The 2 Sides of Upskilling Employees

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Jun 28 2023
5 min read
The 2 Sides of Upskilling Employees

Upskilling employees is a huge part of L&D initiatives. And when it comes to HR goals, it checks all the boxes, as upskilling promotes engagement, growth, and productivity. However, upskilling is also a two-way street because both employees and organizations need to devote effort to doing it right. 

What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling is any L&D initiative that boosts an employee’s level of skill. An upskilling program could include:

  • Improving an existing skill level. For example, a worker who has good verbal communication skills might upgrade their overall abilities with a writing course. Most people naturally have soft skills to some degree, so upskilling is used to bring them up to standard. 
  • Learning a new skill. It’s common for an employee to use upskilling to acquire a totally new ability, particularly for hard skills, which often don’t have the same intuitive aspect as soft skills do. 
  • Improving general competence. At-work experiences, such as mentoring, job shadowing, and job enrichment, tend to address multiple skills at once, and are an efficient means of “across the board” upskilling.

The Upsides of Upskilling

You can’t understate the importance of upskilling. During these times of constant need for new skills, and the rapid obsolescence of old ones, the frequent boosting of abilities is a critical survival mechanism. 

But aside from just allowing you to stay in business, upskilling has a wide range of additional benefits. For example, PwC found that companies with advanced upskilling programs experience the following: 

  • Stronger engagement (60%)
  • Greater innovation and digital transformation (51%)
  • Improved talent acquisition and retention (45%)
  • Higher productivity (43%)
  • Greater growth (37%)
  • Reduced skill gaps (35%)

HR and Upskilling

With such potential benefits, upskilling can be a shining example of HR’s capabilities. But there are important best practices to keep in mind. 

Identify Learning Priorities

The rapid change in workplace skills described above means that organizations need to stay on top of what abilities are specifically required by their company. The ideal method to accomplish this is through a skills gap analysis

This is not a short-term or simple process. An effective skills gap analysis requires participation from stakeholders at all levels. And, if you are in an industry that is facing drastic changes or increasing competition, you’ll need to go through the analysis relatively often. According to SHRM, most companies conduct one each year. 

Design the Right Program

An upskilling initiative can involve many types of learning settings. Courses can be held in a classroom, at an outside institution, on the job, or with a mentor/coach. 

One way to match the course to the skill is through the advice of an L&D expert. Coaches, mentors, and trainers with a high level of experience can advise you on the types of programs that work best according to the skills your employees need.  

Measure Outcomes

A proper evaluation method is essential for any L&D program. But when it comes to upskilling, the future of your organization might be on the line. The executives in your company will definitely want to know how upskilling courses are progressing. The correct metrics will give them the objective data they need to see how well your courses are doing. 

Employees and Upskilling

Perhaps the most important best practice of upskilling is to inspire employee engagement with the program. Remember that the organization provides the resources, but workers provide the effort, and their motivation is critical. Here are a few ways to promote their participation:

Build Inclusive Employee Development Plans

An essential aspect of career development is that its objective matches, to some degree, the interests of the worker (while the skill needs of the company should still be taken into account). When creating development plans, ensuring that the employee is enthusiastic about their direction will enhance their performance.  

Obtain Employee Feedback and Advice

In addition to thoughts on their individual development, asking workers about how they feel regarding upskilling issues can result in productive ideas. After all, they are closest to the action and probably have some good ideas about areas that need improvement. Methods of obtaining this information include:

  • Job satisfaction surveys
  • Pulse surveys
  • Interviews during career development planning
  • Forums
  • Discussions with HR and managers

Discuss the Future and Provide Rewards

Many motivated employees are willing to invest time into upskilling, but their enthusiasm won’t last long without a confirmation that their efforts will benefit them. Internal promotions can go a long way towards providing this proof. However, in companies where advancement opportunities are limited, other forms of reward can be considered, such as:

  • Public recognition
  • Increases in salary and non-monetary awards
  • Leadership roles
  • Side projects

A final way of promoting engagement is by discussing the “big picture”. An important aspect of employee motivation is to feel part of something bigger than the individual. When upskilling program participants understand how they are contributing to the future of the organization and security of its workers, they feel more inspired to continue. 

When it Comes to Upskilling, Growthspace Is Killing It

Awards, industry recognition, a phenomenal client list; Growthspace is on fire this year more than ever. What do we mean? It’s got the industry’s leading talent development platform. It has a global network of ICF-approved coaches, as well as hundreds of mentors and trainers in its database. It takes a unique approach to learning that solves L&D’s biggest challenge – metrics. And all of this happens through a single platform that is used intuitively by stakeholders across the organization.

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig is an organizational development strategist at Growthspace. With an MSc in Industrial Organizational Psychology and experience in Talent and Organizational Development roles in various organizations, Eric leverages his subject matter expertise to share knowledge and best practices, build guides and materials, develop & execute new and impactful programs and products, and help enable both Growthspace and their customers in achieving their strategic initiatives. Eric is a husband, a father, an amateur musician, an avid hockey fan (Lets Go Rangers!) and a functional cereal addict

Read more

The hidden potential of older workers: A strategic advantage
5 min read

The hidden potential of older workers: A strategic advantage

More experienced workers have lived through numerous technological revolutions—from the introduction of the personal computer to the rise of the internet and now AI. Their adaptability and capacity to learn new tools and technologies have been proven time and again. They are not only capable of understanding and utilizing new technologies but also offer the wisdom to apply these tools effectively within organizational contexts.

Discover the Growthspace difference