· 2 min read · Features

Skills development: vital for a happier, healthier and more engaged workforce


While skills development has not traditionally been regarded as part of the health and wellness agenda, the relationship between learning and development and employee physical and mental health is inextricable.

Skills development is not just about people doing a job better; it’s also about people feeling better about doing a job and developing confidence in their abilities. Learning promotes health and wellbeing by providing individuals with a sense of control and purpose, motivation, autonomy and self direction – all elements of ‘good work’. Helping people to feel confident, as much as competent, creates a virtuous circle that ultimately impacts not just on the health of the individual but on that of an organisation and a company’s bottom line.

Companies that promote learning and development at work as part of a broader employee wellness programme have been proven to enjoy: cost savings with improved health & safety; lower accident rates; lower sickness-related absence; improved recruitment and retention; lower production energy consumption & waste; increased sales; and enhanced employee satisfaction, morale and engagement; as well as improved customer relations. Furthermore, as companies face unprecedented pressures to perform in the wake of the global economic downturn, investing in employee health and wellness – including opportunities for skills development – is becoming more important than ever.

While training has undoubtedly been cut in some businesses, other more enlightened employers recognise that investing in the learning and development of their workforce is critical to ensuring long-term organisational sustainability. Now is precisely the time to keep investing in the skills and talent of our people; it is their commitment, productivity and ability to add value that provides much-needed competitive advantage.

At Tribal we play a role in developing learning and skills across the UK as part of our ongoing remit to improve the delivery and impact of education. We also work with private sector organisations, such as the Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s Restaurants, which invest heavily in training and undoubtedly reap the rewards – both by improving the wellbeing of their employees, as well as the competitiveness of their business. Furthermore, we endeavour to practice what we preach; firmly supporting the continuing professional and health development of our own employees, and recognising the diversity of needs within our organisation.

For others looking to develop a wellness and engagement programme, or incorporate skills within this agenda, I can offer three key pieces of advice:

1) try to be clear about what impact you want your employee wellbeing programme to have – for the organisation and for individuals,

2) be brave in the decisions you take – thinking beyond now to investing in your workforce of the future, and

3) engage your workforce in the discussions – it is important to balance their needs against those of the employer.

And in terms of bringing it all together, Business in the Community’s Workwell Model, found on www.bitc.org.uk is a valuable framework in helping to articulate the benefits to your board of taking a strategic, holistic approach to employee wellness and engagement.

Barry Brooks, strategic development director, Tribal, and member of the BITC Workwell Leadership Team 

Find out more from business leaders at the BITC Workwell Summit on 10th May,