The benefits of investing in developing employees in their core areas of expertise are obvious, and often essential if they are to retain professional qualifications in spaces such as accountancy.
But while there are many training options to develop such skills, including ongoing professional qualifications, it’s also possible for continuous professional development (CPD) to target other, non-core skills, which can often have a significant impact on individuals’ ability to do their job.
“It can certainly be an added incentive to an employee to be offered training around effective self-management that’s useful for all aspects of life,” says Tim Segaller, a leadership and resilience coach at Enlivened Minds.
“It shows that an employer cares about the overall wellbeing of their workforce. But it’s also of genuine benefit to the organisation, due to the long-term increase in productivity, and therefore also the bottom line.”
Many elements of non-core CPD will link to the individual’s ability to work effectively as part of a team, or as a manager. David Liddle, CEO of The TCM Group, believes the ability to manage conflict is a vital skill for any manager, but one that is often overlooked.
“Workplace conflict takes up an inordinate amount of management time and is also extremely costly,” he says. “The CBI estimates, for example, that unresolved conflict costs the UK a staggering £33 billion per year.
“The key skills a manager needs are an understanding of why conflict arises and an appreciation of the difference between healthy conflict and dysfunctional disputes,” he adds. “They need to know how to spot the signs early, and how to intervene when conflict is bubbling, so they can nip problems in the bud before they escalate.
They need to be confident with facilitating open and honest dialogue in their teams and able to create cultures where people are not afraid to be themselves and say what needs to be said.”
How to manage time
Supporting employees to make the most of their time is a critical skill both in and out of the workplace. “If they are struggling to create a seamless rhythm between their workload and their other responsibilities, the quality of their work is going to suffer, so employers should support their team to help them create an effective rhythm and refine their time management skills,” says Karen Meager, co-founder of Monkey Puzzle Training.
It’s important, too, that employers remember that not every time management tool they choose to equip their team with will work for everyone so offer a variety of options, she adds.
AAT, meanwhile, runs courses on other softer skills which are part of many jobs, including coping with ethical dilemmas, public speaking and assertiveness. Further talks are available through the AAT branch network
Learning stress management
Helping staff cope with stress is another skill which can be learned through CPD, and can stand them in good stead both inside and out of the workplace. “Given the fast-growing problem of stress and burnout in the workplace – causing the loss of 15.4 million workdays each year – it’s wise for employers to invest in mindfulness-based resilience training for staff at all levels,” says Segaller.
“This can help people to manage their own minds better – to be focused, resilient and emotionally positive – leading to improved wellbeing and productivity.
“A particular aspect of mindfulness-based training that’s relevant here is how it helps people think clearly under pressure so that they can make wise decisions,” he adds. “It’s also about being able to pay attention simultaneously to both the big picture and to fine details, which is essential in the world of finance.”
Future proofing technical skills
Development should also take in new technical skills, even if these aren’t directly related to the day job, to help ensure people are aware of future trends and equipped to cope with any upcoming changes.
“The rise in automation and AI provides an opportunity for employees to be upskilled or trained in different areas that provide more variety,” says Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of people development consultancy Hunter Roberts. “Upskilling could include developing analytical skills, or training in high-touch customer service – tasks that can’t be replicated by AI.”
Marilyn Devonish, the owner of TranceFormations, says she often helps people learn a range of additional skills, which will help them out in both business and life in general. These include PhotoReading (accelerated learning), creative thinking and emotional intelligence, in addition to some of the other areas already mentioned.
“There are also organisations where employees are provided with an allowance each year to study something not strictly work-related,” she says. “In those instances, I might get people to come to learn about hypnotherapy for calming their mind or a soul plan or archetypal profile reading to understand more about their life purpose and next level career choices.”
Measuring the impact
It can be hard to accurately measure how effective such softer skills are, as they tend to be more generic, says Meager. “But there are many ways in which employers can measure the success of programmes including manager feedback scores for those who have attended programmes, programme feedback on what they have learnt and done differently in their roles, overall team effectiveness around outputs and goals, and whether there is a decrease in related issues such as complaints.”
In the longer-term, employers that invest in such programmes can expect to see higher levels of retention and loyalty. “Similarly, if you are seen to embed different types of learning, and value the contributions of employees into what skills would be beneficial, you will become a much more attractive employer to prospective employees,” she adds.
Many people would benefit from continuous professional development in areas other than the core technicalities of their job. Some of these are closely aligned to their roles, such as public speaking or leadership training, but others can be wider skills. Examples of this would include managing stress, time management or even learning a new language.
Employers which take the time to identify what areas their staff would benefit from stand to gain not only from more loyal and productive employees but also having a team that is better equipped to do the job, and meet the needs of clients.
- Work with employees to identify which non-core skills they think they would most benefit from
- Training staff in time management and stress prevention can help ensure they remain mentally well
- Measure the impact such initiatives have through manager feedback, staff performance in projects and overall effectiveness against targets or other goals
Nick Martindale is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter. He regularly contributes to a wide range of national and business media, including The Telegraph, Raconteur supplements in The Times and HR magazine.