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What is Upskilling & How Can It Improve Your Workforce? - HRDQ

What Is Upskilling & How Can It Improve Your Workforce?

If you want your business to stay relevant in your respective industry, upskilling is necessary. But what is upskilling? And can it really improve your workforce? Learn everything you need to know to get started below!

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Upskilling Defined

Upskilling is pretty straightforward. It involves providing your employees with skills that are newly relevant or soon-to-be relevant in your industry. In this increasingly fast-paced day and age, industry standards are constantly shifting, so it’s important to ask yourself what you’re doing to keep up with these changes and if you’re equipping your team with the tools they need for both personal success and the overall success of your business.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

Although it’s easy to confuse the two, upskilling and reskilling are different types of development. Upskilling, as mentioned above, seeks to enhance an employee’s current skill set by brushing up on and teaching them new skills to help them meet the demands of today’s business world. On the other hand, reskilling is used to prepare current employees for new and future positions within the organization. Reskilling is helpful when the situation calls for it, but upskilling employees is necessary for even day-to-day business needs.

Why Upskilling Will Enhance Your Team

You might be wondering what exactly the benefits of upskilling are. Upskilling is a worthwhile investment just for the fact that it helps employees along their path of career development. When employees see their organization investing in their personal development and growth by promoting continuous learning, employees feel more job satisfaction and display greater productivity and engagement.

That being said, there are two primary modern problems that upskilling can help you combat:

The Age Gap

Today’s workforce consists of approximately five generations of employees. This can create issues for several reasons:

  • Positions are becoming more difficult to fill. As older employees retire, they create open positions that are increasingly difficult to fill due to other applicants’ lack of experience.
  • Don’t transfer knowledge. As older generations retire, they also take with them valuable knowledge, leaving a blatant skill gap.
  • Older generations can’t keep up. On the flip side, as the workforce continues to become more digitally focused, older generations may not be equipped with the skills they need to keep up.

By implementing upskilling programs in your organization, you help employees of all ages stay relevant in their current roles and ensure that there are no gaps in knowledge when employees leave the company.

The Digital Wave

As we’ve mentioned, the workplace is now more digitally focused than ever. At this point in time, every employee needs to have a large number of digital skills just to meet minimum requirements. By upskilling, you can ensure your entire company is up to par with the latest technological developments that are necessary for you to smoothly run your business.

How to Begin Upskilling

What is Upskilling & How Can It Improve Your Workforce? | HRDQ

Are you ready to begin upskilling your team? Take the following steps to get started:

Conduct Industry Research

The first task you need to do is conduct industry research as to what skills are newly relevant or likely to become relevant in your industry. Use these questions to guide you in your research:

  • What have been the most recent trends in your industry?
  • What changes have your competitors recently made?
  • Is your market growing or shrinking? Why?
  • What does your company do well?
  • What does your company struggle with?

The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint some important skills that you might be lacking. Or, even if you possess these key skills, you’ll likely still need to expand upon them to ensure each of your employees has them at the same level.

Perform a Skills Gap Analysis

Once you’ve developed a list of skills, it’s time to perform a skills gap analysis. A skills gap analysis simply identifies the discrepancy between the skills you want your employees to have versus the skills they actually have. An assessment is a great way to go about this. Once you identify the skills gap in your team, you can begin to close it, hence starting the process of upskilling your employees.

View our blog post, "How to Perform a Skills Gap Analysis" to learn how to assess your team!

Set Upskilling Goals

With an idea of what skills need to be developed, you can then set goals that break down what qualifications need to be met and determine the best upskilling strategy.

Upskilling goals can be broken into two categories:

  • Organizational: As an organization, it’s crucial to stay ahead. Performing an analysis of what is needed now and what skills are projected for the future helps leaders know what skills they want their employees to develop. Leaders are then able to set up employee development opportunities and regular manager-employee discussions to discuss the skill development of each employee.
  • Personal: When setting personal upskilling goals, employees should consider how their role affects their team, department, and organization. In this, they should consider what gaps there are in performance and what skills are in demand that they can develop and use to contribute to the success of the organization. With an idea of what they would like to develop, employees can then meet with managers regularly to receive mentoring and support as needed.

Create a Training Program

When you have an understanding of your employees’ skills and the competencies that should be developed, you can then create a plan to provide or build upon the skills you’ve identified they need. The best way to teach your employees these skills is to create a training program that focuses on each required competency. Throughout this process, you may begin to identify strengths and weaknesses in individual employees, which can allow you to restructure their positions to capitalize on their top abilities and, hence, improve your organization.

You might also consider starting your program with an introduction to the importance of understanding generational differences in the workplace and the growing digital landscape. This will give your team background as to why you’re providing them training and how it will benefit them.

View our blog post, "How To Design an Effective Virtual Training Program" to start creating your training materials!

Create a Post-Training Plan

You’re not done just because the training has taken place. Post-training is just as important as training is. You need to ensure that those learned skills are actually being put to use by allowing your employees the opportunity to continue developing their skills through on-the-job experience. It can be a little daunting to try out new skills if you’re not totally confident in your abilities just yet, so continued support is crucial. Those regular check-ins like we’ve discussed, along with more informal check-ups, will be key in helping employees feel supported.

Additionally, there’s no harm in going back to the training program or investing in more training if more time is needed to fully master a skill. Again, this is a great opportunity to show your employees that you care and that you’re invested in the future of the company and in their futures, which can lead to greater employee engagement and employee retention.

Start Upskilling with HRDQ

What is Upskilling & How Can It Improve Your Workforce? | HRDQ

We hope you now understand what upskilling is and how it can improve your workforce. Without employees who can stay ahead of the curve, there’s no way for your organization to also stay ahead of the curve. If you’re ready to equip your team with research-based learning experiences that will help them develop the skills they need to succeed, then get started with HRDQ today. Our Reproducible Training Library is comprised of 90+ soft-skill training courses that are easy to customize for your company’s specific needs and deliver in concise training sessions.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.