8 strategies to support foundation skill development in the workplace

25 January 2019 by Ryan Cooper

Foundation skills develop the fundamental skill sets people need in the modern business environment.

They have been described as the basics of general business literacy.  Those who have them are liable to adapt and progress. Those that don’t risk being left behind in a fast-changing business environment.  For organisations, foundation skills training represents an investment in talent and offer a means to retain and develop employees to the overall benefit of the business.

So, let’s look some key strategies that help support and develop foundations skills in the workplace.

1. Treat knowledge as an asset

For the introduction of any training, it’s vital for the organisation to set the right tone.  Foundation skills need to be seen for what they are: core skills and vital tools to cope with the challenges of modern work. The message from the top needs to be clear. These are not optional, but rather a fundamental requirement for improved efficiency and productivity.

When people speak of a ‘Knowledge Economy’ they’re recognising that knowledge itself is an asset. Recognising the true value of knowledge is a key first step to embedding foundation skills in your organisation.  The challenge is to make that knowledge readily available and make it easier to acquire, retain and critically, apply.  That means enhancing its supply.

2. Align foundation skills with business needs

Knowledge itself is useful, but it becomes truly powerful when it’s applied.  Too often in organisations, there’s a divide between training and work. If there’s not an obvious link with the work they’re doing, people tend to regard training as a distraction.

Foundation skills training represents a broad collection of subjects that include areas for personal development, offer a grounding in core competencies and teach the skills for managing others.  With such a range it’s important to align these skills to the overall business strategy. Job roles can be expressed in terms of core competencies and training learning outcomes can be designed to meet those competencies.  If employees see that training courses and resources are directly tied to job roles, business goals, and performance outcomes, they’ll understand the relevance and take the training.

3. Incentivise learners

Relevance is a strong factor in making training more memorable and appealing.  But you can go further in motivating people to learn if you add an element of reward and recognition.  Passing a piece of training can provide personal satisfaction, but beyond that there’s the possibility of more public recognition.

Many Foundation Skills courses are tied to CPD or accredited by industry bodies or training institutes. This professional seal of approval recognised across an industry is a powerful means of encouraging the uptake or new skills and the continuing enhancement of existing ones.  

Evidence suggests that performance improves after gaining a qualification as people are anxious to turn their knew knowledge into practice.  As the phrase suggests CPD is about continuous development designed to deliver a solid skills base that enables people to perform better in their current jobs.  CPD facilitates a move into other areas as changes demand and opportunities for development arise.

4. Improve the training experience

One of the keys to providing effective training is to ensure that it’s seen as useful and effective.  CPD schemes hint at one important feature of effective training: it needs to be continuous rather than a one-off, potentially forgettable event.  Training needs to be more memorable and more accessible which means freeing it from the classroom or LMS.

Digital content in the form of eLearning features learning strategies that allow the learners to direct their own learning and pursue their studies independently at their own pace and time.  Those strategies include gamification, which uses a gaming metaphor to challenge learners to meet targets and receive rewards for progress. The game approach mimics the pressure of the working environment but in a fail-safe environment, so employees can learn from their mistakes and explore differing strategies to achieve results.  

Story-based learning places information in context so that learners understand the relevance of the training to their work roles and its impact on performance.  This gives training greater credibility. eLearning couples these learning strategies with innovative and attractive use of multimedia to make training more compelling and memorable.

5. Give learners what they expect

One of the great appeals of eLearning is that it reflects the way people are now accessing and receiving information.  Preserving the traditional means of training with set, one-off training sessions seems increasingly at odds with the way they access information outside of the workplace.  

Online resources such as search engines, wikis, video-sharing sites, and help and discussion forums allow people the means not only to check individual facts, but also to participate in learning by experts from around the globe.  With so much information out there, you need to be sure that the training you’re offering competes with the expectations such online resources encourage and that it’s presented in a way that modern learners appreciate and understand.  

It’s important here to stress the value of the expertise that your training can deliver as opposed to the unknown quality of what’s accessible via a search engine.  It’s another argument for making sure you avail of industry-standard content that you then relate to your own business and training needs. 

6. Make Foundation Skills accessible

With mobile connectivity, people are used to having direct access to information when and where they need it.  If you can make your Foundation Skills content accessible and available on mobile devices, you’ve removed a key barrier to access which has impacted on training.  You then allow learners to update their skills while they’re at work and on the go. Training can then change from being something that’s pushed at learners to something they pull when they need it.  It makes it more targeted and personal and consequently more compelling and memorable.

To take advantage of mobile learning, you need consciously to design your training for it.  A micro-learning approach delivers training as easily digestible resources that are continuously available to learners.  Instead of overwhelming them with too much information, you allow learners to select what they need, when needed. And the training point or learning objective can be effectively consumed or refreshed in a matter of minutes.  This is training that supports performance directly in the workflow.  

7. Evaluate effectiveness

In the world of learning design there’s a key stage that usually comes at the end and is frequently forgotten: evaluation.  It’s all very well providing training, making it more accessible, incentivising learners to take it and employing learning strategies to make it more memorable, but you can’t maximise the benefit if you don’t know, or can’t measure, its impact.  Otherwise, for all the technical innovation, you’ll remain in the traditional mode of learning development where training is pushed at learners because it’s regarded as beneficial.

One vital advantage of digital learning resources is you can easily track who’s using them.  You can see which pieces of content have been accessed and by whom. Then you can analyse the information and intervene when content is not being used and discover why.  

You also need to measure the performance of people after they’ve taken training.  CPD may be one way of recognising attainment, but the real benefit to the organisation comes when the qualification is applied.  Evaluation of what’s working and what isn’t is vital if you’re to sustain continuous training and improve and enhance it through regular iterations.

8. Promote a learning culture

We mentioned setting the tone for Foundation Skills training and way of enhancing their impact.  The ultimate step is to make training self-sustaining so that it becomes a reflex and part and parcel of what it means to be an employee of the organisation.

This is a cultural shift.  It requires the development of a culture of learning where training is seen not only as necessary, but as actively beneficial and something that is continually in progress.  Training in the workplace needs to be a collaborative affair and reflect the way information is now shared generally online.  

A key element of Foundation Skills is personal development which eLearning can enable by making training more learner-centred.  But another vital component of Foundation Skills is the development of others through management or team-leadership. This points to the need to share information between employees and use the expertise that people acquire to help others learn and improve their skills.  This is the foundation of a learning culture. These eight strategies help support Foundation Skills and make them the core part of employee training. The areas covered by training can be extended, but by creating the right training environment you ensure that whatever the training it can be supported and sustained across the organisation.

To find out more about our Foundation Skills catalogue, visit our catalogue page and register now for a free demo.

Ryan Cooper
Head of Learning Libraries

Ryan is responsible for looking after Learning Pool’s learning libraries. He’s always looking for ways to innovate our learning offer by accelerating trends and finding solutions to the needs of every sector Learning Pool works with.

His aim is to build great relationships that enable growth in learning libraries, explore new and existing markets and develop stronger relationships with our customers.

Ryan has a pedigree of Product Management across HR technologies and learning specifically.

Outside of the office, Ryan has a wide range of interests from sports to science! Most often, you’ll find him on long walks through the Dales.

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