The future of work is changing at a rapid pace. For one thing, post-pandemic job shortages coupled with the digital revolution have left many organisations without access to the skillsets they need to stay competitive. One solution to this problem is implementing measures to upskill your existing workforce.
This enables you to keep up with industry changes, and it also helps you attract top talent to your business. In fact, according to a recent study by Gallup, upskilling is fast becoming a highly valued employee benefit, as well as a powerful talent attraction tool.
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In this post we will answer questions like “what is upskill and digital upskilling?” and “why is upskilling important?”. We will also share a few valuable practices to teach you how to upskill employees effectively.
Related video: Learning and Development: What is it? and Why is it important in the Workplace? In this video, we explain the top learning and development styles and how to identify the one that’s right for you and your team.
What is Upskilling?
Upskilling definition: a valuable learning and development tool used by HR departments to facilitate the learning of new skills and reduce skills gaps.
In a nutshell, when you upskill your employees, you encourage them to acquire new and relevant skills that will help with their career development and contribute to your growth as an organisation. The aim is to identify and improve existing skillsets in your company so that your employees can advance in their jobs and find different roles and opportunities within the company. This might be through digital upskilling, cybersecurity upskilling, analytical upskilling, or organisational transformation upskilling.
Upskilling can be encouraged through employee training programs, workplace mentorship and coaching in the workplace initiatives, peer mentoring programs, and performance coaching. The more opportunities you offer to upskill your employees, the more enriching the learning culture will be, and the more you will grow and develop as an organisation.
When the right methods are used for upskill learning, it can help you strengthen your workforce and remain competitive in ever-evolving markets.
What is the Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling?
It’s important to understand the difference between upskill and reskill.
Ultimately, the difference lies in your objective. Upskilling programs focus on improving existing skills and knowledge to help employees progress in their position. For example, you might upskill a member of staff in order to prepare them for a promotion, to optimise their performance, or to help them become more specialized.
In contrast, when you reskill an employee, you are teaching them new skills so that they can perform a different job. You might do this because of workforce gaps that you are unable to fill externally or to reduce the cost of filling new roles. Think of reskilling as professional recycling.
In terms of cost, it is far cheaper to upskill an employee that to retrain them in a new area from scratch. This means that it makes far more sense to assess the skills you already have in your company to see how you can unlock existing potential, rather than trying to fill open positions by retraining employees with no past experience in a job.
What is Digital Upskilling?
Digital upskilling is a form of upskilling that, as you have probably guessed, focuses on improving the digital and technological skills of your workforce. In other words, it’s about teaching your employees new skills so that they can keep up with evolving technology.
This obviously takes into account IT upskilling, but it goes beyond teaching your workforce how to use new software and hardware. It’s not just about teaching your employees about cutting-edge technologies like AI or Big Data.
Digital upskilling examples also include other aspects of your business, such as learning about automated processes and advanced workforce strategies. It involves teaching your workforce everything it needs to know in order to upskill and adapt to a technology-driven world. This helps to ensure that you have the right skills so that you are ready to evolve with the digital age of business.
Why is Upskilling Important?
There are a number of reasons why career upskilling has become so popular over recent years.
Here are some of the benefits:
- One of the biggest reasons is that many companies are facing growing skills gaps. By launching programs to upskill workers, they can expand the skills of their workforce in order to meet long-term organisational goals.
- Companies that offer upskill opportunities are more likely to report higher levels of employee engagement and motivation.
- Upskilled employees are far more likely to stay at your company, increasing your retention levels and reducing recruitment costs.
- Offering upskill training enhances your corporate reputation. You are also far more likely to attract top talent as candidates favour organisations that value career development and offer opportunities for growth.
- Digital upskilling can help you stay relevant in the face of the technological revolution. For example, you can develop skills relating to artificial intelligence or robotics to help you bridge the digital divide. This helps you stay competitive.
- Upskilling can help you develop a dynamic business culture that thrives on creativity and innovation.
How to Upskill Your Workforce: 5 Practices
There are countless ways to upskill your workforce. The methods that work best for you will depend on the nature of your business, your long-term objectives, and your existing skills and resources.
Before you design your upskill strategy and create a training agreement, you should conduct a thorough training needs analysis to establish what skills gaps you need to fill. This will help you determine the direction you need to take so that you can design a development plan for employees that targets identified gaps.
A good way to establish what these gaps are is to use a Skills Matrix Template to help you compare existing skills with overall objectives. You should also gather employee feedback and use design thinking in HR to help you find learning solutions that your employees engage with, as this will make learning far more accessible and enjoyable.
Once you’ve done that, you can select what methods you will use to upskill your workforce. You might decide that a combination of strategies will help you address all L&D requirements and learning styles.
Here are a few valuable practices that can help you find the right talent development strategy to upskill your workforce.
Upskilling Workshops and Courses
External workshops and courses can be a great way to offer individual and team upskilling opportunities. You can find an upskill course for virtually every single job and industry out there. For example, you could arrange for your team leaders to go on a leadership course to improve their management skills.
Aside from learning new skills and gaining exposure to industry trends, with an external course or workshop, your employees will also have the chance to network with their industry peers.
Virtual Courses and e-Learning
Another great way to offer upskill training to your employees is to organise a program for virtual courses and e-learning. Perhaps the biggest benefit of online learning is that employees can study from home or the office. This means they can learn at their own pace. So even if they have demanding jobs, they can still find the time to upskill.
There are countless online learning platforms on the market that offer manageable and cost-effective upskill training solutions. Examples include LinkedIn Learning, HubSpot Academy, and Skillshare. If you’re interested in focusing on digital upskilling, then Udacity is a great solution. The digital learning platform offers courses in artificial intelligence, data science, cloud computing, programming, and development, amongst other areas.
Upskill coaching is where one person, usually a manager, helps an employee grow and develop their existing skills. The main aim of workplace coaching is to promote two-way communication between an employee and their coach. This can help to identify areas for improvement, reinforce strengths, and further develop performance. This is usually done by focusing on specific performance objectives, skills, and goals.
Peer mentoring is another great way to upskill your employees. This is a form of workplace coaching where employees are allocated a peer mentor. The mentor is at a similar level to them in the company. However, they have different experiences and unique skills to share. This relationship helps both peers support each other, learn from each other, and upskill their abilities.
What’s more, peer mentoring can help to strengthen team relationships and create a more positive work environment. It’s also a great way for your employees to build soft skills such as active listening, leadership, and communication.
Upskill Stretch Assignments
Finally, stretch assignments can be a great way to give your employees the opportunity to upskill and gain new experience. A stretch assignment is a task that encourages employees to push out of their comfort zones and “stretch” developmentally. You do this by placing them in a challenging position. This can be a great way to learn and grow.
Courses and seminars can be restrictive. This is especially true if an employee has a demanding job. In contrast, stretch assignments are all about learning on the job. For example, you can encourage an employee to take on a new role in a project. It could even be something as simple as delivering a presentation.
Make sure you provide the right support and resources if you opt for this method. That way, your employee will be equipped to meet the challenge and upskill successfully.
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