Only one in four lower-skilled workers encouraged to gain the skills needed to progress at work  - Business in the Community

Only one in four lower-skilled workers encouraged to gain the skills needed to progress at work 

Business in the Community (BITC), The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, has today published new research, showing that just one in four lower-skilled workers have been encouraged to gain the skills needed for more senior roles, compared to six in 10 higher-skilled workers. 

The research, conducted by YouGov, also found that lower-skilled workers are less likely to feel that their current job makes good use of their skills and abilities, with 55% of lower-skilled workers saying this, compared to 76% of higher-skilled workers. 

Almost half of lower-skilled workers also reported that they knew which skills they would need to progress in their careers, compared to seven in 10 higher-skilled workers. In addition, nearly half of all lower-skilled workers are far less likely to believe that they have an equal opportunity to advance in their career regardless of their personal characteristics or circumstances (45%), compared to two thirds of higher-skilled workers. 

The research also found that only one in 10 lower-skilled workers have undertaken any training or development activities in their current roles, compared to five in 10 higher-skilled workers.  

BITC’s ‘Upskilling for All’ project, in collaboration with Phoenix Group, calls on businesses to put in place the following three building blocks for effective upskilling:  

  1. implementing an effective data strategy so that they can identify where skills gaps lie, 
  2. ensuring that line managers are supportive and supported so that they can encourage and support their direct reports to develop, and  
  3. creating a culture of continuous learning across the business so that employees are driven to engage with learning and development opportunities. 

Kate Carr, Employment and Skills Manager at Business in the Community,said: 

“All employees should have equal opportunities for progression and development, regardless of the seniority of their role. Employers should work to ensure that no one is left behind and that everyone has access to training and development activities, so they can develop the skills they need to help them progress in their careers. Lower-skilled employees should be encouraged to take on new development opportunities and should be supported to identify the skills they need to progress in their careers, so that they can break out of the low skill, low pay cycle.” 

Cath Sermon, Head of Public Engagement and Campaigns at Phoenix Group, said: 

“What people need and want from work changes throughout their lives. It’s clear companies need to do more to support their employees at all levels, throughout their careers, as part of improving efforts around engaging and retaining their workforce.   

“For individuals, lifelong learning is becoming the vital ingredient to job security. All workers should be given the opportunity to upskill, so that no one gets left behind. Upskilling not only benefits individuals, helping them to develop and thrive throughout their longer and sometimes more complex working lives, but also benefits employers, allowing them to identify and address skills gaps in their organisations.” 

Examples of business action  

How Ricoh UK uses data to identify and develop talent and leadership potential 

Ricoh UK’s talent programme has been designed to identify and develop talent and leadership potential within the organisation, with a particular focus on the top female talent, and to foster cross-functional knowledge by breaking down silos across the business. To achieve this, Ricoh UK adopted the Wave-i solution developed by Saville Assessment, a leading provider of psychometric assessments to assess and develop potential and performance in the workplace.  

The initiative was split into two cohorts consisting of senior people managers and their direct reports. All participants completed the Saville Assessment’s Wave Professional Styles questionnaire, which powers the Wave-i solution, with the results feeding into multiple objectives of the programme. 

From the organisational perspective, the main objective was to create an overall view of Ricoh UK’s leadership potential with the ability to drill down into divisional pictures of talent potential. 

On an individual level, the data informed nominations for mentoring, sponsorship, and other training and development initiatives. All participating employees were provided with career development advice and actionable suggestions through a personalised career development report. These reports fed into the employees’ end-of-year performance reviews and setting of development plans for the year ahead.  

As Rebecca Rodger, Apprentice & Talent Development Manager at Ricoh UK, explains: “The process was not about Ricoh telling people what they are going to be, rather about facilitating change and instigating conversations about potential with individuals and what leadership development would look like for them.” 

How Capita’s common language of skills aids development across the whole organisation 

Capita, a global leader in business process outsourcing and professional services, recognised the importance of staying ahead in the skills and competencies game and ensuring the development of their workforce. Through the implementation of its Career Pathway Framework (CPF), the company is making training and upskilling more accessible to everyone in the business.  

Capita initiated its CPF by creating a set of behavioural and leadership competencies for the whole organisation and conducted a thoughtful analysis to ensure that the competencies resonated with colleagues globally, aligning with current and future needs.  

The result was a set of ten behavioural competencies applicable to all employees, and seven leadership competencies for every leader in any hierarchy and to aspiring leaders, making this development accessible to anyone with the aspiration to lead. 

For Zia Aftab, Group Performance and Development Manager at Capita, the use of a common language became pivotal, “from a language perspective, we needed to ensure that we articulated the descriptions so the people could relate to them, and they understood what the competency was what knowledge and experience they needed, and actually, how could they demonstrate it within their role.” 

Capita’s CPF served as the foundation for various programmes launched across the organisation, such as the Management and Leadership Academy and our Professional Development opportunities, which rely on the behavioural competencies outlined in the framework. These competencies are a point of reference and serve as a guiding light for employees irrespective of their location within the global organisation. 

In addition to the behavioural competencies, Capita recognised the importance of integrating technical elements into their CPF and creating specific career family structures to define pathways for employees, both vertically and laterally. To support upskilling and career progression, employees are encouraged to consider their developmental goals within their existing role or when transitioning to a new role. This process involves a balance between behavioural and technical competencies, in addition to gaining on-the-job experience and accessing relevant learning opportunities. 

To further enhance employees’ development, Capita mapped professional development programmes to their competency framework. Employees can now easily identify learning opportunities, from entry-level to advanced, and the organisation is able to guide and support them, ensuring that colleagues at all stages of their careers have access to relevant resources for their own development. 

To measure the impact of the CPF, Capita employs various metrics and assessments. They conduct self-assessments through tools like “My Compass” to identify development needs and track the completion of development needs analysis -DNA- and the times people access the learning resource. Although the framework is still under development, Capita intends to delve deeper into granular analysis once all career families are incorporated. 

Career Pathways Framework has had a profound impact on Capita: “It goes beyond just learning; it paves the way for a more connected, performance-driven, and culturally aligned organisation,” says Zia, and highlights that “employees now have a clear roadmap for career progression, fostering healthy conversations between managers and their teams, and boosting employee-focused growth.” 

How Coventry Building Society helps employees ‘be brilliant in their way’ 

Aspire is Coventry Building Society’s performance framework with a difference. Introduced in 2021, it was developed encourage great conversations between managers and direct reports and empower individuals to set their own goals.  

This was a result of gathering feedback from hundreds of leaders and colleagues who were frustrated with the traditional approach to performance management; feedback suggested that objectives weren’t always strategically aligned, and the process felt more like an administrative exercise rather than an effort to really drive performance. Wanting to design a new approach that would “help people to be brilliant in their way,” Coventry tasked a cohort of future leaders with creating and implementing a completely new performance framework. 

Instead of assessing past performance, Aspire asks what each individual wants to achieve. Using this system, Coventry was able for the first time to identify high-potential colleagues across all job grades; 40% of this population went on to secure new roles internally, contributing to a culture of personal growth and development. 

“Aspire has been designed to give each individual the opportunity to shine,” explains Andrew Bailey, Head of Talent. “The pandemic upended everything about modern work. We quickly recognised that it was an important moment for us to transform our approach to better align with hybrid work and the needs of our people. Rather than getting caught up in our own functions and roles, we are encouraged to think about our shared goals, and how we can support and empower each other. This helps us to focus on the right things and how we can each set our own objectives. Through Aspire, we are all encouraged to focus on the future – there aren’t any performance ratings, performance is discussed continuously through regular check-ins and reflections.” 


Notes to editor 

  1. The ‘Upskilling for All: how employers can support workers to break out of the low skill, low pay cycle’ report is available upon request. 
  2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1097 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th February – 7th March 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults in full or part-time employment in an organisation with 2 or more employees in the UK. 

For further information, please contact Polly Dacam, Press Officer, on 07713 101878.