While any professional can aspire to continue soaking up new knowledge on the job, companies can play a major role in putting them in place to actually do so. 

Upskilling — that is, giving employees the chance to pick up new proficiencies — is an important way for any individual to expand their toolkit, allowing them to take on new opportunities and continue developing professionally. Be it through providing relevant tools, resources, or programs, companies’ efforts can pay ample professional dividends — for both employees and the organization itself.

“Providing professional growth opportunities to our employees is a no-brainer,” Jason Maas, COO of IT consulting outfit Appetitive, said. “It not only ensures quality solutions for our clients, but also the development and career advancement of our people.”

That acquisition of new skills can come about through different means. At software developer Focused Labs, for example, industry certifications (rewarded with spot bonuses) and dedicated periods  — or “Focused hours” — are means through which team members are able to expand their toolkits.

Resources such as learning stipends, course subscriptions, and informational talks are just a few ways three Windy City organizations put their team members in place to keep learning on the job.

 

JT Trotto
HEAD OF PEOPLE AND OPERATIONS

A recent upskilling success story at Focused Labs? Head of People and Operations JT Trotto said that leveraging their bounty program and “Focused hours” were crucial in team members’ ability in supporting a client’s COVID-19 response application.

 

What opportunities do people on your team have for upskilling and professional development?

We provide ample opportunity for employees to upskill and work on their own professional development. Two of my favorite opportunities are our bounty program and our dedicated “Focused hours.”

We pay “bounties,” or spot bonuses when employees complete industry-recognized certifications and achievements. Resume builders, such as the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) certificate, the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) certificate, and the Google Cloud certificate could earn a team member thousands of dollars in bonuses. Not only do we want you to upskill — we want to reward you for doing it.

“Focused hours” give employees 5 percent of their time to upskill by doing things like preparing for a bounty certificate or working on a passion project. So, not only are we paying team members a bounty bonus to upskill, but we are also providing the company time to do it. 

 

Why have you decided to invest in these kinds of opportunities for your team?

We believe that providing team members opportunities to upskill is not only the right thing to do for our team, but it’s also a win-win for us and our clients too. Being in the services consulting business, we aim to provide our clients with highly skilled and credentialed consultants. Allocating resources to our team to invest in professional development just makes sense to us.
 

Allocating resources to our team to invest in professional development just makes sense to us.”


Whats an example of a time when upskilling drove innovation at your company?

Our clients expect us to provide dynamic consultants who can be experts in many settings. Recently, we have been running Kubernetes clusters for one of the country’s largest COVID-19 response applications. By using bounties, “Focused hours” and book clubs, we were able to rapidly upskill our team and scale our client’s infrastructure with zero downtime and low latency to deliver COVID-19 test results to millions of people in the United States.

 

Jason Maas
COO

According to Aptitive COO Jason Maas, taking advantage of training stipends, study sessions and topic-specific, “The More You Know” informational talks are a handful of ways that employees can expand their skill sets.

 

What opportunities do people on your team have for upskilling and professional development?

While we have many ways that our team members can upskill and develop professionally, the primary avenues are through an annual training stipend, various study groups, and Friday “The More You Know” sessions.

Our annual training stipend allows employees to choose the right training to address career development areas that will help them advance their careers. They can use this to get a certification for a technology, take a class that interests them or attends an event. The training stipend helps to cover certification fees and the costs of testing materials. 

We organize bi-monthly “The More You Know” sessions discussing various topics such as investing, mentoring, and networking in a virtual world. Additionally, our employees also benefit from monthly certification study groups that promote a group-learning style. For example, we currently have an AWS Certification study group. With these study groups, consultants within our company can get together and improve their skills, learning from one another and other outside sources.
 

Why have you decided to invest in these kinds of opportunities for your team?

Our team members have the freedom to use their technical background and creative problem-solving to make a direct impact on our clients. Providing professional growth opportunities to our employees is a no-brainer. It not only ensures quality solutions for our clients, but also the development and career advancement of our people.
 

Upskilling constantly drives innovation at our company.”


Whats an example of a time when upskilling drove innovation at your company?

Upskilling constantly drives innovation at our company. Upskilling has resulted in employee career advancement, new partnerships with technology companies, and improving and/or creating new service offerings. As our consultants grow their technical and professional skills, it challenges us as a company to continually provide new and creative ways to advance their careers.

 

Jeffrey Sharpe
SOFTWARE ENGINEERING MANAGER

“We view investing in learning opportunities a vital component of two of our core values: ‘We Value People’ and ‘We Aim High,’” Jeffrey Sharpe, software engineering manager, said. Team members of an HR tech company — whose service connects employees with perks and discounts — can level up through tools like Pluralsight subscriptions and engineer-hosted lunch-and-learns.

 

What opportunities do people on your team have for upskilling and professional development?

Our team is exposed to a clear, well-defined career progression plan so they can track their progress against the next track with their manager. Our team is provided a Pluralsight subscription, and many engineers on our team integrate Pluralsight courses into their career progression plan. One of our engineers used Pluralsight to study for (and pass) a Microsoft Certification exam. In addition, our engineers host occasional lunch-and-learns to bring new ideas and knowledge to the team.

 

Why have you decided to invest in these kinds of opportunities for your team?

We view investing in learning opportunities as a vital component of two of our core values: “We Value People” and “We Aim High.” We are investing in our engineers’ careers by offering and encouraging learning opportunities, and we give them an opportunity to aim high and bring something new to our development.
 

We are investing in our engineers’ careers by offering and encouraging learning opportunities.”


Whats an example of a time when upskilling drove innovation at your company?

Most of our front-end code is legacy and not in the best shape. Our developers had an opportunity and the desire to improve upon it. Through a joint effort, they learned ReactJS and have started bringing it to several parts of our application. The difference in the quality of our UI in the old code versus the new code is astounding. As its usage increases, we know our users will love it.