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March 10, 2021


4 min read

How to upskill your employees

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Employee upskilling is a term that’s taken the human resources and business worlds by storm — and for good reason. As the world becomes increasingly more digital, the gap between the skills employees have and the ones they need to succeed in the future is widening. To prepare their workforces for what’s to come, modern business leaders are tasked with figuring out how to effectively enable employees to grow their skill sets and expand their knowledge. 

When your business invests in upskilling and talent development, you’re not only helping your employees grow, but also arming your organization with the competitive advantage it needs to remain relevant in today’s ever-changing world. In this article, we’ll show you why upskill is a term worth knowing, and how to develop impactful upskilling initiatives within your organization. 


What is upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of helping employees expand their knowledge and abilities through training and development initiatives such as specialized courses or workforce education programs. The goal is to address skill opportunities, help employees stay up-to-date with changes in technology and encourage career advancement within a company. 

Effective workforce upskilling is an ongoing process that requires support from leadership at all levels of an organization.


Benefits of upskilling your employees

There are many benefits of upskilling your workforce. A confident workforce with a well-rounded skill set can be transformative, both to the individuals involved and the company as a whole. 

Here are a few tangible advantages made possible through upskilling your staff:

  • Decrease employee turnover. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, turnover costs U.S. businesses alone an estimated 11 billion dollars each year. Investing in employee improvement programs helps to mitigate these losses for your company and bolster both retention and your bottom line.
  • Improve employee engagement. Providing your employees with ample opportunities for upward mobility can boost morale and foster better engagement. It gives workers an outcome to strive for and gives them concrete ways to build new skills and qualify for advancement opportunities.
  • Attract qualified talent. Opportunity for growth and internal mobility is immensely important for many job seekers on the market. Advertising your upskilling programs can be an impactful part of your talent acquisition strategy.


Effective ways to upskill your employees

Now that you know why upskilling is good for business, here are a few ways to make it happen. 


Make development opportunities available and affordable to all employees 

Your upskilling programs should be attractive and accessible to a wide range of employees.

  • Mentorship programs are a simple way to help junior employees gain valuable and time-won skills and expertise from senior staff. Plus, cross-functional mentorship allows employees to build a strong internal network and boosts knowledge-sharing between teams. 
  • Encourage self-training and independent learning by providing paid training times and making room on the schedule for education.
  • Give your employees the time and flexibility they need to participate in upskilling programs while working full-time and juggling personal responsibilities. 
  • Empower your employees to choose an upskilling program that works best for them. Every employee has a unique path to learning and upskilling and it’s important that you avoid a one-size-fits-all approach if you want to set everyone up for success.


Make learning accessible to everyone

Accessibility should be at the forefront of your upskilling program. Keep in mind that different employees learn differently, and may even need different media styles to address various sensory or learning disabilities. 

Consider incorporating various technologies into your programming, including:

  • Podcasts and other audio-based media
  • Traditional classes, complete with textbook or other written material
  • Videos or other visual media with comprehensive and accurate captioning 
  • Short-form seminars and lectures 
  • Real-world work simulations and role-plays


Reward growth 

Recognize both internal and external accomplishments made by your employees to demonstrate your support of ongoing education and learning.

  • Celebrate individual and group completions of training and certification programs.
  • Similarly, honor employees as they complete a short-term upskilling course or a longer-term program such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • Reward successful upskilling with a promotion or increased wages and responsibilities.


Foster a culture of learning 

Strive to make learning integral to your greater company culture and philosophy. Skill-building efforts are most successful when they are built into the fabric of everyday work-life. 

  • Leadership should participate in mentorship programs to encourage cross-level communication and knowledge-sharing within the company.
  • Expectations around upskilling should be established at performance reviews. Have your supervisors ask employees about their continued learning. Are they applying their new and/or improved skills in their daily job? Do they feel more confident and successful in their work? What other skills do they want to integrate into their repertoire?
  • Encourage curiosity with cross-departmental training. It’s easy for employees to feel siloed within one department if they’re unfamiliar with what else is out there. Exposing your employees to all aspects of the company facilitates questions which lead to independent skill-building. 


Read more: Take a deeper dive and learn how to cultivate a learning culture within your organization.


The importance of upskilling employees

To stay competitive in today’s environment, businesses have to act proactively when it comes to reskilling and upskilling employees. This means investing in a skill-building program that’s designed to meet your long-term business goals and align with the unique learning and education needs of your employees.

For more actionable strategies related to skill-building, unlock our step-by-step guide on how to reskill your workforce.