5 Critical Foundation Skills To Pursue Workplace Effectiveness

17 January 2019 by Paul McElvaney

You often hear the phrase ‘the Skills Economy’, but what are the skills an economy or business needs?  Fundamentally, modern workers are going to require a range of skills to keep pace with a fast-changing business environment. They’ll need to be agile, flexible and capable of adapting to new circumstances, job roles and opportunities.

Building a Platform

Foundation Skills provide a platform for the effective upskilling of people.  The skills cover a range of subjects and business areas from People Management to Personal Development and from specialised areas such as expertise in specific legislation to broad-based, transferable skills like communication.  

Foundation Skills are building blocks and just like those blocks they can be arranged, assembled and structured to suit individual employees’ needs.  They can also be used to fill gaps in an organisation’s training provision. The flexibility of Foundation Skills catalogues matches the agility required by organisations and people in a 21st-century working environment.In any discussion about changes in working lives and practices, you’ll hear a lot about the challenge of automation.  But for all the talk about Artificial Intelligence taking over jobs, there’s less attention paid to how technology will enhance jobs.  Beyond the provocative headlines lies the sober reality that people will need to have the ability and support to adapt as technology changes job roles.  

It’s not just about replacement; it’s more nuanced than that.  Technology can be an enabler for people to do things differently.  That presents a challenge for Training and L&D: how to equip people with the fundamental skills, the Foundation Skills, that allow them to take advantage of the new opportunities that change will bring.

Providing Personalised Training

The benefits of personalisation in training have been well touted. Instead of a broad-brush approach that delivers training to cohorts of employees, a personalised approach allows you to identify and target individual needs.

This view is enshrined in the growth of Continuing Professional Development or CPD schemes. These recognise individual achievements and goals and provide motivation for employees looking to develop the skills that will benefit them in advancing their career. CPD is not just about maintaining skills, but also about enhancing and developing new, transferable skills that employees and employers require to increase performance and effectiveness in the workplace. CPD can form part of a learning culture where the requirement and benefit of training is embedded in the working environment.

Delivering the Fundamentals

Foundation Skills do what they say on the tin: provide a solid in grounding in key, transferable skills. While individual courses may address specific need, the range of Foundation Skills is designed to promote general business literacy. With this broad grounding, and with new skills being covered all the time, people can be assured of the support they need to tackle emerging business challenges.

Let’s look at some broad areas that Foundation Skills cover to see how this training is a vital component in the modern employee’s career development.At the heart of any business’s success are the people who work for it. Foundation Skills modules cover some key elements in personal development that allow employees to feel they’re growing with the organisation and making an effective contribution.

Skills like personal resilience and managing yourself and your time help you deal with the stress and pressures of the modern working environment.  They equip you with the tools to manage yourself better and allow you to work more productively by actively dealing with challenges and setting yourself targets and goals.

These skills can be tied to CPD schemes, so you receive formal recognition of your attainment.  Personal Development skills offer both intrinsic and extrinsic validation. They give you the confidence and tools to progress and ensure that your progress is recorded and publicly valued.

Managing Others

As you progress through an organisation, you’ll likely be asked not only to manage yourself and your time but that of others too.  A key skill like Project Management will give you a broader understanding of how an organisation comes together on a project and the ability to manage projects yourself.  Titles like Managing Others Effectively show how you can support others by giving effective feedback and helping them with planning.

Ultimately, you’re aiming to develop strengths in others through delegation and managing performance.  This means you not only make individuals more effective in their own roles but also develop a team of people who can work together for greater productivity and efficiency for the benefit of the whole business.

Training in Conflict Resolution will help you deal with conflicts as they arise.  It will also teach you about how to manage conflict so that the tensions that naturally arise in any working environment can be usefully channelled into making people work together more effectively.Managing others is closely associated with the need to build, manage and direct teams.  The complexity of modern business means that individual efforts, heroic though they may be, often destabilise or distort, rather than provide solutions.  Real, lasting benefits are achieved through effective team work.

Foundation skills can give you tips on how to optimise a team’s performance by giving constructive feedback and empowering team members to contribute to improve the overall impact of the team.  We see from our experience of social media how collaborative efforts can advance understanding and knowledge. The same is true in the business environment. It just needs to be called out and learned.Communication and Facilitation

Foundation Skills are often about conveying a message or making sure that information is available and easily understood.  Presentation Skills provide you with the confidence and the techniques to reach an audience. If we combine this with training on how to write and communicate effectively, we can make sure that the message we want to share is effectively conveyed.

ICT has dramatically increased our ability to communicate, instantaneously, globally and at speed.  We’re often required to respond immediately. Having the skills to do so in a constructive and intelligible way is vital for understanding and ensuring that important information isn’t lost or drowned out in the constant chatter.  The importance of good, clear Communication has never been more critical.

Facilitation is an extension of Communication and involves assisting others and making tasks easier for them.  A facilitator guides people through a process, keeping things on track to meet objectives. Facilitation means delivering on the message and ensuring that communication doesn’t just end up in an echo chamber but is acted upon.The one constant in today’s working environment is change.  That’s why it’s vital to have a thorough understanding of Change Management. Change can affect people, processes and indeed the entire organisation. Understanding the nature of change and how it affects these areas is key to making sure that change, while inevitable, is managed and directed to avoid chaos and deliver benefits in moving the business on.

Change Management gives you the tools to control change. You can explore the models and theories that allow you to manage change and bring people along with you.  It explains the key ‘change roles’ that allow the facilitation of the process. It teaches you the skills to communicate the change vision and explain how people are involved in that vision. Change Management engages people with change and delivers commitment to it.  

Laying the Foundation

Training needs to be responsive to real business needs and not just put in place because it’s assumed that it’s beneficial.  Foundation Skills offer the ability to target training at the people with real needs and who’ll use those skills to do their job more effectively.  As their scope broadens Foundation Skills provide an invaluable tool box for organisations and their people to equip themselves to meet the challenges of modern business. They provide an effective means to meet change and embrace it.

Foundation Skills can take an organisation and its people so far, but to make them truly effective you need to create an environment in which people can learn and apply their learning in a way that is relevant to your organisation.  Foundation Skills are a critical starting point of a broad business-literacy education. Without them you and your organisation are going to struggle with change. As CPD recognises, training and learning need to be continuous. With Foundations Skills you can start that journey.  

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Paul McElvaney
Chief Executive Officer
Paul is Learning Pool’s founder and CEO. Since 2006, he has grown the business from a modest team of 5, to the success story it is today, with 7 sites and almost 200 employees. Paul’s ambitions centre on providing world-class customer care to our 750+ global clients, driving continuous innovation through Learning Pool’s product set and nurturing the talent within his team.
Paul was awarded ‘Director of the Year’, from the Institute of Directors in 2016.
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