Why Upskilling Will Futureproof Your Public Sector Role

The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report predicts significant changes in the skills, abilities and attitude employers will be looking for in 2020 and the next decade.  

In the current challenging marketplace, the Local Government Association has recently discussed upskilling and retraining public sector workplace employees to help build strong, resilient economies that have a shared vision and goals for future success. 

Fundamental to this success will be ensuring a workforce of individuals with the right skills who can adapt to the future job markets. 

The public sector currently faces many challenges - including a housing crisis and growing social care needs – but also opportunities from automation, technology, global competition, the gig economy and extended working lives of individuals. To ensure success, it will need to equip itself with a workforce who are fully supported to maximise their skill set. 

Against this background, what can you do to ensure you are future-proofing your role in the public sector?  
In this article, I look at the training and development skills to focus on and then how to develop those skills to make sure you remain not only employable but acquire relevant additional skills to enable your career to grow - helping you achieve your aspirations. 
But firstly, let's take a quick look at the facts surrounding the current skills shortage.  
The Skills Gap 

Without a doubt, employees are the lifeblood of the public sector. And as more is invested in digital transformation, it's crucial to ensure that those working within the sector have the skills, training and resources to maintain an excellent service to the public. 
Additionally, with budgets continually under pressure, it's also vital to realise that any digital project success depends on having the skilled staff to operate and complement it with additional skills that machines cannot replicate (more on this later).  
Alongside this, a holistic approach that focuses on cultural change is required to gain buy-in from existing employees for upskilling that will help narrow the skills gap. So, being open to development is your priority in future-proofing your public sector role. 
What Skills Should I Focus On? 
For the public sector, whose primary focus is on knowledge workers, there will be changes as technology progresses. Employees will be able to devote more time to planning and thought-based work, allowing technology to pick up routine tasks.  
In other words, as systemisation grows in the workplace, the more likely it is that the need for soft skills will climb too. 
Whatever your organisation, some traits simply can't be replicated by machines, and that means that by keeping up to date with soft skills, you will future-proof your employability.  
According to LinkedIn's 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers agree that soft skills are becoming increasingly important, making them just as necessary as having technical or 'hard' skills. 
Soft skills, such as communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, resilience and collaboration, are essential. In essence, these will be the skills that will help you not only do your current job but enable you to build your skillset for future roles.  
In an ever-evolving and highly competitive marketplace, these critical abilities form your effective strategy for personal development and growth.  
How Can I Develop My Soft Skills? 
There are several steps you can take to help future-proof your public sector role, build your knowledge base and help you achieve your career ambitions. Let's take a closer look at some of them that will help you stay relevant in the workplace: - 

The first of these is to be aware that you need to develop your skills. Learning doesn't end on graduation day or when you receive a certificate after leaving college. It's an ongoing process, and by engaging with lifelong learning, you will open yourself up to the endless opportunities for growth. 


Once you have acknowledged your need for continual knowledge growth, it's time to think about the skills you need to develop. 

Concentrate initially on those you need now to do your current job, and then later you can think about what skills you would like to learn to enable you to move forward on your career path. 

Ask for Advice 
It's worth talking to peers, senior managers or mentors to get their advice on training and development, and to help you prioritise and set goals. If you don't have one already, talk to your manager about a personal development plan which will enable you to effectively plan your progress, setting milestones along the way and allowing you to keep track of your success.  

Take a Class 
Learning takes place in many forms, and by trying different options, you will find what works best for you. From formal classroom learning to online courses, you can enhance existing skills and learn new ones such as digital marketing.  

Many courses allow you to study at your own pace at your desk, keeping travel costs and time out of the office to a minimal. Also useful are Ted talks, webinars and podcasts – most of which are free to use. 

Additionally, attending seminars and events, where you will have the opportunity to network with public sector peers, provides an excellent forum for the exchange of information and ideas. 

And remember, it isn't all about your formal qualifications. Those soft skills courses such as diversity and equality, awareness and communication skills are the ones that will set you apart from others and make you a valuable leader for any organisation. 

Request Honest Feedback 
As part of your learning journey, it's useful to ask for feedback from colleagues. This can help you recognise your successes and where there are areas for development. 

Whether you have been in your senior position for many years, or are new to the role - honest and transparent feedback is critical in acknowledging your 'blind spots' - those areas where you may not have recognised developmental need. 
Why Upskilling is Critical for Your Future 

Investing in continual learning and development will ensure your current skills don't become obsolete with advancements in the workplace. It will enable you to develop your future career, as well as making you happier in your current role. This will boost your morale, reinforce your commitment to your organisation and enable you to contribute to developing your workplace culture – which will also be beneficial for your team. 
Final Thoughts 

As technology advances, there will be a need for more soft skills: fact. Technology can only take your organisation so far – neglecting interpersonal knowledge such as communication, problem-solving, networking and critical thinking will see organisations struggle to keep up with others.  

Therefore, a commitment to lifelong learning and upskilling will ensure you remain competitive in the marketplace as an individual with a valuable skillset. This growth mindset will help you continually develop the skills you need for your current job and future roles, establish a clear career path, and allow you to grow and succeed.  

Successful employees who embrace learning will be able to continually evaluate future needs against current capabilities, and recognise training opportunities that ensure their continued development and ability to deliver exceptional service. 
Acknowledging these facts and developing a culture of knowledge exchange will ensure you future-proof your role and keep your organisation ahead of the curve. 

Heather Clarke 
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About Harris Burns  
Harris Burns are specialists in Executive Search and Senior Finance appointments within the Public Sector; with particular expertise in NHS, Housing and Charity Sectors.   
With over 60 years' combined experience, we have extensive knowledge of the market, proven track records and established networks, allowing us to provide a wide range of services to both clients and candidates alike.  
To learn more about how we can support you to either build your team or career, contact us on 01952 743243.