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Business | Helpful hints on skills development

By Anna Malczyk

At the start of the new year, most people resolve to make changes in their professional and private lives. While noble, many of these goals quickly fall by the wayside because they’re too ambitious or don’t fit easily into a daily routine.

However, if you are serious about making a change, one of the best and most beneficial places to start is by developing your skill set. If you want to improve your day-to-day work performance, get promoted, change your career or just feel more fulfilled, take a stab at personal skills development. If you take the right approach, you can learn gradually and have fun doing it, without putting a strain on your schedule.

What is skills development?

Most people gain a secondary or tertiary qualification and think that their education ends there. In the modern world, however, true success and rapid advancement come from ongoing learning – finding opportunities to gain knowledge, skills and abilities whenever you can.

Skills development has two facets. The first is learning something completely new, like operating brand new software, speaking a foreign language or training for a new career. The second is upgrading existing skills – taking an advanced management class, doing a public speaking refresher or simply learning to use more of the features in Microsoft Word. Both approaches are essential for a stimulated, engaged and active mind.

There is no one shape that skills development takes. The process can involve anything from reading a few blog articles or attending a half-hour seminar, to travelling abroad or completing a university degree. In most cases, the best way to learn or improve a skill is to find a low-impact, enjoyable and practical training regimen.

Why is it important?
For individuals, skills development has an incredible range of benefits. In a professional capacity, boosting your skills can lead to better pay, more interesting work, quicker promotions or even the ability to strike out on your own or completely change your career. On a personal level, it leads to better mental health, more happiness, the ability to explore passions and hobbies, and increased confidence. All of these factors lead to improved self-worth and better quality of life.

For organisations, the benefits of increasing employees’ skills are equally important. For one, it’s an excellent way to reduce costs and invest in existing employees – it’s often easier and more affordable to train an existing staff member in a new skill than to hire a new employee altogether. A good skills development program leads to better company culture and motivation – employees feel appreciated, and you’re more likely to retain valuable and ambitious workers. Business owners and managers should consider skills development programs a basic corporate necessity – not a special bonus or perk.

Some quick ways to develop new skills:

  • Make a habit out of learning something small every day – subscribe to a daily newsletter with industry news or tips, read a chapter of a “For Dummies” book or watch a few YouTube videos about your hobby.
  • Pay for a formal part-time course – nothing motivates you like spending money on your own improvement. Most programs run afterhours and cater to working professionals.
  • Attend seminars, workshops and conferences related to your industry; they’re an excellent place to network and to learn about cutting-edge practices and trends.
  • Share skills in the office. Does one employee hold really good presentations? Maybe she’s be willing to run a few lunchtime seminars on the topic. Is another good at language? Then consider initiating a weekly email with spelling and grammar tips. Most people would be delighted to share their skills with others.
  • Read widely whenever you can – there’s no better way to stimulate the brain or absorb information.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license. 

Back to SmartyPants Newsletter - January 2012 Edition

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