6 Ways to Upskill Your Employees

March 20, 2023
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If you are in a management position or you lead a team, it is vital that you find ways to retain talent and contribute towards a positive working environment. Upskilling is one way of doing this. Every business should provide upskill training to expand the talent of their team, which will in turn boost satisfaction and loyalty.

As an employer, manager or other senior member of staff, you should understand the importance of upskilling and recognise the best methods to do so. In this article, we will outline what upskilling is and why it is so important in the workplace. We will also provide you with a range of strategies for upskilling your employees.

What is Upskilling in the Workplace?

Upskilling is about enhancing an employee’s existing skill set. This can be done in many ways, such as through extra training or mentoring. Upskilling allows employees to grow and build on their existing knowledge and skills. In turn, this adds value to the organisation as well as giving the employee routes for progression. 

Upskilling is different to reskilling in that it builds on what the employee already knows in order to maximise their potential. Reskilling, on the other hand, is about teaching an employee different skills and retraining them in a different way. 

Staff receiving upskill training in a café

Who is Responsible for Upskilling?

It is the employer’s responsibility to upskill their employees, but the specific person that takes control of upskilling depends on the organisation. For example, some workplaces have dedicated learning and development managers responsible for all employee training and who would be in charge of upskilling. In other organisations, managers would be responsible for identifying their direct reports’ upskilling needs. 

In all cases, a skills assessment should be carried out to identify the training and upskilling needs for each employee. A skills assessment helps to identify the upskilling needs that will be beneficial to both the employee and the organisation as a whole.

Why is Upskilling Employees so Important? 

The value of upskilling is constantly overlooked by businesses. Many perceive it as a risk, thinking that if the employee leaves, the upskill training was a waste. However, the irony is that failing to receive upskilling and personal development opportunities is one of many reasons why employees move on.

There are many benefits to upskilling employees, both to the individual employee and the organisation as a whole. Some of the main benefits of upskilling are:

Improved employee retention – where employees feel valued and in a role that helps them grow, they are more likely to stay. Retaining employees also reduces recruitment costs and improves the overall workplace culture and morale. 

Improved staff morale – employees who feel that they can develop in their role and feel challenged at work contributes to an improved staff morale. 

Increasing motivation and engagement – upskilling is a great way for employees to learn new things, which can increase motivation as they will feel more confident and capable in their role. It also gives employees a sense of fulfilment and purpose when they feel challenged and supported at work. 

Creating a skilled workforce – upskilled employees will have the ability to train new recruits more efficiently and share their knowledge, which will increase the average skill level of all employees.

Attracting talented candidates – workplaces that offer upskilling and development opportunities, and in turn clear career progression, will attract candidates who have positive, constructive attitudes to work.

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Mentor providing upskilling training in a workplace

How to Upskill Employees

The most important factor to consider before implementing upskill training is that people respond differently to certain types. No two employees are alike, meaning that some people may develop certain skills more effectively than others. Furthermore, they may gain different levels of enjoyment from different types of upskill training.

As mentioned, completing a skills assessment can help to identify areas for upskilling. This should be done for each employee and will influence what is put on their upskilling plan. This must be done with the employee’s direct input. 

Examples for Upskilling Your Staff

Here are some suggestions for ways to upskill staff:  

Create a personal and/or professional development plan: A personal or professional development plan (PDP) is a document that the employer or manager and the employee use to prepare a strategy for reaching their development goals and tracking their progress. It ensures the upskilling follows a structure and that every accomplishment is recorded. 

Having an upskilling plan can make it feel more professional and actionable for the individual. As a result, they’re more likely to commit to and benefit from it, and gain a stronger sense of achievement.

Use internal talent: If staff in the business rarely pass on their skills and knowledge, this is untapped potential. Managers and employers should determine what skills the employee wants to develop and identify if anyone internally can impart this knowledge. Not only does internal upskilling benefit the trainee, but also the trainer. They’ll develop their communication and coaching skills, which are invaluable in practically every type of business.

Internal upskilling may involve the trainee shadowing the trainer, having an hour-long weekly training session with them, or doing some delegated tasks. It’s one of the most affordable forms of upskilling and one that feels fulfilling for both people involved. It can also have the added bonus of developing relationships across teams.

Provide external mentors: If  nobody is suitable to upskill staff internally, then external mentoring could be provided. The benefit of external mentors is that, because they’re experienced in training, they can deliver focused upskilling in a way that’s tailored to the individual.

Make sure staff attend their mentoring session in work hours and not during their lunch break. They need this time to let their mind relax and reorient itself before getting back into work mode. Doing this will ensure they absorb the training fully and maintain a positive work-life balance.

Provide online training: Online training is a highly accessible, flexible form of upskilling with a multitude of benefits. Arranging for staff to learn with mentors or attend external training courses can cut into company time and be costly, whereas staff can take online courses at work, at any time of day, and usually at a much lower price.

However, some online training comes with the risk of being too easy to click through and only providing the bare minimum. Therefore, finding an online training provider that commits to delivering engaging, in-depth content, and supports its learners during their course, is imperative. 

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Buy books: Upskilling doesn’t always have to be costly or involve a personal tutor. There are thousands of books, written by experts in their field, to help people develop their abilities – from programming to leadership skills, and everything in between.

Reading is a stimulating yet relaxing activity that’s perfectly suited to personal development and upskilling. The reader can go at their own pace and pick up the book at any time of day. Furthermore, books can be passed to another person once the trainee is done with them.

When planning upskilling for staff, let them search for the books themselves. They’ll be better at finding ones that appeal to them and, as mentioned earlier, will gain a better sense of ownership by having control.

Employees could take an hour or two each week to read during work. Dividing up their reading into a few small sessions is particularly beneficial, as it helps them absorb the information in bite-sized chunks. As an added bonus, they can also take frequent breaks from their regular work to refresh their mind.

Follow up and give feedback: Regular check-ins to see how the employee is progressing and growing allow you to not only evaluate their development, but also to identify what is, or isn’t, working. 

Feedback should include praise and acknowledgement of what the employee is doing well, as well as some constructive feedback around what they can keep working on and develop further. This could come in the form of a performance review

Check-ins are also a great way to see how the employee is feeling, identify if they need any assistance and flag any issues that they may be having. 

Upskilling should be a priority in all organisations. It is important to note that every employee will have different upskilling needs, therefore their input is crucial to ensure their upskilling training has the most value for them, as well as the business. 

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