The Importance of Upskilling Staff in Your Business

October 3, 2018
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The people that your company employs are an investment. The more you put into this investment, the bigger the payoff you’ll achieve. Therefore, if you want to see this payoff in the form of strong employee performance and high retention rates, you need to regularly upskill your workers.

Every business should provide upskill training to expand the talent of their team, which will in turn boost satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, upskilling can help with resolving the skill shortage that the UK’s workforce is currently facing. With Brexit around the corner, this issue is likely to worsen, so upskilling has never been more crucial.

As an employer, manager, or other senior member of staff, you should understand the importance of upskilling and recognise the best methods. Knowing this, your business will be able to provide it without hesitation and gain the numerous benefits that it brings.


Why is Upskilling My Staff 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 is one of many reasons why employees move on. Growth is motivating and gratifying, and if your business doesn’t provide an opportunity for it, people will look elsewhere.

A lack of upskilling is usually connected to a high turnover in workplaces, which is costly in terms of both time and money. In fact, a recent ACAS report stated that the average cost of replacing a single employee is £30,000. A significant portion of the cost comes from how long it takes to get the candidate up to speed.

Staff receiving upskill training in a café

This figure emphasises the importance of upskilling your staff. Doing so will not only reduce staff turnover, but it can also cut down training time. Upskilled employees will have the ability to train new recruits more efficiently and share their knowledge, which will increase the average skill level of your employees.

Furthermore, upskilling the workforce will:

  • Improve productivity. Upskilling gives staff a motivation boost, as they’ll feel more confident and capable in their role. Certain newfound skills may also enable them to support and cooperate with others more effectively, in and out of the team.
  • Improve staff morale and happiness. To gain a sense of fulfilment and purpose, people want to develop and feel challenged at work, as well as feel valued. If you neglect to support their growth, they’ll feel expendable, unchallenged, and unfulfilled, and become more likely to leave. Therefore, to help your business gain the loyalty of its staff, you need to provide upskill training.
  • Attract and retain 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. These people constantly push themselves to grow and are often the most productive and easy to work with. They go above and beyond and listen to others for feedback on how to improve. Upskilling will compel them to join and stay at your company.

How Can I Implement Upskill Training?

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

In order for the upskilling to be effective, it’s crucial to create a plan that suits the individual. To do this, you must implement it with their direct input. Come up with ideas together and, once it’s approved and underway, support their independence. By letting them take the reins, you’ll instil a sense of trust and ownership, which in turn makes them feel more dedicated to the training.

Here are some suggestions for upskilling your staff:  


Create a personal/professional development plan.

You should strongly consider creating a personal or professional development plan (PDP) for every type of upskilling you arrange with your staff. A PDP is a document that you and the employee use to prepare a strategy for reaching their development goals and tracking its progress. It ensures the upskilling follows a structure and you record every accomplishment.

Having an upskilling plan set in stone this way can make it feel more professional and actionable for the individual. They’re more likely to commit to and benefit from it, and gain a stronger sense of achievement.


Use internal talent.

If staff in your business rarely pass on their skills and knowledge, this is untapped potential. You should determine what the person you’re upskilling 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.

Mentor providing upskilling training in a workplace

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 there’s no one suitable to upskill staff internally, then you should look into external mentoring. The benefit of external mentors is, 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.


Buy books.

Upskilling doesn’t always have to be costly or involve a personal tutor. There are thousands of books you can buy, 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 any time of day. Furthermore, you can pass on the book to another person once the trainee is done with it.

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

You could allow them 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.


Online training.

Online training is a highly accessible, flexible form of upskilling. 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 in work, 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. Furthermore, if the learner gets stuck or confused, they can’t ask questions like they can with face to face learning. Therefore, you need to ensure you find an online training provider that commits to delivering engaging, in-depth content, and supports it learners during their course, so do your research. High Speed Training has over 150 courses dedicated to supporting personal and professional development, from Health & Safety compliance courses and Food Hygiene Certification, to Business Skills and Safeguarding.


Your business will likely find that a combination of these methods proves effective for upskilling the workforce. However, you should always seek their input about which they’ll find most engaging and least intrusive. This will ensure your upskilling training has the most value for each staff member. Furthermore, staff will recognise that your business is the perfect place for building their long-term career.


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