Investing in workforce development is fundamental for any business wanting to secure its future and remain competitive. As businesses develop and grow, having the right mix of skills, experience and personality is key to success. In a candidate-led market, we find that many of our clients have been faced with a skills shortage, with recruitment and attrition of talented individuals being of major concern. However, there are steps a business can take to nurture and develop their workforce, ensuring the skills a business needs both today and in the future are assessed and addressed. 1. Recognition from the top If the importance of training and development isn’t recognised in the boardroom, you’re going to struggle. There is no end of research that provides data on the impact training staff has on the bottom line, but ultimately, HR and learning and development practitioners need to ensure that when training happens, there is a real ROI that can be measured. If the Board does not see the benefit of where their money is being spent, they will be less inclined to get excited about your latest development initiative. 2. Understand what’s available and what works There has never been such a wide range of learning and development tools available and we all learn in different ways. Make sure you understand which tools work best for your staff before investing in expensive training software or an academic course. Whether it’s e-learning, in-house training, a more traditional route using external qualifications or upskilling your staff with apprenticeship qualifications, there are a myriad of tools at your disposal and some may be funded in your area. The Skills Funding Agency is a good place to start if you are unsure if your business qualifies for staff development funding. 3. Make development a part of your culture and evolving future If you want sustainability in your workforce development, you need to do the legwork to ensure it becomes embedded in your culture. Getting development into the hearts and minds of your employees will take time but by creating an environment where development is encouraged and recognised it will soon become ‘how we do things around here’. From your recruitment processes through to appraisals, workforce development should be structured, transparent and accessible. Giving your employees responsibility for their own learning agendas can help engagement while sharing learning and knowledge by holding lunch time brown-bag sessions, writing wikis and collaborating on documents will also encourage people to get the knowledge out of their heads and into the workplace. Framing a culture that embraces development will also enable businesses to evolve quickly to future market changes. For example, increased automation and adoption of 4.0 concepts will lead the way to a new landscape of skills and jobs. This will present a substantial opportunity for employees to upskill and re-train. With the right planning and a pro-development culture, employees could seize the opportunity to move into fulfilling new, previously non-existent jobs, while allowing the business to move forward. 4. Keep talking to your staff We all understand the benefits of giving feedback to staff, but it is just as important to close that feedback loop and listen to what your employees are saying. Whether you hold focus groups, use one to ones, garner evidence from staff engagement surveys or have a staff suggestion scheme, providing a platform to feedback will tell you what is working and what they need. Feedback directly after any training sessions is also essential – it’s common sense really but is often where businesses fall down. Once you have asked for feedback, make sure you act on it. 5. Measure and improve One of the things I love most about HR and perhaps one of the most frustrating, is that you are never going to achieve utopia. Continuous improvement is what drives HR professionals, and it should drive your workforce development as well. Measure what you are doing, monitor the impact and then make the required adjustments. By tracking progress and gathering information you are enhancing the suite of metrics you can take back to the boardroom. Investment in staff development is key to driving business growth and performance, increased engagement and retention - ultimately making you desirable, an employer of choice ahead of your competition. Employees are looking for more from their jobs than ever before and businesses need to commit to investment in their staff, their development and their futures. As Richard Branson puts it so eloquently, “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to”.