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    How to Upskill Employees [Beginner's Guide]

    6 mins

    The modern workplace must constantly innovate, and updating processes and procedures will give any improvement program a solid core. But as in all things business, the human element needs attention, too. Upskilling employees is one of the best investments your company can make.

    70% of American workers indicate that they would be more likely to stay throughout their careers if their employers would give them the opportunity to apply new skills. Upskilling employees gives workers who have mastered their jobs something new to engage with at work. It also allows you to reward employees who invest their time and effort in your company: An upskilling program shows you care about employees’ futures.

    The Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling 

    While upskilling and reskilling have similar names and similar broad-strokes goals, these two employee improvement processes meet distinct business needs. 

    • Upskilling refers to processes that enhance an employee’s current skill set. The employee will receive additional training focused on their current role — and can perform better because of it. They may also receive training to prepare them for a more senior role within their department or team.

    • Reskilling involves a brand-new skill set. When the company undergoes significant changes, a reskilling program can engage and support current talent through a difficult transition. Given the considerable costs of new talent acquisition, a reskill can benefit both the company and its employees who take on new roles. 

    1. The First Step: Identify Your Needs 

    Before your team begins any upskill program, devote some time to planning it. The best tip for learning how to upskill employees is to form a clear focus.

    You and your team can start by determining what you hope to accomplish: 

    • Identify your current goals and the employee skill sets that will help you achieve them.

    • Evaluate existing KPIs to find opportunities for improvement. 

    Your upskill efforts should focus on these skill gaps. While upskills across the board can improve employee performance, careful prioritization allows you to accomplish more with fewer resources. 

    2. How to Upskill Employees: Start by Asking Them 

    A successful training program should involve speaking to your team before training begins. Take their career aspirations and the skills that interest them into account, along with the types of training they feel add the most value. 

    Every employee has sat through mandatory training that gave them a headache and wasted their time. But when you offer engaging activities designed to increase your team’s capabilities, employees will feel that your company values their abilities and their opinions.

    3. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify 

    Teachers know that everyone learns in their own way. In other words, anyone can teach anyone; the teacher just needs to use the right method. To upskill employees, train them in a way they can understand. Prepare to accommodate all styles of learning: 

    • Online courses

    • Reading and writing exercises 

    • Tests 

    • Video instructions 

    • Mentorship programs 

    • Industry events 

    • In-person workshops 

    If you don’t offer multiple learning methods, only a portion of employees will engage with the training, which creates skill gaps and friction between team members. 

    4. Use What You Have 

    Upskilling doesn’t need significant investment. For example, you could create a streamlined way for experienced team members to share their knowledge with more junior members. Employees who are chosen to lead presentations and workshops benefit from a spotlight that makes them feel valued. 

    You can also create mentorship programs. Pair experienced employees who are willing to help others with workers who want to develop their skills. Senior employees have the chance to share their expertise, and their more junior colleagues can attain valuable know-how to grow within the company (and in their field). 

    5. Build a Clear Path Forward 

    A program designed for upskilling employees should make a path in two ways. 

    First: It should give employees a sense of where they can go with their new skills. They should gain skills that they recognize as relevant to their current roles or that give them a strong command of what they’ll need to move up and assume additional responsibilities for additional pay. 

    This approach helps employees see the training’s value and ensures they engage with the information presented. Training that doesn’t stick is worse than no training at all. 

    Second: Make it an easy choice for employees to participate in training sessions. Flexible learning options such as self-paced online courses can help employees learn at their own pace during downtime at work. Alternatively, you can schedule workshops outside regular work hours and pay your employees for the extra time. 

    You must present a path that your employees can navigate and that has a clear direction forward. Do both, and you increase the odds that they engage with the training. Only then do both of you benefit. 

    6. Stay in the Loop 

    Industries change all the time. New skill sets and needs for new abilities can crop up overnight. Rather than purge your experienced teams and lose institutional knowledge, consider upskilling to save money and build employee loyalty. 

    Anyone who takes their new skills elsewhere was already planning to leave, so don’t allow turnover concerns to keep you from employee improvement measures. Upskilling employees instead gives them a chance to stay on top of the industry and continue to perform their jobs to the utmost. 

    Upskilling Employees Helps Maintain a Competitive Edge 

    Follow the tips and strategies in this guide to take the first steps toward a successful upskill program. That success will bring a culture of continuous learning where employees value personal growth. 

    That mindset will strengthen and improve: 

    • Output 

    • Morale 

    • Engagement 

    • Loyalty 

    You know that people don’t quit bad jobs; they quit bad work environments. A work environment that fosters employee development makes them feel more appreciated and motivated. 

    Veteran employees who work smarter and harder will benefit the organization much more than new talent at lower pay. As companies continue to learn the benefits of making long-term investments in talent, upskilling is one more way to keep up with the competition.

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    Kristina Dinabourgski
    Kristina Dinabourgski
    Has a passion for demystifying benefits 🎉

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