If you were to conduct a brief google search on “benefits of upskilling employees” you would discover article after article covering benefits from saving money to improving employee morale. Thought leaders and vendors alike agree that upskilling can improve your retention rate, increase customer satisfaction, attract new talent, and contribute to strategic succession planning. It’s a widely accepted idea that upskilling your employees is a benefit to both you and your employees, but how do you go about upskilling in a strategic way?
1. Make it part of your culture.
Make upskilling part of your culture so that it is accessible for all employees. If it’s hard for employees to take advantage of your benefits/resources, they won’t use them. Your employees will know that you really support their development if your actions after they are hired, match what you said to them in the recruiting and interviewing process. Having a culture of upskilling and continued learning will allow mentoring and teaching opportunities to naturally form as well. It shouldn’t be a secret that employees and employer will benefit from upskilling. Start with an internal assessment to identify current/future skills gap in your organization and communicate those opportunities to employees.
2. Implement individualized development plans.
All people will not learn the same so an individual approach is important. Some employees will thrive in an eLearning environment, others will thrive in a hands-on environment. All employees will not aspire to obtain the same skills either, so allowing employees input in this plan will boost engagement and employee satisfaction. Since you’ve communicated the internal analysis results, employees should be able to easily identify their interests that will be mutually beneficial to themselves and your organizations needs. It’s important to share the gaps you’ve identified because some employees will leverage upskilling opportunities to reinvent themselves as an employee. If they can see that “reinvention” as a benefit to an organization they already know, they are more likely to take those steps. Today’s jobs are not always tomorrows jobs, so the opportunity for a current employee to learn something new they can apply to their personal career growth and your business plan is a win-win.
3. Allocate time during the workday.
If you want employees to grow their skills, specifically in a way that will benefit your company, you need to consider allowing time for upskilling during the workday. This could be anything from providing a quiet space and flexible schedule for attending virtual classes to hosting lunch and learns. Setting aside a little bit of time during a work shift will also reinforce your message that upskilling is part of the company culture. Giving employees the option to manage their work day and upskilling opportunities is also a good way to promote trust in the employee/employer relationship.
4. Break it down into manageable segmentsof learning.
Expecting an employee to attend full-day training opportunities and balance their full-time job is asking too much. Allow employees opportunities to gain new skills in amounts that fit their availability. When considering different training techniques for employees consider technology options available so you can provide opportunities to upskill employees in a variety of ways. Consider using your in-house subject matter experts to help build a curriculum. If you have the resources available, creating short videos and presentations available to an employee at their convenience is a great option. You can also use your in-house experts to teach in-person classes, design workshops, and activities, or lead lunch and learns.
5. Apply what they’ve learned in the workplace.
Don’t let them learn it and forget it. Provide opportunities for employees to execute what they’ve learned in real life. This will help them retain the new knowledge and illustrate what they’ve learned. An opportunity to execute their new skills is also an opportunity for employees to reflect on what they have learned and how it applies to the overall goals of the company and their overall career goals.
A proper upskilling approach will create opportunities for your entry-level employees to become your internal talent pipeline and support a top-notch succession plan. Having resources for employees to upskill in a way that reinvents their career paths will set your organization apart from others in a competitive recruiting market.
Kristina Minyard is currently the Director of Ignite Education in Huntsville, AL. She has over 11 years experience in HR, Recruiting, and Business Development. She utilizes her skills and experience in HR Consulting, Technical Recruiting, HR Policies, Staffing Services, and Labor Relations to create content on her blog hrpockets.com and other platforms.