Upskilling Employees in the Workforce and its Benefits

Skills are valuable to any organization and upskilling the workforce presents an incredible opportunity for the company to engage and retain employees while boosting the bottom line.

Keeping up with the pace of technological advancement is a challenge for companies of all shapes and sizes. While technology creates new and powerful business opportunities, it also creates huge skills gaps, particularly in the manufacturing, healthcare, and construction sectors, where the demand for skilled workers is especially high. Read this blog to find out more about upskilling employees in your workforce and its benefits for your organization.

How can companies combat this skills gap while retaining their current workforce? A company’s ability to upskill, or its capacity for training and developing its employees to expand their skillsets, creates a significant competitive advantage in our increasingly technology-driven world.

What is upskilling? A definition

Upskilling is the process of acquiring new and relevant competencies needed today. Common examples of upskilling efforts include digital/tech skills, analytical skills, and organizational transformation skills.

Why upskilling is key for the future of work

Upskilling has become increasingly relevant and applicable over the past few years. There are several reasons for this but the most important one is the growing (digital) skills gap many companies are facing; the difference between what employers want or need their employees to be able to do and what those employees can do. The main causes of the current skills gap are:

  • Skills gap due to an aging workforce. The baby boom generation has been — and will be — retiring for a while now. Naturally, this creates a gap, both in terms of open positions that are hard to fill, and in terms of skills and knowledge that get lost in the process.
  • Skills gap due to digitalization. We’re currently in the midst of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. Developments in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technologies are happening faster and faster, hence changing the nature of the jobs that need to be done — and, by extension, the skills needed to do those jobs.

Benefits of Upskilling Employees

We all know employee turnover is expensive. Studies show that the cost of one employee leaving a company could be as much as $25,000. That’s not factoring in costs associated with interviewing and hiring a replacement; and then, of course, there’s time and money that goes into the training and development of a new hire.

Upskilling, or reskilling, existing employees is a smaller investment than hiring and training a new employee. As you reskill the employees, you have to create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce, to increase the team’s effectiveness.

But it doesn’t just boost your bottom line. It also:

  1. Improves retention. No one wants to work at a company that doesn’t invest enough in its employees’ career development. Upskilling ensures employees’ skillsets won’t become obsolete and shows the people you care about their careers and their futures.
  2. Boosts morale. Employees who have the training, learning, and development opportunities are happier in their roles and have a positive outlook on their future with the company. Knowing they’re working toward something that will improve their lives creates a deeper sense of purpose for them.
  3. Increases customer satisfaction. Happy employees = happy customers. When workers are happy with their company and believe in what they are working toward, they do better work. Clients are willing to pay more to work with a more knowledgeable, proactive team.
  4. Attracts new talent. Of course, when the company is successful, chances are you will need new talent to add to the experienced, upskilled workforce. When employees feel a sense of purpose with their organization and clients are happy with their work, they become stronger brand advocates.

Top 5 Ways to Upskill the Workforce

1) Continuous Professional Development

More than just learning and training for new skills, professional development gives the workforce the chance to earn certifications. Why focus on gaining professional qualifications for the workforce instead of more traditional training programs?

Having the staff complete a widely recognized training program certifications ensures they not only have the skills as newcomers to their field but also have the skills to beat out your competition. Professional and specialized certifications offer a depth of education that can’t be replicated by many other forms of learning.

2) Accommodate different learning styles.

Some employees might do best in a traditional classroom setting with a teacher. And a completely different segment may prefer walking through courses online. Others might prefer microlearning — watching short videos that cover topics in small increments. Providing something for all the different learning styles ensures the maximum amount of employees will want to participate.

3) Give them opportunities to access supplemental learning resources

There’s always going to be a few people who want to upskill on their own time and take their abilities to the next level. Learning assets, such as blogs, webinars, and videos are also invaluable for those struggling with their upskilling because it gives them access to additional learning content.

With AI, the learning platform could schedule coursework or deliver resources based on individual learner assessment results or simulations.

4) Include real-life scenarios

Deploying an e-learning strategy for the workforce upskilling goals requires offering learning opportunities that put the concepts and experience your employees will encounter into practice. Also, provide opportunities to analyze and provide feedback on existing use cases within the organizations, and ask them to offer insights on opportunities for improvements.

For example, if you’re looking to improve your inbound marketing techniques and strategies, have existing employees listen to calls, get their feedback, and see how their thinking could improve the process.

5) Peer Support Programs

Your plans to upskill the workforce shouldn’t exclude internal training opportunities. If there are digitally savvy employees in the companies, make the most of their ability through a peer support program. Not only can employees exchange skills, but they are already familiar with your workplace and can make the training highly relevant for your business.

Peer support programs are smart for another reason. Research demonstrates that 75% of companies are only investing $500 per employee for training and upskilling. If you’re facing budgetary pressures, a peer support program may be right for you, at least in the beginning.

Final thoughts

The organization can benefit in the same way if you take the time to upskill your workforce and make each employee more competitive in their role — even if it’s a role they never imagined they could fill before.

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