How Upskilling Can Vastly Improve Your Business

An investment in your employees is an investment in your future as a company. That investment bears itself in the form of retention of talented employees, filling a skills gap, improved performance, and setting yourself up as a company people want to work for.

Upskilling is one way to invest in your people. Sure, some great employees will go out and learn new skills on their own. But why can’t an organization be part of that process?

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is defined as the process of providing “someone, such as an employee, with more advanced skills through additional education and training.” It’s as simple as that—teaching someone new skills. In the workplace, that means your employees.

However, this doesn’t come from giving an employee more responsibilities, which they then must learn how to do on their own. Upskilling is the intentional training and educating of your employees so they can become more well-rounded individuals. It shows a commitment to your employees in the current and future careers.

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How it Affects Your Organization

An overwhelming amount of employees say via a Gallup report that a job offering upskilling opportunities increases their satisfaction rates and overall likelihood they’d stay at that organization. About half of employees said they’d switch jobs if a company offered a position with “skills training opportunities.”

If an organization has a skills gap—meaning there is a difference in the skills an organization has and what it needs—upskilling can address that, too. Nearly seven-in-10 human resources professionals say their organization has a skills gap.

An Insight Global survey also found that three-quarters of employees were focusing on learning new skills themselves because of uncertain economic times. Have you thought of helping your employees do that while you employ them?

Upskilling Examples

Let’s bring upskilling to the workplace.

Currently, there’s a deficit of cybersecurity talent across the workforce. Cybercrime is only increasing, but there are over 500,000 cybersecurity jobs left unfilled across the United States. How can that get addressed? Upskilling.

Let’s say you need a cybersecurity analyst. Your organization has an entry-level cybersecurity specialist, but they don’t have the experience or qualifications to become an analyst just yet.

Rather than requiring your employee to seek out and pay for training, provide it to them. Not only are you investing in your employees, but you’re filling a gap with your existing resources by helping them get certified and learn the skills they need to grow.

This won’t happen overnight, but filling a role with a new hire also takes time. Plus, it will become easier to backfill the specialist role if those candidates see you’ll invest in their future, too.

Other examples of ways to upskill your employees include:

  • Offering leadership training to potential leaders within your organization, teaching them leadership skills, communication among teammates, and other vital skills
  • Starting a mentorship program where less-experienced employees learn how to grow in their field from a person with more experience
  • Supplying access to online learning platforms (such as Masterclass, Udemy, Coursera, and more)
  • Paying for an employee to take certification courses or attending conferences/webinars
  • Providing training on how to operate new software and hardware for people who aren’t proficient with them
  • Discussing proper professional social media customs with employees and teaching them how to build a brand
  • Giving an employee new responsibilities and offering hands-on training and guidance on how to carry out their new obligations
  • Enlisting industry experts or professional speakers to educate and inform your employees about how to grow as professionals

The list doesn’t stop here. Virtually any investment of time, education, and money into your employees’ career goals can be considered upskilling.

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Tips for Upskilling Employees

Upskilling programs and initiatives take the weight of the entire organization. Leaders must invest into being true leaders, and employees need to know upskilling opportunities exist.

Here are a couple tips to keep in mind as you’re developing a process to upskill employees:

  • Where do you lack skills?: If you’re looking to fill a skills gap, where do those gaps exist? Are soft skills like leadership and communication suffering across the organization? Or are hard skills like coding and data analytics lacking? It wouldn’t make sense to offer software developer education when there’s no lack of skills in your organization. Once you know what kind of skills your company needs to improve, then you can develop a plan of how to address the gap.
  • Budget money (and time) for training: Throwing money at the issue won’t solve everything. It will help, though. Upskilling programs and initiatives require financial investment, whether that be through tuition reimbursement, paying for certifications, or paying someone to simply learn on the job. But programs also take a time investment from leaders. Mentorship programs and leadership training take time out of someone’s day, but it pays off down the road.
  • On-the-job training: Teach your employees while on the job. Rather than say an employee needs to learn certain skills before they get a raise or new responsibilities, give them the responsibilities, and teach them how to do it while they work.
  • Communicate the existence of upskilling opportunities: Employees won’t take advantage of programs if they don’t know about them. Make sure managers are talking to employees about upskilling opportunities, and internal communications teams should have a plan with how they’ll inform employees, too.
  • Monitor how programs are doing: Leaders should know if their programs are effective. Are employees taking advantage of the programs? How much utilization happens across the organization? Do employees find it useful? Have you seen a skills gap close because of the programs? Part of any good upskilling plan will have a feedback loop with employees and managers.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

Now, what if an employee is seeking a total change in their career path? Does that mean they need to leave the company to find a new career? Of course not. That’s where reskilling comes in.

Like upskilling, reskilling is an investment in your employees. However, reskilling is the process of teaching skills to do a completely new job, whereas upskilling helps an employee get better at their current job or related positions.

Rarely is a person’s path to their dream job a straight line. It may be zigzag through various careers and positions. And someone’s dream job can change every couple of years anyway. With your help, an employee can forge that path—however winding—at your company.

Reskilling Examples

While many upskilling scenarios can be applied to reskilling, let’s look at some specific examples of reskilling an employee:

  • Training an administrative employee—who has basic knowledge of computers and spreadsheet systems—at a utilities company to become a data analyst by paying for certifications and providing hands-on training
  • Teaching a copywriter project management skills—whether through mentorship or courses—so they can transition roles to be a project manager on an IT team
  • Offering courses to a retail manager and other associates to learn software development skills, which can help them transition to a software developer role in your company
  • Providing mentorship/shadowing opportunities to employees who want to change careers
  • Offering college tuition reimbursement

Learn more about the benefits of reskilling your employees.

Upskilling and Reskilling Make Your Organization Better

Upskill and reskilling these must be implemented with a plan and a genuine interest in improving the careers of your people. If a program comes off as helping the organization but not the person, employees won’t buy in.

These should be parts of your overall training plan for employees, all which will help improve retention rates within your organization and close your skills gap.