM gets in conversation around the Skills for Success framework is that this training response is for individuals with lower-level skills. It’s a misconception, however, that every individual has all the skills needed to successfully perform their job. Truth be told, we’re all faced with challenges each day that could be supported through attainment or improvement of skills: dealing with change, working in teams, dealing with conflict, communicating instructions in a way that others can clearly understand, et cetera. These are only a few examples of where we each use skills that may benefit from a training response.

And what would this mean to a workplace? Well, to start, organizations will see increased retention, reduced sick time, and a workplace that the workers want to come to every day. These outcomes are in direct relation to where this conversation started. How do we find the workers we need? How do we get them to stay? It is about looking at the workplace in a different way. Where staying the same is not an option. In order to change, skills are needed to support that change. Just saying change is going to happen will, usually, just keep everything the same.

One step at a time

Strategic workplace training is a multi-step process, and the key is proper assessment. When workplaces take the time to do a comprehensive needs assessment, it can offset high costs of training. Employers also need to look at how training can best be incorporated while concurrently considering how job and job roles have changed. All this impacts how to make continuous learning strategy and organizational training plans effective. Understanding this is critical for workplaces to thrive in the new world of work.

Kara Finney is Chief Executive Officer of three partnering organizations: Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM), Essential Skills Manitoba (ESM), and Workplace Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (WPLAR) – organizations that directly support both Skills for Success and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) across Manitoba and Canada. With extensive experience in manufacturing and supply chain, Kara understands the benefits and opportunities of integrating Skills for Success and RPL into the workplace and beyond.