Upskilling your employees is critical for your company’s growth. Training your team to adapt to the new strategies and technologies available, allow your business to stay competitive. At the same time, your employees become more productive and feel more valued as a contributing part of the business.
The need to upskill employees has only heightened since 2020. The World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs 2020 Report” states that in today’s constrained labor market, the set of core skills for employees who plan to stay in the same roles will change up to 40% in the next five years. A further 50% of all employees will need upskilling or reskilling for role-skill fit.
Technology plays an increasingly important role when it comes to upskilling. In 2019, 79% of global CEOs said they were concerned about the workplace skills gap — up from just 56% in 2011. The growing adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) dilutes the need for repetitive tasks, making some jobs obsolete. As technology is being created and developed faster than ever, people will need to learn the right skills to use new technology to its maximum potential.
Hard skills such as engineering and math are sought-after to handle the scientific intricacies of evolving technology. Meanwhile, soft skills like critical thinking and creativity are also crucial in an employee because these are attributes that technology cannot take away.
What is the difference between upskilling and reskilling?
There are different ways a company can improve the skill set of their employees, namely through upskilling or reskilling.
Upskilling represents the growth of a person’s specific career path and the skills needed to succeed in that role. It allows for employees to expand their knowledge as well as enhance their current skill set. This can happen on a micro or macro scale. Micro upskilling, for example, is for marketing talent to learn how to use and manage new marketing platforms for social media. A macro-level upskill is when changes happen on a larger effort, like incorporating cloud computing and AI skills for software engineers.
Upskilling is not a one-time occurrence but a long-term process. Having upskilling opportunities is crucial for an employee to grow within a specific career track and is key for a business to improve as new technology is being introduced. The past year has taught us that upskilling can meet immediate, urgent needs for a company.
On the other hand, reskilling provides employees with a completely different set of skills to take on a new position. It often happens due to a reduction in staff from layoffs or furloughs, or when certain jobs have become outdated due to the implementation of new tech. Employees, instead, can reskill to take on the new roles brought about by these organizational changes.
The past year has brought to the forefront the need for reskilling. More and more employees’ current skills are losing relevance. It may be due to evolving technology when jobs have become obsolete due to new technology; however, this can also be due to a shift in circumstance. For example, sales reps in retail stores had to learn how to manage customers, inventory, and operations for the e-commerce side of brands. Instead of handling customer queries face-to-face, sales reps communicate with customers on social media or messages on e-commerce marketplaces. They needed to learn how to pack items, coordinate with logistics companies and ensure the end-to-end success of every delivery.
Reskilling can happen not only for a lateral move but when the scope of a role has changed, and newer skills are necessary for a role. In the past year, companies needed to switch from an offline to a remote work model. Sales reps for pharmaceutical and real estate companies had to learn how to use online communication tools to connect with clients, make product presentations, and close deals. From a job they knew how to do offline, they had to learn how to adapt fast.
Big companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have invested in creating programs to upskill their workforce. They understand that new technology is constantly being introduced that could displace the roles of their teams. Instead of hiring people with the skills they are looking for, they train their existing workforce to tackle those roles. These investments include tuition incentives or e-learning certificates.
Why should companies upskill their employees?
When employees are faced with new technology at work, it is unsurprising to find their output slightly diminishes as they assimilate to new ways of working. Unfamiliarity and ambiguity often lead to a slowdown in output and lower morale.
Investing in upskilling your employees will allow them to master the skills they need to do their jobs well. This helps them gain confidence in themselves and deliver better output.
Saves on time and money
Employees are a company’s most important investment. Hiring the right candidate for a job is time-consuming and involves a lot of stakeholders. Not to mention the cost of advertising the role and compensation for the salary and benefits of the new employee. The process of hiring a new employee (approximately USD4,425) is significantly more expensive than upskilling a current employee (approximately USD1,300).
A current employee already has adapted to the company culture and the internal processes of an organization. Upskilling him or her will only improve the organization. Hiring an external candidate who has the necessary skills will benefit the organization. However, the full potential of the new employee may take years to realize as he or she will have to adapt and get used to the company’s culture and ways of working.
Upskilling gives your employees the tools and knowledge they need to perform at the top of their game. The more skilled your teams are, the less time they spend having to research how to do things. They can get things done faster and more accurately instead of spending time figuring out the best way of doing something or doing it the wrong way altogether.
By having a deeper understanding of the job and a command of the tools or frameworks of the role, they can be more creative and think of solutons to improve business. Innovation and efficiency will undoubtedly increase.
Improves employee retention
No employee wants to work in an organization that will not invest in their career development because this shows that the company does not value them long-term. Today, employees are looking for a learning culture that upskilling provides to motivate them to work in a company for a longer period of time.
Training and development opportunities also boost their morale as they see a brighter outlook on their future with the company. It provides a clearer path of advancement and allows for them to see the steps to get there within the organization. This leads to employee loyalty and long-term employee retention.
Attractive incentive to potential employees
Employees are interested in upskilling to stay relevant in an ever-changing economy. According to recent studies, 30% of employees feel their skills will be redundant within the next two years. On the other side of things, 63% of HR professionals attribute the difficulty of recruiting due to the shortage of skills in candidates for job openings.
Highlighting how your organization not only provides a standard compensation package but provides opportunities for employees to learn new skills through upskilling programs is one of the main selling points to potential candidates. It is something that will stand out in job advertisements and can be shown in recruitment marketing material.
On an employee level, when your company is providing ways for an employee to learn new skills, feel more purposeful and grow their skills on an individual level, they are happier and feel more fulfilled. Employees will recommend your organization to their network as a referral for job openings. This improves the word of mouth and overall reputation of your company and shows that it is a great place to work.
Creates a culture of learning
Employees like to learn. They look to upskilling to remain relevant in the workforce and remain competitive. By providing training, your employees will feel valued and foster a culture of active learning. Encouraging everyday learning as opposed to once-a-year training sessions will prevent staff from being overloaded with information they are less likely to retain.
Instilling a culture of active learning will help your company be more responsive and prepared for challenges and disruptions your business may face.
How to get started?
Plan Upskilling Programs
While most employees look for career development within a company, not all employees have the same learning style. Organizations should plan different initiatives to meet the needs of different employees. Using people analytics, you can understand each person’s strengths and weaknesses to create tailor-fit programs for each member or groups of members.
When it comes to hard skills training, like learning a new coding language or processes, holding regular training sessions whether in-person or virtually will help foster that culture of learning. Additionally, Gamifying the learning process by providing incentives such as gift vouchers can make learning more fun so that upskilling will not feel like work.
Understanding the capabilities of your employees should be important. Monitoring and analyzing their work patterns can help you plan upskilling activities properly. After every program, collect feedback to see which programs work and which do not. Run surveys to get your employees’ opinions about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. The surveys can be a good point of departure.
Provide Personal Learning Opportunities
Work can be busy and holding long training sessions for a big group of your employees may not be feasible. Instead, you can provide personalized learning opportunities that employees can do at their own pace. Partnering with learning sites like Coursera allows your team access to a plethora of courses that will suit their job role and help them improve. There is an added incentive of e-certificates they can tout on LinkedIn.
In this age of new technology, upskilling is vital for employees and companies to be at the top of their game. By investing in your team, your employees will feel more part of your organization and produce better results and growth for your enterprise.
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