Upskill Your Team: The Competitive Advantage You’ve Been Looking For
Upskilling refers to the process of learning new skills or teaching workers new skills. As the digital revolution continues to change the business landscape, and the fact that replacing key employees can cost upwards of $300,000, this concept has become increasingly essential. It’s no longer enough to stick to traditional methods of running a business. To thrive, you need to upskill your team so they can constantly evolve and adapt.
There are a plethora of questions that arise when thinking about training our teams. How do you know what areas you need to train? How do you determine which specific skills are top priority? What is the best way to train them? Do we let L&D handle it, or do we hire an outside consultant? Do we try to do it individually or train the entire organization? What is the first step?
It can be overwhelming to think about all the different types of people you have and all the different training needs for their specific roles. The good news is that assessments are a great way to find skills gaps in your teams. At The Leaders Institute, we use an assessment that helps organizations figure this out. Individual contributors take the assessment and let us know which areas of training would enhance their job performance, career development, and promote their biggest growth potential. It also assesses their biggest challenges, as well as skills gap analysis for the entire team.
In lieu of an assessment, here are 4 areas of training I think will give you and your teams an advantage over your competitors:
If you’re not training your teams in these skills, you’re probably already behind.
1. Soft Skill: Becoming A Master Communicator Increases Your Ability To Get Buy-In
I believe soft skills is the one area of training that most people miss but will give you the biggest ROI in performance. I was literally sitting at the airport last night in Denver, CO talking to a senior level financial advisor. He was telling me there is a guy on his team that’s good at the technical skills, but he struggles to put him in front of clients because of his underdeveloped soft skills. He hasn’t learned the art of talking to people and presenting himself in a way the company needs him to.
Presentation skills are critical in today’s business world, impacting everything from team meetings to pitches for new clients. Mastering this art is a vital upskill. A study conducted by Prezi found that 70% of employed Americans agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work. Being able to articulate thoughts and ideas effectively not only gives you an edge over competitors but also fosters clear communication within your team.
3 Step Process to Persuade:
Incident: When you are trying to get any point across, whether it’s giving a presentation or just talking to someone, stories are vital. Stories and examples have a powerful way to set people at ease. They get the audience interested in the presentation. Stories also help your audience see the concepts you are trying to explain in a visual way. The more details that you put into your story, the more vivid the images being created in the minds of your audience members.
Action: Next, finish the story with your point or your opinion. The story makes the audience want to listen to you. So save your action or advice until after you build rapport with them. By the way, this technique is not new. It has been around for thousands of years. Aesop was a Greek slave circa 500 BC. When you read an Aesop fable, you will get 30 seconds to two minutes of the story first. Then, at the conclusion, almost as a post-script, you will get the advice. Most often, this advice comes in the form of, “The moral of the story is…”
Benefit: So, the story captures and hold the attention of the audience. The moral of the story reinforces what conclusion you want the audience to draw. The final part of the process is to tell the audience how they will benefit from this advice. Remember that the audience is self-centered. (We all are.) So, if you focus on how the audience will benefit from the advice, you will show them how what they want is in line with what you want.
Practice makes perfect, so regular presentation drills should be part of your training program. Remember, the goal is to communicate, not just to inform. If you want to make your practice painless, check out Fearless Presentations.
2. Technical Skill: Discretion is the Enemy of Order, Standardization and Quality!
Sales are the lifeblood of any business, and the skills required in this area extend beyond the sales team. A survey by CSO Insights revealed that companies where salespeople exceeded their quotas were 33% more likely to have ongoing sales training. Upskilling in sales involves focusing on customer-centric selling, enhancing product knowledge, learning persuasive techniques, and developing negotiation skills. A customer-centric approach can enhance the customer experience, increase customer loyalty, and consequently boost sales. Deep product knowledge ensures your team can answer customer questions and overcome objections efficiently. Persuasive techniques, such as building rapport and effectively communicating value, can sway potential customers. Finally, negotiation skills allow you to close deals effectively without compromising too much.
The best salespeople in the world have a SYSTEM THAT WORKS!
Creating a system for your sales team that works, is the best thing you can give them (Bonus points if you can let them help come up with it). This is a system that explains in every detail, from start to finish, how to make a sale at your company. Everything from how to find the prospects, how to build trust and rapport, how to get an appointment set, what questions to ask to get them to talk about their pain, how to present your solution, and how to enter the sale into your database. Leave nothing to chance. Theodore Levitt says in his book, Marketing for Business Growth, “Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization and quality.”
Sales is an Art and a Science
The art is “how and when” you say it (the human factor), and the science is “what” you say & do (the system). Let me give you an example of this:
The other day my wife asked me, “Can you take the clothes out of the washer and put them into the dryer?” Sounds like a straightforward question, doesn’t it? Because of the way she said it, I thought she was frustrated with me. So I asked her what was wrong, and in a different (lighter) tone she told me, “Nothing, can you take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer.” She had been thinking about something at work that was stressing her out when she asked. The “what” was the same, but the “how” was totally different. So we have to learn the “what” to say, but also the “how & when” is just as important. It can make or break a sale.
Book Alert! Here are some great books that I have read over the years when it comes to learning the art and science of sales:
- Gap Selling by Keenan
- The Perfect Close by James Muir
- Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount
- Don’t Split the Difference by Chris Voss
To learn more about how we can help you balance the “art” and “science” of your skills, check out our corporate team building classes.
3. Leadership Skill: Good Leaders Get People to do a Job, Great Leaders Impact People!
Leadership is about inspiring others to achieve a common goal. A Gallup study found that companies with high levels of employee engagement reported 23% higher profitability, and effective leadership is a crucial factor for engagement. Good leaders set clear expectations, provide consistent feedback, and support their team members’ development. They are not afraid of delegating, giving credit where it’s due, or admitting their mistakes.
Furthermore, a good team leader should exemplify the qualities they wish to see in their team members, such as discipline, integrity, and empathy. A leadership training program can be an excellent way to instill these values and techniques. A great leader told me one time, “You can’t take others where you haven’t been.”
I want you to pause for a moment and think about the best boss you ever had. Are you thinking? (If you’re reading on, you’re missing the experience!) What made them the best?
I have asked this question to hundreds of people. Never has anyone responded with something to do with: they made me a lot of money, or they were great at running meetings, or their business strategy was amazing. 100% of the time, people talk about how much they impacted them emotionally. I know that sounds ooey and gooey, but it’s true. Let me show you some of the answer I have gotten:
- They really cared about me!
- They believed in me when I didn’t!
- They showed Empathy towards my situation!
- They fought for me to have a seat at the table when I probably didn’t deserve it!
- They saw my potential and pushed me to rise up!
- They gave me a chance!
I could go on and on and on with the same type of answers. Don’t take my word for it, ask the people around you.
What does this show us? Good leaders can get people to do a job, but great leaders impact people!
How do we IMPACT people?
I – Inspire
Inspire your team by encouraging them to surpass their limits and reach their full potential. A leader’s passion, vision, and belief can spark the same in their people. This could be the driving force that fuels individuals to take action.
M – Make Moves
Put people in positions outside of their comfort zones to stretch their skills. That is the only way people will grow. Human beings are pain averse, meaning we have a hard time intentionally putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions. When we see potential in someone, we might need to give them a push and let them know we are there to catch them if they fall.
P – Proactive
Be proactive about initiating impactful conversations. Ask questions about what motivates them, what their dreams are, where they want to be in the future, what they are passionate about.
A – Acknowledge
Acknowledgment goes a long way in making individuals feel valued. Leaders should recognize the efforts, accomplishments, and even the failures of their team, fostering a sense of self-worth and emotional satisfaction. This also affirms your people’s skills, talents, and abilities. They might be doubtful or fearful that they aren’t good enough.
C – Care
Leaders who care connect with their teams on a deeper level. Understanding and empathizing with the challenges their people face helps build emotional bonds that lead to trust and mutual respect.
T – Trust
Trust in leadership is critical for emotional security within a team. When leaders act in ways that build trust, it creates an environment where people feel safe to express ideas, take risks, and communicate openly. Not only do you want your team to trust you, but be courageous and trust them!
4. Adaptability Skill: Valuing A Growth Mindset Allows You to Be Ahead of Your Competition
In the dynamic world of business, change is the only constant. The ability of a team to adapt and pivot quickly often spells the difference between failure and success. Just ask any business owner during the COVID-19 pandemic. But how can a team learn to change gears effectively? Here’s where the power of upskilling comes into play. However, it’s not just about learning new tools or techniques—it’s about fostering an adaptable mindset and creating an environment that encourages swift, effective change.
Small businesses are great at being able to pivot on a dime. They are small. The leader can pull a small team into a room, layout the problem, come up with a plan, and the team can easily implement it. However, it’s not the same when you are talking about an organization with thousands of employees. To pivot in this organization is like trying to turn the titanic—anything but quick. They already have systems and processes in place to make sure the current plan is being executed. There are multiple layers to the organizational structure that need to be on-board. Switching gears could take months or even years. The future of work could depend on it. So how does a company large or small be able to solve problems fast and implement the solutions effectively?
It starts with Culture!
Yes, I said culture. Most of the issues with pivoting quickly aren’t around systems and processes, but around the people that facilitate them. Most people don’t like change; they will resist it at all costs.
However, if we have a culture of continuous improvement, with employees who aren’t afraid of questioning the status quo, and people in leadership roles who are constantly training the skill gaps, then they won’t be shocked when we have to change something up. They will be used to it, and they will be willing to gain the right skills necessary to deliver new products.
This is a trait we are looking for in a new employee as well. The most successful leaders hire towards culture and values. We are all trying to get the best talent, but sometimes that comes with a cost to our values. Is that something you are willing to give up?
Live and Operate by Your Core Values
At a previous company I was with, they had a core value of continuous improvement. It was literally written on the side of all the trucks. So me being an idea guy, I was constantly giving the owner feedback on how I think we could make things better. He would listen, thought it was a good idea, but never do anything about it. No feedback on why it wouldn’t work, or how it could be modified to work, nothing. After a while I just stopped giving ideas. What was the point? It obviously wasn’t a real value. It was just what he thought customers would want to hear.
These values can’t be something that just sounds good to customers, they have to actually be a core value. Non-negotiable. Something that is actually lived out and believed in by everyone on the team.
I tell clients all the time: “Values can’t just be on the walls, they have to be lived out in the halls!”
The path to upskilling your team lies in consistent, targeted training across these four crucial areas. Emphasize mastery, not just competence, to ensure your team is equipped with the skills necessary to excel in the modern business landscape. This investment in your team not only boosts productivity but also improves morale and job satisfaction, employee retention, leading to a more engaged and effective work environment. Creating a culture of learning is what new employees are looking for when it comes to picking a company to invest in. If we can be on the forefront of training skill sets in things like artificial intelligence and digital skills, it attracts top talent to our organization. Also, training soft skills that don’t get taught in academic settings like emotional intelligence, how to give constructive feedback, interpersonal skills, and effective communication.