The 3 best ways to build a skilful team who can deliver exceptional work

Learning and development. If there was ever a name for something that is earmarked as ‘important, not urgent’, then this surely must be it?

L&D is always something the leaders I speak to are constantly aware of, but at the moment it seems to be coming up even more frequently in discussions.

It feels like this shift of importance might be down to a couple of major things, 1. the current struggle to recruit – and questions around whether current team members could actually be empowered to become masters of their current skillset, and 2. the importance of retaining great talent – and awareness that a clear career development path ranks one of the most important parts of whether employees stay.

I would say 100% of businesses I’ve worked for and with have set aside funds (and have lots of interview-ready soundbites about how seriously they take it). So, if good intention isn’t the problem, and neither is the cost, then what is really stopping us from bettering our teams through learning and development activities?

My theory is that many leaders simply don’t really know what we need from their L&D.

Short of sending the team a list of courses from which to choose (which will always see individuals pick the thing they’re most interested in) do we really KNOW which skills are missing, or lacking in our business?

The three best ways to build a skilful team who can deliver exceptional work are, in my opinion, this:

  • Brilliant role descriptions
  • Continuous, or at the very least highly skill focussed, assessment
  • Understanding the level each of your team is at for necessary skills and any gaps in that knowledge

The first two I’ll come back to another time – they’re worthy of their own articles, but the third is really quite interesting once you think about it. Do we really know which skills we need our team to work on? Do we really know on a broader level the skills we already have inside our agencies, that may well not be being utilised to their real potential?

An example:

You’re looking to employ someone into a digital role requiring PPC & SEO expertise. You find someone who is not only a great culture fit but also showed during the interview process knowledge of both PPC and SEO. You employ them. It turns out that whilst they are in fact expert level on SEO, they are basic level on PPC. They excel in SEO tasks yet drag their heels on those to do with PPC. Because they are not proficient at PPC, they are cautious and find little enjoyment delivering client campaigns.

This is when learning and development could seriously boost your performance.

If you can take the time (or use a third party company) to help you do the forensics into your current capabilities and subsequent weaker areas, then you can deliberately and purposefully upskill your team into a powerhouse for clients and company growth.

So rather than Dan from accounts taking a ‘creative writing course’ because ‘he’s always wanted to do that’ – by being more forensic, you could identify that his skill gap is in using new tech payment systems to the full capacity, and instead you could sign him up to learn how to do some l&d on that – empowering him to feel happier about his daily task which once held nothing but dread. Or, if you’re lacking in the creative writing department then play to his passions and send him on that too.

The key is to tailor the learning to the individual, taking your T-shaped marketeers and helping them become specialists.

If you’re business is digital marketing, one such programme is that run by Andragogy, who can run an audit of all your in-house teams and identify the gaps and opportunities in the business and create learning programmes to fill those gaps and exploit the opportunities.  Very cool.

One additional benefit of this approach is assessing potential hires before they join the business. And if you’re already assessing your skills needs – across the team and for individuals – you’re more likely to spot talent, find a great fit and be able to support the new hire with exactly the right L&D from the off. Tech such as Andragogy is presenting us with the opportunity to turn good intentions into highly targeted, hugely effective bursts of L&D. And think about the impact on retention!

Good luck and I’d love to hear how you currently run your L&D programmes.

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