Upskilling is key to growth - Rachel Aldighieri

The Scottish Government’s strategy to curb rising creative, data, and tech talent shortages, by upskilling and reskilling Scotland’s workforce, is certainly commendable.

The importance of the government’s skills initiatives, such as Data Skills for Work, cannot be overstated as unfilled digital roles cost the UK up to £150 billion a year in lost GDP. By prioritising skills development in key tech hubs like Edinburgh, we stand a much better chance of leading global digital innovation to fuel economic growth.

The problem is that government programmes can only take us so far. Business leaders must play their part. There is a growing pool of evidence that adopting organisational learning cultures can supercharge business and people growth.

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This is why the Data & Marketing Association (DMA UK) is urging senior management teams to introduce continuous learning cultures into their organisations, to fill the growing skills gaps.

Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director, DMA UKRachel Aldighieri, Managing Director, DMA UK
Rachel Aldighieri, Managing Director, DMA UK

As the UK’s marketing trade body, we champion the importance of people – guided by our customer-first principles. Skills development is a critical part of our mission to enrich people to help support industry growth.

Why should you create a continuous learning culture?

Due to the pressures of the current economic climate, financial, and time constraints are making traditional training approaches, such as training days, harder to implement and pursue.

Our “micro-upskilling” campaign aims to fill the skills gaps and help build the UK’s creative and digital economies via continuous staff development – to make learning more regular and accessible to all. To supplement, not replace, these traditional training approaches.

In late 2022, we ran a micro-upskilling 6–10-week pilot with 16 member organisations, in which participants committed to as little as an hour per week to flexible, bitesized e-learning and professional development. The pilot involved 150 people from companies, charities, SMEs, and agencies, including the RSPCA, Visit Scotland, Golden Charter, and The Dragonfly Agency.

Our micro-upskilling pilot findings are really encouraging – demonstrating to businesses how they can develop the necessary building blocks to supercharge skills acquisition in the short term, while instilling long-term learning habits across their organisation that benefits the employee and employer.

Following the pilot, participating learners stated:

46 per cent developed new skills that they wouldn't have previously been able to 39 per cent stated they found micro-upskilling better than their previous training 67 per cent believe micro-upskilling has made their organisation more engaged with skills development

Almost all (95 per cent) of learners felt the new skills they had learned as part of the pilot were useful in their current role, so, for these reasons, 90 per cent said they would like to continue micro-upskilling within their organisations.

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However, our survey uncovered some challenges to the commitment to one hour a week.

60 per cent confessed to challenges with finding the time to upskill and 55 per cent stated they had too many competing priorities. As a result, just over a third had managed to micro-upskill ‘most weeks’ throughout the pilot, while 39 per cent said they were able to do it ‘some weeks’ and 26 per cent stated that they were unable to ‘do it very often’.

It is more straightforward, and often the case, that skills development falls in our list of priorities when businesses are fighting for survival, so it’s vital that this doesn't continue to be the case.

Diversify skillsets to drive Scotland’s growth

Instead, we must use skills as a driver for growth by diversifying and expanding skillsets regularly – with support and direction from the very top to help both our businesses grow, as well as the people who power them.

To achieve Scotland’s potential in a modern, global tech economy, we can no longer pigeon-hole people by job titles or conform to traditional, siloed career paths.

With micro-upskilling supplementing traditional training methods, all staff can expand and diversify their learning and commit to it on a regular basis. But investing in people is of paramount importance here.

That’s why later this year the DMA will be introducing micro-upskilling as a key element of our membership. Creating a pledge asking every member organisation to commit an hour a week to all staff's L&D in our new People principle of the DMA Code.

Senior management teams must be accountable for their people’s growth, regularly and candidly calling on their staff to commit to their professional development with line management and HR teams’ direction, support, and structure.

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As business leaders, we must now fully commit to implementing these learning cultures. Continuous staff development will supercharge business and people growth, but we must invest in our people.

Rachel Aldighieri, MD of the DMA



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