Upskilling employees - strategies and how to

The ultimate guide to upskilling employees

The ultimate guide to upskilling employees

As a hiring manager, you may be looking for ways to define your workforce from that of competitors. With a talented group of employees, you can increase productivity and outperform other companies that are trying to achieve similar goals. Below, you can learn more about upskilling employees, including a definition of this practice and various strategies for implementing it.

What does it mean to upskill employees?

Upskilling employees is the process of providing training and education to employees so they can refine their competencies. As a result, employees can improve their work performance and remain relevant within the industry in which they work. As an example, you may consider a software company whose leadership wants to compete with another business that's growing at a faster rate. The hiring manager may facilitate the upskilling of the company's employees by having them all commit to learning a new programming language.

How is upskilling different from reskilling?

As a business decision-maker or hiring manager, you may have heard the terms upskilling and reskilling before. While some people may use them interchangeably, there are key differences to note. Upskilling is the process of providing employees with the resources they need to refine and expand upon their current skills.

Reskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills that don't relate to their current position. For example, a hiring manager can help reskill a web developer who wants to work as an accountant. Nearly 57% of employees in the U.S. want to update their skills, so you can benefit from implementing upskilling or reskilling in the workplace.

Benefits of upskilling employees for employers

Here are some benefits of upskilling employees for employers:

  • It increases employee retention, meaning that employers don't have to dedicate as many resources to hiring and training new staff members.
  • It can introduce cost savings to a company.
  • It can be an effective recruiting strategy when a company needs to hire new personnel.
  • It creates a culture of learning and promotes employee satisfaction, teamwork, and morale.
  • It narrows skill gaps between employees within the same organization so everyone can contribute more equally.

Benefits of upskilling employees for employees

As an employer who wants to manage employees' talents, it's important that they benefit from the upskilling process as well. Here are some benefits of upskilling that employees can enjoy:

  • Upskilling promotes individual career advancement and professional development.
  • Upskilling makes individual employees more adaptable so they can remain current with changes that may arise from automated processes or leadership adjustments.
  • Upskilling helps individual employees feel more confident in their abilities, which can lead to greater productivity, higher personal satisfaction, and better morale overall.

"Upskilling makes individual employees more adaptable so they can remain current with changes that may arise from automated processes or leadership adjustments."

How organizations implement upskilling opportunities

Here are some strategies you can use to help an organization implement upskilling opportunities:

Identify priority areas and skill gaps

One effective way to implement upskilling is to first identify priority areas within an organization. Determine the goals on which the company wants to focus. For example, a company may want to ensure that its marketing and sales teams are capitalizing on the use of social media to expand its online presence. Once you understand a company's primary goals, you can assess the skills of your employees.

Conduct a skills gap analysis of your employees and team leaders. Determine what skills they're lacking so you can prioritize areas of development. You can determine the organization's immediate need for skills, and you can also anticipate what skills it may need over the next several years.

Ensure your employees understand your commitment to improving their skills

You can also implement effective upskilling methods by ensuring employee buy-in before you commence them. Begin by communicating the advantages that the employees can experience thanks to your upskilling plans. Ensure that they know they'll have the right tools, including extra training materials and time availability, to refine their skills according to your plans. Relay the message that the company and the employees want to become better together to create a sense of unity within the organization.

Set realistic and measurable goals

When you allow employees to refine their skills, it's important to give them standards by which they can abide. Instead of creating a one-size-fits-all approach, you can adjust the standards for each employee. Consider each employee's experience level and current skill set when you're establishing goals for them to meet. When the goals are realistic, they may have more motivation to work toward them.

It's also important to make the goals specific and measurable. For example, you may set a goal for an employee to become proficient in a new spreadsheet program by the end of three months. You can measure this goal by their performance on a certification test. While it's important to place time restrictions on goals to promote productivity, you can create some leeway for potential technological disruptions or busy periods in which the employee would need to devote their attention elsewhere.

Allow employees ownership of the skills they develop

You can encourage upskilling by granting employees ownership of the skills they develop. For example, you may allow them to choose what skills they want to develop. If you have specific ideas, give them a list of options to choose from each time they set a new goal. You may also let them take accountability for their learning by allowing them to decide when to work on their skills.

Determine the best learning format for your employees

When employees are participating in upskilling, it's important for them to engage in the appropriate learning method. Before any training begins, you can decide on the best learning format by considering the available resources, learning objectives, and learning requirements. One learning format is training that's instructor-led, whether it be in-person or virtual. An in-person instructor may be able to offer more personalized help to each employee who has questions, but a virtual instructor can cater to a larger audience of employees who may work remotely.

Another potential learning method for upskilling is peer-to-peer learning. This method is more affordable, as it allows current employees to learn from each other without enlisting the training services of a third party. Employees may have unique skills or knowledge that they can share with one another. In addition to the development of hard skills, employees can help each other improve their soft skills, thanks to the collaboration and active listening that this method requires. Still, other learning formats include mentorships, apprenticeships, job rotations, and online self-learning programs.

Give upskilled employees the opportunity to apply for new opportunities

Once employees undergo training to improve their skills, it's likely that they'll want to apply their newfound skills to fresh opportunities. Give them the chance to apply for new opportunities within the workplace. While upskilled employees may not transition into new departments completely, they may want a role with more responsibility or varying duties.

As you can see, upskilling employees can have amazing benefits for your organization. When you implement strategies like identifying skill gaps and creating realistic goals, you can help employees expand their existing skill sets and achieve professional development. The tips in this article should help you improve employee retention and achieve cost savings within your organization.

More tips for upskilling employees:

Want to help talented employees work with one another? Learn how to build successful teams.

Review how to give your employees the opportunities they desire by learning about the American dream.

Want to retain the top talent you already have? Learn about conducting stay interviews.

Are your employees feeling overwhelmed by the current job landscape? Learn how to help your employees thrive.

Looking for ways to remain competitive in your industry? Read about what innovation looks like.

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