Upskilling is an ongoing process of learning and development designed to meet current and future workplace requirements. It leverages the talents of the existing workforce to improve business outcomes and increase employee retention.
What is Upskilling?
The simple answer is that upskilling is the current buzzword for a program of continuous and long-term employee development. Upskilling is distinct from the equally buzzy term “reskilling,” which is the process of moving employees from redundant or outmoded positions into new roles.
Upskilling seeks to provide learning opportunities to an organization’s existing workforce in their current positions, not merely to fill gaps but to keep pace with the increasing rate of change in the world today.
What Are the Benefits of Upskilling?
Keeping ahead of the innovation curve is one of the main challenges for organizations large and small. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has predicted that technology will transform over 1 billion jobs in the next decade, while the World Economic Forum anticipates that upskilling will add $6 trillion to global GDP by 2030.
Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of the approach.
Upskilling increases employee engagement and retention. In today’s tight labor market employee retention is more important than ever. Employees are looking for more than a paycheck. They want to know that the organization is committed to helping them reach their full potential.
Providing training and development opportunities is a tangible investment in their future careers. When employees see a path to career growth, they are more likely to stay than look elsewhere.
Upskilling is a cost-effective use of resources. Training and development can be costly, but it should be thought of as an investment. The alternative is new recruitment.
There are drawbacks to recruiting people to bring skills to an organization. One is the labor market. People who already have the latest, most in-demand skills are a scarce resource. They will be highly sought after and may command a premium.
Another drawback is the time and expense of recruiting and integrating new hires into the existing workforce. While training and development have costs, the cost of recruitment is greater.
Upskilling improves business outcomes. A final benefit is to improve the organization’s ability to achieve its business goals. That applies regardless of industry.
In one case, that may mean more effective customer outreach. In another, it may mean completing transactions more efficiently. Wise organizations set business goals into the framework of their development efforts, providing a metric for effectiveness.
What Goes Into A Successful Upskilling Program?
Here are some guidelines for developing an effective program.
Survey the organization’s needs. The first step is to identify existing skills’ gaps and future needs. The organization should review its business plans and the challenges it faces in achieving its goals.
It is equally important to ask: What training and development opportunities do employees want? That may not have an obvious answer. Many employees will not know what particular skills they would like to develop.
A better way of getting the information may be by asking, “Where would you like to take your career in the next year? In five years?” By framing the question more holistically, the employee and the organization can begin to take steps towards the desired goal.
Develop individualized programs. Having considered both the organization’s needs and the employees’ goals, the next step is to develop individualized plans.
The survey process is likely to have uncovered recurring themes – both in terms of business needs and employee desires. These themes can be subjects for broader training efforts across teams or departments.
Individuals should also be encouraged to explore subjects that interest them. That may mean pursuing a software certification or other credential. It may mean an introduction to another functional area or mentoring by an expert within the organization.
Develop metrics to measure progress toward goals. Finally, the organization needs to measure progress, both individually and as an organization.
Individuals will want to know how they’re progressing – and how much farther they have to go to reach specific goals.
The same applies to the organization as a whole. The more specific business goals can be measured, the more likely for upskilling to be seen as an investment in the future.
If you would like to know more about upskilling, please contact us.
Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.