If you’re considering introducing upskilling as a tactic within your business but aren’t quite sure if it’s worth the investment, we’re not here to just tell you why it is — we want to show you.

Come along as we explore the fundamentals of upskilling, the myriad benefits it offers to both employees and businesses, and actionable upskilling tricks designed to maximize employee performance.  

upskilling programsPhoto by Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels

Understanding Upskilling in the Workplace

Upskilling is the process of training employees on new knowledge, skills, or competencies. 

Usually, upskilling focuses on learning and development strategies that improve specific job-related proficiencies. The goal is to enhance worker capabilities, which build their expertise, effectiveness, and flexibility — which makes it a powerful tool for staying abreast of industry trends, and adapting to evolving technologies and market demands. 

That said, let’s dive deeper into more of the benefits of this training tactic. 

Why Bother with Upskilling? 

We mentioned how upskilling is critical for growing the flexibility of your team, which matters as consumer demands, economic developments, groundbreaking technologies, and other changes transform the business landscape practically weekly.  

In addition, there are some other big business benefits of prioritizing upskilling for your employees: 

Improve Employee Retention (And Save)

A 2023 Deloitte study found that workers who feel stagnant at their current employer are 2.5x more likely to quit within the year. However, those who see a path for growth are 3.3x more likely to stay. That’s cold, hard proof that investing in the upskilling that creates upward mobility in the workplace has a huge impact on keeping employees around. 

And you do want to keep them around — if nothing else, because replacing employees can get pricey

Boost Productivity and Performance

Training workers in diverse and deep skill sets has a way of unlocking their potential, empowering them not only with the tools to become more productive but also the confidence and morale boost to push harder.

Foster Company-Wide Innovation

Upskilling helps businesses develop a culture of adaptability. When workers feel safe to learn and experiment, you’ll suddenly see innovation springing up all around you, enabling your company to develop more unique offerings, hit the market creatively, and above all boost your bottom line. 

Enhance Your Customer Reputation 

Did you know that businesses that prioritize employee friendliness are more likely to be perceived as “good” than those where it’s obvious money is the only motivator?

Move your business into this category of companies by really leaning into upskilling and being vocal about the success of your program.

7 Upskilling Tricks to Turn Potential to Performance 

The way that you choose to create and administer an upskilling program will be pretty unique to your industry, company, and team — and there are a lot of guides out there that can help you get started. (In fact, we have one for upskilling middle management here.)

But what about all those unique tips that can help you enhance your process along the way? 

Those are what we’re focusing on in this section. 

Think About Upskill As Early As Hiring 

Want to be especially forward-thinking? Then recruit and hire with upskilling in mind. This means prioritizing employees who already possess a versatile skill set, as well as a mindset that makes them capable of adapting to evolving business needs — rather than hiring based on experience in a strict segment of job requirements.

This approach ensures that the workforce you build is entirely agile and able to pivot effectively in response to changes within the organization or external market conditions.

Identify Where Upskilling Will Have the Most Impact

Assess your company’s existing roster of skills (did you know that text marketing is in?) and technological capabilities (are you using the best tools to make sure your email marketing is heard?).  

Really digging into your various departments and processes is the single best way to find the areas where you may be falling short of both industry benchmarks and customer expectations. With that, you can develop training that answers those weaknesses, gaps, and opportunities for improvement.

Focus on Strengths, Not Weaknesses 

Research shows that when employees can utilize their strengths, they are 6x more likely to be engaged at work

So as you explore opportunities for upskilling, consider leveraging your employees’ innate talents and strengths as a guiding principle. This is in contract to focusing on skills training that solely addresses weaknesses. You may find the need to close some of those gaps, but centering them may have a negative impact on performance and morale. It’s clear most companies stand to gain more by enabling workers to develop in their areas of strength.  

Ask for and Use Employee Feedback

Gather (and apply!) team feedback both before and after upskilling commences. 

Beforehand, you may want to know things like:

  • Which skills do you believe would enhance your productivity and efficiency in your current role?
  • What skills are you personally keen on developing or expanding?
  • Are there any specific technologies or software programs that you believe could optimize our operational processes?

This increases excitement and helps you build learning modules around the right things.
You should also check in with employees anytime they’re undergoing upskilling to make sure it’s as productive as possible, asking questions like: 

  • How engaging was the format and length?
  • How well did the presenter/training program convey the information? 
  • Do you feel you advanced your skills in your chosen area?
  • Would you feel comfortable acting on the skills you learned right away?
  • Do you prefer more or less collaboration?
  • What would you change? 

Provide Lots of Learning Formats 

As we’ve touched on, the concept of flexibility is core to upskilling. That’s why it should also be introduced even when it comes to actually implementing the training your workers will use to level up their learning. 

Here are several different ways you can deliver upskilling sessions. Mix and match based on team needs and the topic you’re covering: 

  • Host “lunch and learns” where an external or internal expert teaches a topic
  • Create one-on-one mentorship programs 
  • Send employees off to relevant conferences 
  • Pay for professional development courses that already exist 
  • Hold “shadow” days to immerse employees into roles that expand their skills 
  • Invest in an employee training platform

Personalize with Pathing

Career pathing involves laying out all the transitions, promotions, and other shifts an employee can move through based on their current role and skills. It’s great for giving employees insight into what kind of growth they can expect within a company which leads to, you guessed it, retention! 

You can follow a similar pattern by building a path through your upskilling program based on each worker’s skills, roles, strengths, and what they would like to learn. This gives folks going through the program a sense of personalization and control, which should really help boost engagement and completion. 

Commit to Iteration

The truth is that the requirements for many roles are regularly evolving.

Take a look at IT outsourcing, which has become quite popular in our post-COVID remote world. It requires IT managers to become experts in things like async communication and cybersecurity, skills they probably never needed to prioritize when working with in-office teams. 

Just like those requirements evolve as times and trends change, so should your upskilling program to keep up.

Start Building a Learning Culture with Upskilling

A learning culture, which upskilling is an indicator of, is an amazing thing to build at a company.
It creates engagement, a community of people who actually care about each other and the company, and several other great business benefits such as better retention, creativity, and beyond.

You can begin to build a culture of learning at your business when you apply the above tips to pursue successful upskilling. 

Good luck!