How to Upskill Employees

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How to Upskill Employees

Today’s technology moves at a rapid pace, with newer, better, and often simpler tools constantly replacing older iterations. Companies like Uber and Netflix are redefining how we do business, freelancers and flex-workers are replacing traditional job-roles, and even the basic functions of life such as banking is changing exponentially.

While the most obvious results of rapid change don’t include how we work, those changes naturally extend to employees and their skills. Rapid change necessitates that old skills will become irrelevant, new skills will be required, and knowledge which was previously crucial is no longer so.

Individuals must continue to grow and change if they are to keep up and remain relevant and valuable in their organizations. Upskilling employees is also about talent retention and reducing turnover, individual and personal development, and developing individuals for new roles and leadership positions. While there are many ways to approach it, the following tips will help you upskill employees in ways that are meaningful to your and their goals.

4 tips to upskill employees

Develop a Culture of Coaching and Mentoring

Most people learn best through coaching and mentoring, where leaders directly involve themselves in helping those they work with to succeed. Here, your goal should be to empower leaders to recognize and directly work with individuals on their teams to coach and mentor them to choosing career paths, improving productivity, changing work patterns, and adapting to new technology. While the nature and goals of mentoring will obviously change depending on your organization, the employee’s level within your organization, and their ambition or career path, it’s an important aspect in any employee upskilling. Managers should provide coaching and support in every setting.

Identify (Up-and-coming) Skill Gaps

While completely retraining individuals is reskilling rather than upskilling, you can work to identify up-and-coming skill gaps and move existing employees into those gaps. For example, if you know that your communications department will switch to a new content management system in a year, you can begin training employees to that new system now, so that their skills remain relevant when the new system is introduced. Similarly, if you’re switching to developing for iOS instead of just Android, you could move developers into training to learn Swift. Ensuring that your employees retain relevant skills for your tools, software, and work-methods is an important part of upskilling.

Invest in Personalized Training and Development

While upskilling must benefit a large number of employees across your organization, it pays to invest in personalization and individual development. For example, if you offer something broad and generic, like an organizational-wide digital course, you’ll likely have relatively low engagement. On the other hand, if you invest in a larger number of courses, help individuals to choose a series of courses that benefit their career goals and paths, and supplement where needed or beneficial for specific individuals, you can drive a much greater level of engagement and motivation.

Create Development Opportunities

Developing leaders, senior technicians, and individuals for new roles is always best-done from within an organization. Here, your goal should be to identify individuals with potential and work with them to ensure their ambition and career path align with your needs and then develop them to that point.

Development opportunities should include assignments, classroom learning, and on-the-job learning, so that individuals have the opportunity to fully prepare themselves for whatever role they will be stepping into.

Upskilling employees is important if you want to keep individuals relevant and valuable inside your organization. While it will require investment in mentoring, training, and learning opportunities, upskilling will also prevent you from creating skill gaps, will prevent the need to fire employees as their skillset becomes less relevant, and will save you money on recruiting. In addition, driving personal development and skills will help you to create more value for the individual, driving engagement and talent retention in your organization.


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