Here, Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado, speaks on the urgent need to overhaul our skills system and focus on the youth of tomorrow, ensuring they have the capabilities needed to thrive as we enter a new phase of hybrid working
In recent years, the nation has made great progress in normalising conversations about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Mental health is becoming an ever more dominant part of the conversation in daily life, with stigmas beginning to lift. At Avado, we were aware of the challenges businesses and employees faced through the pandemic. We were curious to learn more of what could be done to enhance wellbeing and mental health at work, both as a consequence of the pandemic, but also the new environment it has created beyond the initial crisis.
Taking a deeper dive into the state of the skills gap and ways that businesses view and address employee development, we commissioned research for a report called Beyond Skills. We spoke with 500 C-suite and 500 HR leaders across the UK to hear their views. Not only has the skills gap widened so significantly that we are faced with a capability chasm, but it is also evident that a lack of attention to employee development in 2020 had major repercussions. Over 63% of our respondents expressed concern that a lack of capabilities in the workforce could impact mental health. Meaning, the focus on business survival last year has come at the cost of some employee’s mental health.
There is a multitude of conversations surrounding the skills gap – the importance of learning and development, yet many of these conversations don’t consider the link between employee development and the impact on one’s mental health. Inevitably, developing skills increases an individual’s confidence in their role and imbues greater security about being able to fulfil their job, when the organisation may be adapting to a new environment.
What does the capability chasm look like for the sector, and how can we rectify it to support employee wellbeing?
The pandemic brought huge change to the Government and Public Sector. With many other sectors having to close, this was simply not an option. Many public sector organisations had been stripped down to the bare minimum and working with skeleton teams became common practice. This forced people to adapt quickly, shifting heritage services online and taking on added workloads. It is, therefore, no surprise that there was an increase in training budgets within this sector.
Even though training budgets increased within Government and Public Sector, our research found that 74% of respondents wish more had been invested in development. A further 72% stated they wished they had more time to implement sufficient and long-standing training measures. In addition to this and the aforementioned concerns around mental health, lack of investment in employee development has led to the increased risk of redundancies. Over 55% of respondents agreed a capabilities gap could lead to job losses.
These figures should come as a reminder to all leaders, to listen to their employees, but also to understand that implementing effective, fit-for-purpose training strategies can have a much broader impact on their people and operations. The connection between personal wellbeing and a lack of capabilities in the workplace indicates that capabilities can act as a protector against insecurity, worry, and poor self-esteem. With this, employee wellbeing must be a core focus for businesses across all sectors, and ongoing investment in your people the optimal course of action.