The benefits of upskilling your employees
The spread of technology continues to make fundamental changes to the way we do business. While automation and AI are making some skills obsolete, there is a growing demand for new, higher-level skills to deliver the benefits offered by the change. Upskilling your employees is a smart, cost-effective, and sustainable way to equip your business for the future and drive it forward.
We need to develop new skills
Klaus Schwab founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) coined the phrase ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ to describe the upheaval, disruption and transformation caused by the rapid, pervasive growth and spread of digital technology. That revolution is ongoing.
In a recent report the WEF concluded there was a ‘reskilling emergency’, estimating that over a billion people would need to reskill by 2030. A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) concluded that 9 out of 10 UK employees will need to be retrained by 2030.
Meanwhile the skills gap grows wider
A 2021 McKinsey study concluded that 87 percent of companies worldwide ‘have a skills gap, or expect to within a few years.’ The major challenge is where to find and how to develop those necessary, but missing skills and bridge the gap between the skills needed and the skills available.
The search for high-level skills in a volatile labor market means casting the net wide and delving deep into a business’s pockets. In such circumstances an in-house solution based on active upskilling is both practical and more sustainable.
Upskilling provides answers
Upskilling is the acquisition and transfer of new skills. It’s closely tied to employee development and can start at the onboarding phase of an employee’s career. Often the focus is on upgrading technical skills, but upskilling is equally relevant for soft skills training.
Better communication, enhanced collaboration, leadership development, emotional intelligence training, and more can benefit from an active upskilling program. For employees upskilling offers a means to progression and development as part of lifelong learning. For companies upskilling is a means to close the skills gap.
What’s the difference between upskilling and reskilling?
People often mention reskilling and upskilling in the same breath, but they are distinct concepts. Reskilling means training people with new skills to do a different job or take on a new role. Upskilling, on the other hand, involves equipping people with the skills to do their job better or prepare them for significant changes to their existing role.
In short, upskilling concentrates on increasing depth of knowledge while reskilling focuses on breadth. Nevertheless, reskilling and upskilling both act to improve skills levels, reduce skills gaps, and to equip workforces to meet innovation and change.
Upskilling has become more critical
Upskilling has always been a feature of working life. The acquisition of new skills not only keeps a business competitive, but it is also vital for keeping employees engaged and motivated. Upskilling offers the prospect of personal and professional development which is repeatedly cited by employees as a reason to stay with or join an organization.
Gallup-Amazon research concluded that 48% of workers in the United States would choose to switch jobs if offered skills training opportunities. Also 65% of employees said that the upskilling provided by employers was very important when evaluating a potential new job.
Technology has pushed upskilling to the forefront
The speed and pervasiveness of technological change have made upskilling essential and no longer a luxury. As working lives lengthen so the shelf life of skills shortens. If you don’t have the awareness and ability to upskill and retrain your staff, your business is likely to lose out.
The good news is that technology itself can transform the process and delivery of upskilling.
Digital learning makes upskilling more effective
The technological revolution has impacted the way we learn and access and source information.
Using digital learning as part of an upskilling program brings distinct benefits:
- Upskilling often takes place at the micro level affecting individual employees as much as whole teams. Digitization allows learning to be easily personalized to suit the experience and needs of learners. Personalization recognizes that upskilling is a proactive continuous process and not reactive and episodic. Personalized learning puts learners in control, enabling them to learn at their own pace, in their own way, and in their own time.
- Learning pathways are an extension of personalization and are used to address skills and performance gaps. Learning pathways supported by digital learning are not only a way of upskilling an employee base, but also offer a planned approach to identifying and remedying skills deficiencies. Pathways ensure their people have the right skills for the right tasks and provide a faster time to proficiency.
- Microlearning is the strategy of creating small bite-sized chunks of learning that can be easily accessed and digested. Always available and accessible it supports time-critical upskilling at the point of need.
- Learning Platforms store, curate, and deliver a range of digital content in a variety of formats. As a central repository for learning they standardize content and control and maintain quality meaning upskilling training can be delivered seamlessly and consistently across business areas and geographical locations. The platforms also provide shared spaces for collaboration, user-generated content, and the capturing and sharing of knowledge to level up skills.
- Mobile learning facilitates access to whatever learning content and resources are needed on the go. It extends the coverage of any upskilling program and brings it into workspaces beyond the office.
Upskilling requires forward planning
There is clear work to do before you start upskilling employees:
1. Set business objectives
This means having a clear sense of the business and landscape ahead. Then you need to evaluate the skills the organization will require in that environment.
2. Know and refine the skills base
You can review existing skills by building a profile of the skills that current employees possess. Skills builder tools provide a huge amount of current and historic market data. Undertaking a detailed skills-gap analysis will determine where the gaps are. That evidence-based analysis enables you to tailor your training to meet demand.
3. Implement training to fill the gaps
Recognize existing skill sets and build on them. Map out learning and development paths for employees so that they understand where they are and where they’re going. This context increases relevance, promotes buy-in, and builds resilience and trust in people.
4. Build learning resources and strategies
Upskilling can’t be achieved with a single, one-off training course. It is an iterative process, so it requires support from a strategy of continuous review and feedback to determine the effectiveness of the learning provided.
5. Offer regular upskilling opportunities
Upskilling should be proactive. Organizations can make it part of personal development. Offering employees the chance to develop their skill sets has benefits beyond improved skills level, including better morale, greater job satisfaction, and improved performance. Leaders too need to constantly evaluate their own skill sets and upskill giving them a personal stake in the upskilling agenda.
The key benefits of upskilling your employees
While the primary focus on upskilling is a reactive response to significant skills gaps, a proactive commitment to upskilling delivers other benefits to employees and organizations:
1. Retaining people and knowledge
Providing staff with upskilling and career development means they’re more likely to stay. Organizations then reap the full benefit of investing in their people. Better employee retention solidifies the business’s skills base and prevents existing skills and experience being lost.
2. Attracting talent
Offering upskilling opportunities can make your organization a magnet for other highly skilled and motivated people. The business gains a reputation for excellence and for being a great place to work.
3. Improving confidence and morale
The commitment to retraining will result in more contented, motivated, and confident employees. They are more likely to be proactive and engaged, creating a virtuous circle where success feeds off success.
4. Enhancing performance
The positive effect on staff translates into a better bottom line and creates an organization that is resilient, agile, and proactive in the face of disruption and better placed to reap the benefits.
5. Saving costs
Upskilling existing employees reduces the need to buy in expensive talent and wait for them to bed in.
6. Delivering customer satisfaction
The improvement in employee performance due to upskilling can be evidenced in their interactions with customers. The result is better customer service.
These advantages enable businesses to ride the waves of disruption and put them in a place to reap the benefits.
Upskilling isn’t confined to technical skills
Numerous areas of the business can benefit from upskilling in both technical and soft skills:
- Digital upskilling: Developing employees’ digital skills is key to modernizing business operations and staying competitive. This includes proper computer use, learning new software, digital marketing, programming, and effective use of social media.
- Leadership: Effective leadership skills can help managers and supervisors improve employee performance and company strategy. Upskilling leaders brings benefits in areas such as decision-making, project management, delegation, and emotional intelligence.
- Technical product knowledge: New products coming on stream means sales and marketing teams require the technical knowledge to engage with potential customers. This is particularly critical at product launch, but technical information also needs to be readily accessible to support them in their day-to-day work.
- Data analytics: Interactions with technology generate a vast amount of data. Upskilling provides the skills to collect, handle, and analyze data to direct improvements in business processes, training, and, ultimately, performance.
- Communication skills: Technology offers a variety of digital channels, but skills are required to use them appropriately and effectively. This includes communications between individuals and teams, including those working remotely, and messaging to an external audience on behalf of the business.
- Diversity and inclusion: Businesses need to recognize the changing make-up of their workforce. Offering training to employees at all levels in diversity, inclusion, empowerment, and ESG is a way to ensure a harmonious and successful business.
- L&D: Managing upskilling is a key responsibility for L&D, but it shouldn’t neglect its own need to upskill. Training is needed in e-learning products, developing digital content, using social media, and working with learning analytics.
- Compliance: With new business products and processes come new rules and regulations. Employees require upskilling to ensure they understand what’s required to work compliantly.
A learning culture sustains upskilling
The need to upskill is not only urgent, but also constant. If upskilling is to be continuous rather than one-off it needs an environment in which it can take root. A culture of learning actively promotes learning and encourages employees to see it as a part of working.
Engaging with learning becomes a key performance indicator. It also involves building a growth mindset, so employees treat change as an opportunity and take charge of their own development.
A learner-centric approach to upskilling facilitates knowledge transfer and sharing. It takes advantage of the expertise that is pooled as successful upskilling means experienced employees are retained.
Upskilling delivers a win-win
The need for businesses to compete and survive in a changing world is the starting point for upskilling. But that necessity is the mother of invention. The benefits of upskilling go way beyond providing the skills to keep pace with technological innovation.
With upskilling on the menu, current employees find working more rewarding and challenging so want to stay. A reputation for upskilling in turn attracts new talent. Job satisfaction, better morale, and higher skill levels benefit the business’s bottom line. Investing in and sustaining upskilling brings rewards to employees and employers now and for the future.
Get in touch to find out how Learning Pool can help your organization benefit from upskilling your employees.
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