As the working world continues to change, the skills employees need to succeed are also constantly evolving. Managers can’t count on ad hoc afternoon learning sessions to sufficiently reskill teams in a discipline that’s revolutionizing their industry.

To help their companies stay competitive, technical team leads are opting for a comprehensive training solution called a Skills Academy to proactively focus on industry trends and the organization’s long-term strategy.

What is a Skills Academy?

A Skills Academy is a place — whether virtual or physical — where employees learn, collaborate, and share.

Skills Academies (also sometimes called Capability Academies) rely on ownership and governance from executive leaders. To create a Skills Academy, leaders must analyze which capabilities are essential for the business to thrive and stay competitive.

What exactly is a capability?

According to L&D expert Josh Bersin, a capability is the sum of the skills, knowledge, and experiences your employees need to help the business achieve its goals.

Why do Skills Academies matter?

Research from McKinsey finds that in order for organizations to compete globally, training must focus on broad capability building across all levels of the workforce to drive “deep and lasting cultural changes, agile and cross-functional collaboration, and rapid scaling.”

What do Skills Academies encompass?

They’re in-depth training initiatives that develop and sustain capabilities to support business strategies and function areas.

These types of Academies are becoming popular learning programs with Udemy for Business customers. Booz Allen Hamilton, for example, is retraining thousands of employees as data scientists to accommodate a data science-focused shift the organization sees with its clients. 

Based on Udemy for Business customer best practices, we’ve compiled 7 components of building an effective technical Skills Academy. We’ll preview a few of the components here. Download the full ebook and interactive workbook to read about all 7 and create an action plan for implementing a Skills Academy at your organization.

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Building your Skills Academy: Essential components

1. Identify business objectives

To secure executive buy-in for a Skills Academy, your training program should be centered on your organization’s business objectives.

When crafting these objectives, instead of “Train 250 employees in data science skills” — which focuses on output rather than business outcome — try to write metrics like: “Increase customer retention through targeted data-driven advertising.” The framing of the latter links the importance of education to competitive industry trends. 

McKinsey suggests that demonstrating how training ladders into a long-term strategy allows stakeholders across departments and levels to understand the importance of supporting capability-based learning.

2. Offer opportunities for blended & social learning

In the past, blended learning programs meant combining classroom and online learning. Today, a blended learning experience means layering classroom learning and online learning with a variety of digital technologies and L&D practices to grow beyond blended learning and become social learning.

A Skills Academy leveraging an engaging social learning strategy could include online courses and in-person learning sessions as well as: 

Lunch and Learns

Bring online learning in person by hosting facilitated sessions where learners watch a lesson together. A host breaks up the viewing with pauses for discussion, reflection, or organizing participants into small groups to solve mini-projects, recreating the flow of work experience. 

Online social forums

Workplace chat services make great learning and discussion channels. As they move through the academy, employees can use a designated Slack channel to discuss how to apply the technical skills they’re learning to specific projects at your company. 

Case study webinars

Host webinars on how the technologies and skills taught in the Academy can or are already being applied to company-specific projects. If these projects don’t yet exist, have the host walk through industry examples relevant to your company.

This is just a sample of the Skills Academy framework Udemy for Business developed based on insights and successes from our customers. As a new decade begins, Skills Academies are emerging as the training model that will propel companies into future successes. Download our new ebook and workbook for a step-by-step guide to planning and launching your own Skills Academy.