The 7 Best Strategies for Upskilling Your Workforce

Investing in training your current employees in new skills, rather than recruiting new employees, has great benefits for your business if you implement the right strategies.

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It seems like new technologies and processes are coming out every week, and that can be hard for your current employees to keep up with. Constantly learning new skills can be overwhelming for both employer and employee. Yet taking the time to upskill your employees will benefit your business in more ways than one, and the approach doesn’t have to be hard to implement.


Overview: What is upskilling?

Upskilling employees essentially means that you’re taking your current employees and bringing their skills and expertise up to date. If yours is one of the lucky businesses with solid employee retention, then you might find yourself with older employees who could use upskilling training or retraining. If you’re on the fence about the concept, let’s look at some benefits.


4 benefits of upskilling employees

If you’re thinking about an upskilling plan but don’t know where to start, or you think it might not be worth your time, read about the four benefits below. You might be surprised what can happen when your employees level up.

1. Employee retention

Upskilling your employees can make them feel supported and encouraged, which could lead to less turnover. Their other employment options might not seem so grand if you put the time and effort into helping them realize their potential. Employee retention also means you will find yourself on the hunt for new employees less often.

2. Employee engagement

When an employee feels like they’re just going through the motions at their job, that’s all they’re going to do until it’s time to clock out. There isn’t much employee engagement in that type of environment. But if you choose to bring upskilling to your workforce, your employees are motivated to engage more in their work because they’re learning new skills and want to practice those skills during the workday.

3. Employee satisfaction

It feels good when you get to the end of the workday and know you’ve done a great job. That’s the feeling your employees can leave the workplace with, knowing they’re bringing their skills up to date and preparing for what’s next. When your employees are feeling satisfied with their work, their performance will also start to improve.

A good way to measure employee satisfaction is with self-assessments. Ask employees open-ended questions about their work, give them the opportunity to comment on it, and then talk further about it with them at formal reviews.

4. Time and money savings

It makes more sense to invest money in your current employees’ skills instead of recruiting new employees who possess the updated skills your business requires. The recruiting process takes time and money. You have to create a job listing, pay for the listing to be posted, interview candidates, onboard a new hire, etc.

Think of how much you can accomplish with employees who already know your business. Invest in them, teach them new skills, and see how it positively impacts your bottom line.


How to create an upskilling strategy to help your employees grow

Having a development plan for upskilling your employees should be part of your human resources development (HRD) plan. That can include performance management, employee coaching, mentoring, and success planning.

The goal of an HRD is to help expand your organization through the development of employees’ skills, abilities, and knowledge. Keep reading for the steps you can take to level up your employees.

1. Get HR on board

As previously mentioned, a proper training and development program, including upskilling, starts with your human resources department. It can put together a specific package that includes:

  • Online courses
  • Practical training
  • Tuition assistance for college courses related to specific positions
  • Training videos
  • One-on-one instruction
  • Appropriate and applicable technical certifications

There should also be materials in there for manager training because, if the manager doesn’t have the skills required to upskill the employees, it won’t be a successful endeavor.

2. Get a feel for interest

This isn’t saying you should necessarily give your employee a choice; it’s more to gauge how your employees feel about taking their skills and knowledge to the next level. You can try implementing the plan in phases, starting with those who show great interest and ending with those who felt indifferent or were initially uninterested.

Seeing how much more successful and engaged the employees are who have worked through upskilling will encourage those who seemed less interested to jump on the bandwagon.

3. Make training readily available

Employees are more inclined to take an active interest in upskilling if the training and programs are accessible to them. For example, if your program includes online courses, give everyone proper login information at the outset so when they’re ready to get started, they have everything they need.

If college courses are up for grabs, make sure every employee knows when and how to register so they aren’t floundering around at the last minute.

Since all of this should have been worked out in HR ahead of time, especially if the department is utilizing HR software, there’s no reason for delay when it comes time to implement the upskilling program.

4. Accommodate all types of learning

Not everyone learns in the same way. Some of your employees will be visual learners, some will be verbal, and others will require tactical learning. That’s why offering a mix of different learning styles, such as online learning, in-person learning, and learning through practical use, can greatly enhance the outcomes of your upskilling efforts.

5. Put your employees in charge

If your employees feel in charge of their own learning path, they will be more motivated to follow through with what you’re offering. Once you’ve worked out what you will offer and how you will offer it, let your employees put together their own timeline for learning.

Maybe they want to start with a simple online course and work their way up to a new certification. Perhaps they need to run through some skills on an actual person before feeling fully comfortable with their new ability.

Either way, putting your employees in charge of their own upskilling path will empower them to not only get started but see it through to the end.

6. Have some incentives

There’s nothing wrong with offering a reward or incentive during the course of your employee development plan. You can do it a few different ways:

  • Offer a free lunch for signing up for an online course
  • Allow a work from home day to practice new skills at an employee’s own pace
  • Provide tuition reimbursement for any relevant classes or certifications employees sign up for

Positive reinforcement will go a long way and further encourage your employees to constantly be honing their existing skills and learning new ones.

7. Evaluate progress

Once the program is underway, you need to make sure it’s working. You can do this through skill assessments, peer reviews, employee evaluations, or any other means you can think of that would accurately assess how well your employees are absorbing new skills and putting them to use.


The bottom line

Upskilling your employees doesn’t happen overnight. It requires thinking ahead, creating a plan with your HR department, getting employees excited, and actually learning new skills before the program can be called complete.

There are plenty of benefits to this approach, such as employee retention, engagement, and satisfaction. And, with the right strategies, your upskilling program will be well worth your time and effort.

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