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Developing essential skills at work

Essential skills are in demand

Skills are heading for disruption over the next five years, with employers estimating that this will impact 44% of workers, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work report.

Training will be required for six in ten workers before 2027, yet right now only half of workers are seen to have sufficient training opportunities. Taking the top spot for in demand future skills are essential skills problem solving and creativity, while solid leadership skills will also be required to bring development initiatives to the fore. 

Whatever sector you work in, or the technical responsibilities of your role, it looks like you will need to build these essential skills for the future, for yourself, or within your business.

The power of essential skills

Essential skills are those highly transferable skills like problem solving, teamwork and leadership that you need for almost any job. These eight skills are codified and broken down into measurable, teachable components in the Skills Builder Universal Framework, the leading approach to measuring and developing essential skills.

Employers looking to strengthen their organisational adaptiveness to change, should start by investing in this highly adaptable and in-demand skillset. When we look at our skills research, it’s apparent that the case for essential skills in learning and development is only growing.

Eighty-three percent of UK workers would like more opportunities to build essential skills, while 92% believe that they should form part of professional development. The employee experience of building these skills with the Universal Framework is resoundingly positive: 100% of those surveyed said they wanted to continue with more opportunities in future. (Trailblazers report, 2022)

Essential skills are very important in my role because I need to be able to motivate people from across the organisation to be involved in different projects and opportunities, being most of the time extra activities in their day to day.”

– Employee, HS2, Trailblazers report 2022

89% of employees who benefited from learning & development using the Universal Framework believe it improved their performance, and 75% felt more engaged in their work. Three quarters of employees reported an improvement in their essential skill levels, with 63% of this improvement attributed to the Universal Framework building awareness and confidence. (Trailblazers report, 2022)

Essential skills make a difference

Businesses cannot afford to overlook the additional benefits that building essential skills offers. People with higher levels of essential skills report higher life satisfaction, can access a wage premium of up to £4,600 each year, and are more satisfied with their job.

For employers concerned about retention or engagement, it is likely that a focus on these skills has a significantly higher return on investment than increasing their salaries. Building employees’ essential skills is therefore not just about productivity and the bottom line, but also a core part of being a responsible business.

Making the most of existing opportunities to incorporate essential skills

"The sooner you start, the better: there is a huge benefit to be had by working with Skills Builder when you are at the development stage. This will make it even easier to focus learning content on skills throughout while also making the sessions impactful."

– PwC, employer partner, Trailblazers report 2022

Opportunities to embed essential skills likely already exist within your organisation. Examining what you do through the lens of the Skills Builder approach will help identify where and how you can start to incorporate them. This could be reviewing content and tools to find areas that naturally work well with essential skills, for example linking your values to our principles and skills icons. 

Aligning upcoming projects or responsibilities with the relevant essential skill step can demonstrate to employees that they are building essential skills alongside their technical skills.This works well at the start, as you raise awareness of essential skills within your organisation.

You could go further, working with our team of experts to create tailored, co-branded training resources and sessions. Training managers to be able to identify and assess essential skills can also be hugely beneficial, as they become confident in having fruitful line management conversations and highlighting their employees’ areas for development. 

The Framework provides a useful basis for personal development discussions with direct reports and highlights areas for improvement.” 

– Manager, The Brilliant Club

Work with us on your project 

All organisations who partner with us work towards gaining an Excellence Mark, either for a specific project or for your organisation as a whole. The entry point is to start introducing essential skills and raising awareness of their importance. 

At the outset, you might see a lot of different ways the framework could help the business. Start with an area where you’ll see the biggest gains most quickly and use that as a blueprint for the rest of the business 

– AKW, employer partner, Trailblazers report 2022

If you’re considering how essential skills might benefit an existing project coming up this summer, please get in contact to find out how we might be able to assist.  

Our insights

The Trailblazers Report

The report draws on our national research with YouGov and surveys and case studies with pioneering employers and employees who have leveraged this rigorous approach to tackle problems within their organisation. It brings you practical insights on how and why to build essential skills into your business. 

The Essential Skills Tracker 2023

This is the second paper in the Essential Skills Tracker annual research series, assessing the state of the UK’s essential skills through a nationally representative sample of the working age population, administered by YouGov. New findings in the Essential Skills Tracker 2023 from Skills Builder, in partnership with CIPD, Edge Foundation and KPMG, reveals that essential skills are a missing piece in the UK’s productivity puzzle.