Tighter budgets, hiring freezes, and more demanding targets. The work landscape is tough at the moment. But there’s one tool that every business should be using to combat these challenges: employee upskilling.
Upskilling is a learning and development strategy that helps team members grow professionally. It’s about equipping them with the tools they need to learn new skills, apply them to their role, and advance their career.
The business benefits of upskilling employees are plentiful. Over 90% of CEOs who introduced upskilling programs reported:
- Increased productivity.
- Improved talent acquisition and retention.
- A more resilient workforce.
Many also cited greater business growth and innovation. In other words, employee upskilling can help your business save money and grow faster.
So, where do you start? Let us help you out.
How to upskill employees effectively
Upskilling has a wealth of benefits for your business and employees alike. So learn how to upskill employees effectively with these tried and tested tips.
1. Identify your business’s skill gaps
Your upskilling program should be strategic, not ad hoc. This will help you save time and money. So before you start, do a thorough analysis of your business’s skills gaps.
Identify what skills your employees currently have. And then identify what skills they need to help your business grow.
There are many ways you can conduct a skill gap analysis, so here are a few ideas:
- Determine the skills that are business-critical using your company objectives and business mission.
- Collect data on your current team in compliance with local laws. Examples include job titles, career levels, qualifications, and current skill sets.
- Look at your business’s previous targets and KPIs. Did the team hit target? If not, what prevented them from doing so? Could new skills move the needle? And finally, what skills do you need to hit future business goals?
- Use 360 reviews and regular feedback cycles to gain qualitative data.
- Conduct assessments to test for specific skills.
Use this data to identify trends and common themes. This will give you clear focus areas and an idea of what budget you need to set aside for upskilling.
2. Create an individualized learning & development (L&D) policy
Learning and development used to be one-size-fits-all. You’d organize general — and typically mandatory — staff training events. And they probably weren’t very exciting. But that approach doesn’t speak to the modern workforce.
Now employees want tailored, individualized L&D programs. After all, they know their own improvement areas and career aspirations best. So, empower your team to own and shape their development through individual learning budgets.
This can help your business save money on centralized L&D events that your employees don’t engage with. Instead, they can choose what’s right for them, helping you get that much-needed employee buy-in.
Remember to outline the following in your policy guidelines:
- How much can individual employees spend on L&D in a year? Is there a defined limit, or is it discretionary?
- What can employees use their L&D budget on? Does it cover books, courses, mentorship, qualifications, etc.?
- How should employees make L&D budget requests? Do they need to make a business case for each request?
Include some clear examples of ways your team can use their L&D budget for inspiration. If you have any positive case studies to share, even better!
3. Launch a learning & development platform
Your team has a wealth of collective knowledge — and most of it likely lives inside their heads. Unlocking and sharing that knowledge is key to upskilling your team. So, get an L&D platform to centralize that wisdom.
Your L&D platform should be filled with engaging, valuable content that helps your employees grow. So encourage employees to create videos and training sessions using their expertise. You could also bring in external expertise to fill in your skill gaps.
Employees can then pick and choose which content will best serve their needs at a time that suits them. Again, it’s all about creating individualized L&D opportunities.
Just be sure to market your platform and its content well. Everyone is busy, so they need to know what’s available, how they can access it, and what’s in it for them. Strong internal communications can help your team get the most out of your platform — and help your business make a return on investment.
4. Start an employee mentorship program
Employee training videos and courses are valuable L&D tools. But effective upskilling requires on-the-job support and experience too. That’s where a mentorship program can take your employee upskilling to the next level.
Mentoring is more interactive than traditional training methods. It gives mentees an opportunity to put their skills to practice in a safe environment. So carefully matching your employees with peer mentors can help them learn new skills faster.
While some people thrive on one-to-one mentoring sessions, others can feel overwhelmed. So offer both one-to-one and group options if you can. In group mentoring, mentors can work with people of similar skill levels, and peers can help each other by sharing experiences and learnings.
And if you don’t have the right mentors in-house, employees could use their L&D budget to access external mentors instead.
5. Reward upskilling through career progression
Upskilling only works when employees have the chance to put their skills into action. Without on-the-job experience, it simply becomes a box-ticking exercise with a low return on investment.
That’s why you should reward upskilling through career progression. Build it into your career development framework. Tie it into employees’ OKRs and stretch goals. And award promotions based on acquired (and applied) skills, not just the length of time in a role.
And remember, not everyone wants to climb the ladder. Lateral moves are equally as important to your employees and your business. So support your team on their preferred career paths through internal mobility opportunities. That’s an effective way to close skill gaps while rewarding talent for their L&D efforts.
6. Track progress & iterate
Like any new initiative, it’s important to track your progress and make improvements as and when necessary.
So start by requesting employee feedback through periodic pulse surveys. This will help you understand what your team likes and dislikes about your program. They can give you actionable ideas for improvement.
The second way to track progress is to re-do your skills gap analysis once your program has been live for a while. This will show you how well it’s performing and how you need to pivot, informing your policy and budget for the future.
Your upskilling program should be a constant work in progress. It’ll never be perfect because employee expectations and business needs are ever-changing. But once you start investing in upskilling, you’ll soon start to reap the rewards.