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Upskilling at Work | 6 Tips for Public Sector Managers

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the workplace, the public sector faces its unique challenges and opportunities. With technological advancements, changing demographics, and evolving regulations, public sector employers must continuously upskill themselves and their teams to become adaptable, resilient and productive.

Upskilling not only boosts productivity and efficiency but also enhances employee satisfaction and retention.

In this article, we will discuss what upskilling is, why it’s essential in the public sector, the unique challenges and six top tips for managers to effectively upskill their workforce to manage change successfully.

Group of public sector employees upskilling at work for their professional developmentWhat is Upskilling?

Upskilling in the workplace refers to the process of teaching employees’ new skills or enhancing existing ones to adapt to changing job requirements, technological advancements, industry trends, or organisational needs. It involves identifying specific skills gaps and providing training, education, and professional development accordingly to employees to help them stay relevant, productive, and competitive in their roles.

Read: Why is Upskilling Important for Employees? 7 Key Reasons

Why is Upskilling Important within the Public Sector in 2024?

According to the CIPD Labour Market Outlook 2023 winter report, more than 51% of public sector employers revealed they have vacancies that are hard-to-fill. Further to this, one in five HR professionals expected to experience significant difficulties with filling vacancies in the first half of 2024. 

Jon Boys, senior labour market economist for the CIPD said, “To see a sustained return to growth, there needs to be a real focus on boosting productivity by investing in workplace skills and technology.”

By investing in upskilling initiatives, public sector organisations can adapt to changing demands, improve employee performance, morale and retention and ultimately provide better public services.

Top 6 Upskilling Tips for Public Sector Employers

We’ve compiled a list of the top 6 upskilling tips to help public sector employers get started...

1.     Identify Key Skills Gaps

The first and most important step is identifying areas where there are gaps or where skills need updating to align with current industry trends and your own individual objectives.

Some great methods for conducting a thorough assessment to reveal your team’s current skills and competencies include:

  • Surveys
  • Encourage open communication and a healthy feedback culture
  • Performance reviews
  • Industry reports and trends

With the results, employers can effectively identify skills gaps within their workforce and develop targeted strategies to address them through training, development programmes, or hiring initiatives.

If you are a line manager, you should support employees by helping them create a professional development plan to outline actionable steps for their growth and career progression.

Skills gap analysis to determine areas you need upskilling

2. Offer Relevant Job Training

The best way to directly close skills gaps is to acquire relevant training sessions, seminars, and online learning opportunities focused on key skills and competencies relevant to specific job roles.

At Understanding ModernGov, we offer a wide range of face-to-face and online courses led by industry experts, specifically developed to enhance the skill set of public sector professionals.

Hot topics such as digital transformation, and soft skills like effective communication and leadership are essential for upskilling public sector employees.

Discover our upcoming training courses on our website

3. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Encouraging collaboration and knowledge-sharing across different departments within your organisation has multiple benefits. Cross-departmental projects and initiatives provide employees with opportunities to learn from each other, acquire new skills, and gain insights into different areas of the organisation.

Related: 5 Reasons to Adopt a Knowledge Management Strategy

4. Provide Mentorship and Coaching Programmes

Similarly, implementing mentorship and coaching programmes can help facilitate knowledge transfer and skill development within your organisation. For example, you could pair experienced employees with newer staff members to provide guidance, support, and valuable insights. Mentorship programmes not only accelerate skill development but will also foster a sense of camaraderie and professional growth within your organisation.

Related: Coaching vs Mentoring – Know the Difference

5. Encourage Professional Certifications

Encourage employees to pursue relevant professional certifications and qualifications to enhance their skills and credentials. Certifications such as PRINCE2 for project management, or CPD certificates and points are highly valued in the public sector.

As a manager, you should provide support and incentives for employees seeking development opportunities, such as exam fee reimbursement or study leave.

6. Create a Culture of Lifelong Learning

Since the workplace is constantly evolving, employees need to be constantly adapting. Unfortunately, there is no long term, one-time fix when it comes to upskilling and career development. Skills must be continuously improved and nurtured for growth.

You should encourage a work environment and culture of lifelong learning and professional development within your organisation. Employees who actively seek out opportunities to upskill themselves and contribute to the organisation's success should be recognised and rewarded.

Related: How to Select the Right Continuous Improvement Model For Your Public Sector Organisation

The 5 Main Challenges of Upskilling in the Public Sector

As a public sector leader, you will be more than familiar with the industry-related challenges and barriers which can prevent progression and make supporting innovation difficult. Often, this can leave organisations feeling left behind.

1.     Budget Constraints

Many public sector organisations are operating within tight budgetary constraints, limiting the resources and funding available for training and development initiatives to upskill their employees.

Budget limitations may restrict hiring additional staff, placing strain on existing employees and limiting their capacity to participate in training activities. These limited opportunities for professional development and career advancement may lead to employee dissatisfaction and make retaining top talent difficult.

Related: 5 Strategies for Employee Retention within the Public Sector

2. Resistance to Change

Employees may be resistant to change or hesitant to participate in upskilling initiatives due to fear of job displacement, lack of perceived relevance, or concerns about workload.

Many organisations in the public sector still rely on outdated systems and processes that have been in place for years or even decades. Introducing change may require significant time, effort, and resources to overcome legacy issues.

Related: 5 Essential Steps for Successful Change Management

3. Bureaucratic Processes

Bureaucratic processes can significantly delay change by imposing rigid rules, hierarchical decision-making structures, and lengthy procedures that hinder the ability to adapt quickly to evolving needs and implement innovative solutions.

4. Competing Priorities

Organisations often face competing priorities, with limited time and attention available for training and development amidst other pressing issues and responsibilities.

Read: Importance of Employee Training: 28 Reasons to Invest in Your Workforce

5. Addressing Unique Workforce Training Needs

Finding the right strategy or training course suitable for your organisation’s training needs can be difficult. However, acquiring tailored training will enhance the effectiveness, relevance, and impact of learning initiatives, ultimately leading to improved employee performance, job satisfaction, and organisational success.

Read: What’s In-House Training All About?

At Understanding ModernGov, we know that when it comes to training, one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why we offer bespoke training tailored to your organisation’s individual needs to boost your knowledge, skills and learning experience. Make an enquiry with our in-house team today. 

In-house training to help upskill your workforce