HR Leaders Offer 12 Practical Ways To Improve Employee Skill Sets

Leonardo Rasaki

With labor shortages still on the rise—particularly in the small business sector—employers should focus on the upskilling of their current employees to make a positive impact on their company’s ability to move forward and overcome industry challenges, whether it’s a peak season or the market is down.

When an employee realizes an organization’s commitment to investing in their individual growth and development, it increases retention rates and facilitates greater career possibilities and success.

Below, 12 Forbes Human Resources Council members discuss the training programs they’ve implemented and why these methods have been the most beneficial way to level up their staff.

1. Leadership Assessment And Development

Our Leadership Assessment and Development or LeAD program is fully integrated with our company’s talent management processes. It allows us to consistently develop our talent and emphasizes building capability at multiple levels—from early career professionals to senior executives. Close to 20,000 employees have been through the program to date and we’ve seen tremendous growth among participants. – Andrea Ferrara, PepsiCo Beverages North America

2. Nurturing Mentorships

Focused training, such as sales effectiveness or management training, has a more attributable ROI. However, the most broadly beneficial developmental intervention is a mentoring program. Employees need the training to get started and proper program management to keep it going. Mentoring programs result in the greatest benefits to well-being, belonging, retention, knowledge transfer and succession. – Gregory Pontrelli, Lausanne Business Solutions

3. Bi-Monthly Brainstorming Sessions

We offer bi-monthly supervisor training for our managers and supervisors. We discuss current difficult situations they may be going through, and then brainstorm with them on how to best handle the challenges. In addition, we train leaders on policies, employment law, communication skills, interviewing, coaching, conducting employee 1:1s, how to use our HRIS system and more. We often conduct role-play scenarios, which is not everyone’s favorite activity, but it has been so beneficial. – Sherrie LeCheminant, Blackstone Products

4. Bias Training

We have developed bias training for the application screening and interview processes. This helps bring common biases to the forefront of our minds just in time for these hiring activities. Since implementation, hiring managers have indicated they have noticed a change in the language used and filters applied when discussing the merits of candidates interviewed to make a final decision. – Brandy Marshall, Franklin Pierce School District


Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?


5. Senior-Led Workshops

With my previous employer, we developed a fun in-house management training program. It did a couple of things by sharing practical knowledge and giving people from across the country the opportunity to build relationships with their peers. Senior leaders delivered workshops on topics such as financial acumen, communications and teamwork with the occasional external program to the likes of Myers-Briggs. – Gordon Pelosse, CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association

6. ‘Lunch And Learn’ Sessions

A “Lunch and Learn” program is a great way to learn about a variety of topics that provide education and development. This type of program can be in-house or external experts can be brought in. It is an efficient use of time since it is over the lunch break. It is an opportunity to meet others throughout the organization who have similar interests and build a stronger community and teamwork. – Sherry Martin, Government Administration

7. Individual Coaching

Coaching, coaching and coaching! The beauty of coaching is that it comes in many forms and is individualized. As an HR leader, I spend most of my time coaching others, and having someone help advise and guide me professionally has been game-changing. Once I learned this, I brought it to my organization and the experience for my teammates has been just as awesome and impactful! – Joyce Jelks, Wieden + Kennedy

8. Recruiter-Client Training

We’ve created a unique training program for recruiters to get their heads in the space of the clients. We do a mock product session with each member to connect the dots from “I have an idea” to “How do I build that?” It gets them thinking practically about every role on a product and engineering team so they understand what the person that they are recruiting needs to do. – Amy Odeneal, Tech Recruiters

9. Empathy Awareness Training

Increased training for frontline managers during and after the global pandemic has been the most beneficial thing we’ve done. Providing managers with the tools to become more empathetic leaders as their staff goes through hardships and learn how to manage in a hybrid environment has been paramount. When managers know how to interact with their teams, it shows in the employee retention rates. – Niki Jorgensen, Insperity

10. Innovation And Technology Upskilling

Partnering with certification programs to create internal talent pipelines and internal mobility is key. Organizations can close tech skill gaps to accelerate innovation and transformation. Project- and skill-based programs are also essential to upskill the workforce in emerging technologies. An employee experiencing an organization’s commitment to supporting their development enables greater career success. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal

11. A Learning Platform For Onboarding

With so many employees joining our company, we designed a personalized onboarding program on our platform so that new hires get on a specific learning path that helps them better understand their job roles. They get a fun learning experience, interact with colleagues and engage with the very product they will continue to develop, market or sell. – Graham Glass, CYPHER LEARNING

12. Personal Purpose Planning

In 2020, Voya embarked on a journey to define and articulate our purpose. As a part of that journey, we also held personal purpose workshops for our employees that brought together small groups of colleagues for reflection, connection and personal purpose planning. The entire session is dedicated to the employee—and it is an investment in them that has positively impacted the employee experience. – Kevin Silva, Voya Financial

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