IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Podcast transcript: How upskilling is driving staff retention

Read the full transcript for this episode of the IT Pro Podcast

The IT Pro Podcast logo with the episode title 'How upskilling is driving staff retention'

​​This automatically-generated transcript is taken from the IT Pro Podcast episodeHow upskilling is driving staff retention'. We apologise for any errors.

Rory Bathgate

Hi, I'm Rory Bathgate. 

Jane McCallion 

And I'm Jane McCallion.

Rory

And you're listening to the IT Podcast, where today we're shining a light on virtual upskilling.

Jane

Increasingly, large companies are relying on online learning to improve the career goals of their employees, and upskilling can be an important factor in retaining staff who might otherwise seek out opportunities elsewhere.

Rory

But while this has been embraced by the private sector, the public sector has lagged behind, and is currently experiencing record churn and vacancies. 410,000 staff quit social care in 2021, and care roles around the country are now short of approximately 165,000 staff. With the cost of living crisis driving some to search for new roles, it is clear that NHS-wide retention and training schemes are needed.

Jane

Today, we're speaking to Hadi Moussa, General Manager and Managing Director for EMEA at one of the largest online learning platforms, Coursera, to discuss how virtual upskilling courses can help improve staff retention in social care, as well as the prospects of roles within the sector.

Hadi Moussa  

Thank you for having me.

Rory   

Thanks so much for being on the show. So just to start off, as a kind of a broad question. For those who don't know, could you explain the line between upskilling and reskilling?

Hadi 

Yeah, it's a good question. I think one that, you know, we get asked all the time. I think if you look at kind of the overall trends and what's happening, you know, more broadly across different industries, you see that there are some major trends happening today. There are many industries that now are being disrupted to some extent, we are seeing a significant level of automation that is happening across multiple different industries. There is a lot of research on this topic. If you look at what McKinsey has been doing for example, we see this large shift, where many of the lower skilled jobs are getting automated today, jobs typically in food service, in customer service, agriculture, office support roles, but at the same time, we see, you know, significant demand for higher skilled jobs, you know, these are things like jobs in STEM or in health, for example, and, you know, to be able to kind of really make that transition, there is a requirement for investment in a different set of skills. And this is where, you know, we start to look at things like reskilling right, people who effectively are in one of these jobs that are at high risk of automation, or who are looking to make the a career transition, would need to develop these new skills, to be able to take on these new roles that are being created right now. And, you know, this is where we are seeing a significant expansion in the number of digital jobs, for example. And so this is where, you know, we would be talking about effectively, a major reskilling and basically acquiring new skills, to be able to move into a completely different sector, for example. And that's a key focus area of many governments, also many companies as well. I think upskilling is, you know, typically more within the same domain, where you have kind of developed skills, you have domain expertise, but you're looking at adding to those skills. You're looking at making sure that those skills remain current with the fast pace of change that we see across different jobs. And again, we see a lot of investment in that space as well, because of how fast things have changed, both in terms of the increase and kind of the change in the nature of some of the jobs that we are seeing today. But also general trends around, for example, remote working. And, you know, this is a trend that maybe accelerated with COVID, but is a trend that we expect to continue and many studies show that it's actually continuing to increase over time. So two I think really important areas, that many companies, many governments, universities as well, are really thinking about how to adapt to this fast changing world.

Jane  

So we spoke a little bit, me and Rory, about the public sector in our introduction. Earlier in the year Coursera partnered with Imperial College London, to provide three free online courses for all NHS workers. Could you explain the courses on offer and a little bit more detail of how it's going so far and just kind of what's going on?

Hadi

Yeah, absolutely. And I think kind of going back to something you mentioned as well, we see many unfilled roles right now in posts within the NHS. And if you look at recent data, I think one in ten nursing posts, for example, and one in seventeen doctors' posts are currently unfilled. And I think at least 100,000 NHS clinical posts are also unfilled at this point. So, you know, that shows a couple of things I would say. One is there is a need, obviously, to increase staff wellbeing and motivation, again something that you alluded to in the introduction, but also upskilling and reskilling are now key requirements for the NHS as well. And you know, it's the same for other UK social and health care institutions in general. So to bridge this upskilling gap we have actually partnered with the NHS, to offer 1.2 million employees free access to three online courses. The three courses are 'participatory approaches in public health', 'introduction to quality improvements in health care', and then 'using data for healthcare improvement'. These courses were created by Coursera, and Imperial College. And really, the objective is to drive quality improvement among the UK health care professionals, and also to help address some of the knowledge gaps among the NHS staff to help meet and of the future public health challenges. So that's really kind of the key objective of these courses that we've worked with Imperial College on.

Jane  

And do you know, is there a sort of particular profile of people who this is aimed at or who are taking up this training? For example, nurses do a very different job to clerical back office staff. Is it aimed at all of them? And if so, is everybody taking the courses up equally?

Hadi

Yeah, so I mean, we're aiming this, I would say at kind of a broad range of occupations. So it is aimed at, you know, everyone, everyone within the NHS effectively. And again, like we have looked at how we can design something that really can help engage the largest number of employees. And in terms of what we want to help with effectively, we want to help the staff engage with, you know, relevant communities, we want to help them critique the role of social cultural factors in health contexts, we also are helping design an approach to public health challenges, which are more participatory by nature, so that the nature of the courses are really aimed at reaching kind of a large part of the NHS staff at this point.

Rory   

I think of the three courses that you named, it's interesting that when you talk about upskilling, what comes to mind often is quite technical courses. So 'using data for healthcare improvement', that seems in line, but yeah, it's interesting that you mentioned these social and cultural courses as well, such as 'participatory approaches in public health'. Would you say that the upskilling through online courses, virtual upskilling, has a very broad range of potential applications as a result, it's not just the technical subjects?

Hadi

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, again, depending on the specific job category, specific domains, the skills that are needed are very different, right? In some cases, obviously, it's really important to upskill with additional technical skills. In other cases, it may be kind of more practical, I would say, which is, what these courses are about, they really help NHS, the NHS staff's development of knowledge and more practical skills in terms of how you involve patients and the public in the research in quality improvement in healthcare. And also how to understand and use health data as well. So there is an element, obviously, of how do you use the data within healthcare, but also a lot of focus on the practical skills that are needed.

Jane  

So are there challenges that are unique to providing upskilling courses in the public sector versus the private sector?

Hadi

I think, yes. Obviously, when you work within a company, typically you have a process that is set in terms of how you develop learning and development that is still changing, but I think within kind of a predefined area, right? Where you have a clear way of how you want to deliver that. And you also have specific metrics that you're setting within the organisation. You can to some extent, you know, mandate, what you expect in terms of learning. You can set specific targets for people that they need to meet from a learning perspective. You can link it potentially to performance management, you can link it to how people, you know, get new jobs within the organisation or get promoted within the organisation. So there is a lot more structure that already exists, I think within the private sector. I think in the in the public sector, governments are really looking I would say very closely at this area right now. But there isn't always the infrastructure in place. And that's where, you know, governments need to do some work to set that infrastructure, to kind of put these workforce development programmes in place, to reach kind of the right target segments, to create the right incentives for people to to build these additional skills that are needed. And so I think that delivery of it, the infrastructure that is required, is something that governments effectively really need to work on in a world where skills and roles and the nature of jobs is shifting very rapidly.

Jane  

Yeah, because one of the things that strikes me when we're talking about clinical staff in particular, is that they're quite often time poor. Doctors can and nurses can do shifts that last sort of 12 hours plus, and when they're going to find them, I guess my question, concern on behalf of clinical staff, is when they're going to find the time to do this training on top of everything else that they have to do in their day to day.

Hadi

Yeah, absolutely. And I would say this is also a challenge for private companies, it is not just kind of in the public sector. Creating more of a culture of learning, and effectively having people find the time for learning, is a major challenge that we also hear from many of the companies that we work with. I think it's really about embedding it into the way that staff operate, because you need to show really the value of gaining those additional skills in terms of your ability to do your job better, your ability to drive better outcomes, your ability to, for example again, get promoted over time. And that is a big challenge. And again, a big challenge both for private and public sector. But it's really about how you create that culture where people see learning as part of the job itself, and they see learning as a way of delivering much better outcomes. And it needs to become, you know, become effectively embedded into in the day to day, versus something that is seen as a, you know, completely separate activity from your day to day job.

Rory   

It's interesting, would you say that upskilling should be seen as a kind of ongoing process in any role, that's part and parcel of the responsibilities of the role itself, or is something to add on to the role periodically?

Hadi

No, I think absolutely the first one, right? You need to see it as something that is a core part of the role, because kind of the roles are also changing. And in a world where roles are changing, the skills required for roles are also changing, it is important to maintain the skills that are relevant for that role. And the best way to do it is to see it as a core part of your day to day. I think the key though, is really to be able to show that this drives outcomes as well. Right? By, you know, having evidence that upskilling, continuous learning, helps you drive outcomes both in your current job but also in terms of your long term career as well, helps build that buy-in, so it becomes embedded in and of your day to day activity, versus something that you see as just an add on.

Jane  

So how is Coursera, beyond just providing the learning materials, how is Coursera supporting the NHS in this process? What's your role I guess?

Hadi

Yeah, our role in this was to help kind of create these courses with Imperial College right? And, you know, defining what are some of the key areas where we could support in terms of upscaling? What are some of the key, you know, skills gaps that we could support with? And really, our goal would be to involve as many people as possible, both kind of clinical and non clinical staff, to have them go through these courses. And again, which would help them respond to you know, future public health challenges. So, that's really kind of the the objective here, really helping in terms of how we can further enhance their skills. And you know, we're always looking at opportunities in terms of how we can continue to support going forward and where there are specific skills areas Coursera can support with alongside some of the both industry partners, but also university partners that we work with. And maybe just kind of to set the context a little bit more about Coursera. The way we think about Coursera, it's a skills based platform, right. And we help kind of companies, we help universities, we help you know, the public sector to develop the skills that are needed for, you know, the specific roles within the areas that they operate in. And we're always again, looking at opportunities where we can support the public sector, in this case, we'll continue to look at opportunities in terms of where we can support the NHS.

Rory   

It's interesting when you're talking about liaising directly with the NHS, liaising directly with Imperial College to support skills and the specific needs of roles. Are upskilling courses generally better suited like this on a company by company basis, or on the whole are they better as sort of broad industry specific training, which can be accessed by the employees of many different companies?

Hadi

Yeah, no, I think it's a very good question. And overall, I would say we see some of the same gaps across companies, right? And across the public sector. If you look at, again, many of the research that has been done, the World Economic Forum for example has done a lot of research on this, if you look at kind of the top 10 jobs where there is increasing demand, and so the key skills that are required it is typically things like data scientist, machine learning specialists, digital marketing. We consistently see the need for these types of skills across many of the companies. And so as a result, that is what our platform can help provide in this case, it's the skills specifically for those jobs. Now, we can deliver that across companies, but some companies will also have some very specific needs for roles within their enterprises. And in that case, they would develop effectively a programme that incorporates some of the content that we provide to help develop those skills with, you know, training that is much more specific to those companies. And so we do we see companies that you know, adapt a hybrid model where they can effectively use this content that applies across the board, but then complement it with, you know, skills that may be much more specific to their needs?

Jane  

Hadi, is it worth companies investing in young employees who are newly qualified? So I don't mean people who are coming into apprenticeships, or just people who have finished their A-Levels coming in. I'm thinking more of, say, graduates who have literally just left university, whether that's coming into really any kind of job these people have just had a whole bunch of training, do they need new training on top of that? Or do they need to bed in for a bit before getting underway with some kind of CPD.

Hadi

I think we do see kind of this need to start developing talent, even at a younger age. And I think specifically around the, bridging the gap in terms of the skills that are needed for your job, versus you know, what you are taught at uni right? And I think we do see that there is some gap that can be bridged, especially as part of your onboarding to a new company, by getting access to more of the practical skills, or the specific skills that you need for that job. We're actually also seeing many universities adopt a model where they integrate into their curriculum, some of the industry content, for example that we have on the platform, or content from other universities, as well as a way to really help prepare and have those graduates going into specific jobs. But we do see a need from companies to really invest in the skills that are needed for that specific job when they have new talent and young talent that joins their company.

Rory   

So with the cost of living crisis happening right now, a lot of companies are reevaluating their strategies, they're looking at ways of increasing retention on staff or looking at cost cutting measures. How does upskilling factor into this industry wide reevaluation of spending?

Hadi

Yeah, it is a very important factor, I would say what we are seeing, you know, with a lot of the companies that we work with, they are very focused on retention in the current environment. And as a result, they see providing a learning upskilling solution, and helping people and their employees to continue to develop their skills as a key part of that retention proposition. Because, you know, effectively employees will see it as the company really investing in them, helping create opportunities for them. And also investing in their long term career as well. And many companies would also look to tie it into how they can help them progress, even within the company too. And so we are seeing a really big focus, and I guess, in this kind of environment an increasing focus on retention, and using upskilling and helping the employees develop their skills as a key part of that retention proposition.

Jane  

And I guess following on from that, there are some companies who are very invested in continuous professional development, they believe in upskilling their employees as part of a retention thing, and just, you know, it can benefit the company as well. The more knowledgeable your employees are, the more they have to offer effectively. But other companies are far more hesitant. They're worried that they're going to upskill these employees, and then the employees are going to leave with all that information. What would you say to the second category of companies who have these fears?

Hadi

Yeah, I mean in general what we see around retention is your talent leaves due to lack of career development, right? And that is kind of a problem that we see, you know, across across the board. And that's something that many of our customers and, you know, our clients share with us. So if that is kind of one of the fundamental reason why you lose some of the talent that you have, I think investing in skills, and then investing in their career development is really the best way to be able to retain that talent. It's a little bit of a circular argument to some extent. So if you don't kind of invest in your talent, there is a sure way of losing that talent to, you know, your competition, to other industries, etc. But if you really fundamentally believe that people are going to drive your business, the best way to retain them is to help them build the skills, and then create the right career development opportunities for them. And that's what many of our customers again, and clients we see, are adopting this at this point and more significantly investing in upskilling and in general learning and development for their people.

Rory   

And do you find that most upskilling courses that companies are signing up to are more on the technical side? Is that dominating courses right now? Or is there quite a lot of focus on the social, maybe environmental and governance, EDI courses?

Hadi

Yeah, I think we see a combination. So again, if you go back to some of the key skills that are in demand and where we expect, you know, that demand to continue, it is very much around those technical areas, especially around data analysis, machine learning, these are areas that we are seeing companies across all industries effectively, require those types of skills and are investing very heavily in data and digital skills. Same thing, you know, with the general trend towards more remote working and making sure that, you know, the workforce is digitally literate as well, that again applies across all industries. And we see, you know, companies investing those skills. But you know, at the same time I think there is a big focus, especially in this type of environment where things are changing quickly, it is sometimes difficult to manage in this type of environment, where company, there are also a lot of changes within companies. We see a lot of investment in leadership, for example, and our leadership academy and courses within that is another big area of investment that we see today. And then the other area is what you mentioned around  D&I, and I think diversity and inclusion has absolutely become top of the agenda for many companies. And as a result, that's another area where we are seeing significant investment. And a lot of these really apply across different industries. And you know, our priorities for very different types of clients at this point.

Jane  

I read this morning that we are entering into, or possibly are already in, a recession that is going to be shallow, but long. So coming out of it roughly 2024. How is this going to impact the level of investment in technical and other skills that businesses, and indeed the public sector, are willing to put in to their employees?

Hadi

It's a very good question, and one actually that we have discussed also with many of the private and public sector customers that we work with. I think we are heartened to hear that in many cases, you know, most of them would really want to continue to invest in upskilling, in developing the skills in learning and development. For many of the reasons that we mentioned earlier, some of the long term trends that are really having an impact on businesses in the public sector. So I do believe that they will maintain that investment. There is also, if you look at the UK government for example, one of the commitments from the Prime Minister during the campaign was making the UK a technology superpower. And I think it is hard to see how that can be achieved without a significant investment in in upskilling. Because at the end of the of the day, the UK has many of the components to become that technology superpower right? There is, when you look at the research infrastructure that exists, when you think that there are four out of the top 10 universities based here in the UK, when you see how the tech ecosystem in general is expanding, and the level of funding that many of the startups in the UK are attracting at this point, and then even the number of unicorns that are being created in the country. So there are many of the components. But I think it still lacks a really key and very important component here. And that is the skills, right? If you look at kind of the UK technology skills proficiency, it is still underdeveloped. We have something called the Coursera Global Skills Report that effectively ranks learner competency of 100 countries across different sets of skills like business technology, data science. And we've actually found in our 2022 report, which we released recently, that the UK actually lags behind most of Europe, and it only places 42nd globally, when it comes to technology proficiency. Even in the strongest category, which was data science for the UK, it's still placed at number 28. Right. That kind of shows, I guess, that one of the key components that is really required for the UK to become a technology superpower is around skills. And that is why we believe that there is this need to continue investing in skills, even in this type of environment, to be able to drive the outcomes that both the private sector and the public sector are looking for in this case. 

Rory   

Hadi, thanks so much for your time and for being on the show. 

Hadi

Thank you for having me.

Jane  

As always, you can find links to all of the topics we've spoken about today in the show notes and even more on our website at itpro.co.uk. 

Rory   

You can also follow us on social media, as well as subscribe to our daily newsletter. Don't forget to subscribe to the IT Pro Podcast wherever you find podcasts. And if you're enjoying the show, leave us a rating and a review. 

Jane  

We'll be back next week with more from the world of IT. But until then, goodbye.

Rory

Goodbye

Featured Resources

2023 Strategic roadmap for data security platform convergence

Capitalise on your data and share it securely using consolidated platforms

Free Download

The 3D trends report

Presenting one of the most exciting frontiers in visual culture

Free Download

The Total Economic Impact™ of IBM Cloud Pak® for Watson AIOps with Instana

Cost savings and business benefits

Free Download

Leverage automated APM to accelerate CI/CD and boost application performance

Constant change to meet fast-evolving application functionality

Free Download

Recommended

Podcast transcript: Boosting productivity in the IT department
productivity

Podcast transcript: Boosting productivity in the IT department

3 Feb 2023
Podcast transcript: The problem with APIs
application programming interface (API)

Podcast transcript: The problem with APIs

27 Jan 2023
Podcast transcript: Building recession-proof architecture
Development

Podcast transcript: Building recession-proof architecture

20 Jan 2023
Podcast transcript: Going passwordless
enterprise security

Podcast transcript: Going passwordless

6 Jan 2023

Most Popular

Warning issued over ransomware attacks targeting VMware ESXi servers globally
cyber attacks

Warning issued over ransomware attacks targeting VMware ESXi servers globally

6 Feb 2023
ION Trading reportedly pays LockBit ransom demands
ransomware

ION Trading reportedly pays LockBit ransom demands

6 Feb 2023
Tips for Boosting your Organisation’s Security Posture with Encryption
Sponsored

Tips for Boosting your Organisation’s Security Posture with Encryption

6 Feb 2023