An Employee Upskilling Guide Every Employer Should Read

Guiding your employees through upskilling is crucial for their professional development and the overall growth of your organization. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate employee upskilling with ease.

Jun 6, 2024
15 minutes
|      by
Anja Milovanović
digital badges education

Not to be dramatic — but if you don’t already have an active upskilling program, you need it yesterday.

The second best moment to start helping your staff upskill is today: start by reading our detailed employee upskilling guide.

What Is Employee Upskilling?

Employee upskilling is an employee development initiative that provides different education, training, and certification opportunities for staff members who want to expand their knowledge and skill sets.

Upskilling helps employees enhance their work quality and productivity, better handle workplace challenges, and accept new responsibilities.

For example, a mid-level Frontend Developer can become a successful Frontend Team Lead through upskilling. Education and training would focus on widening their generalist frontend knowledge and developing leadership skills.

The Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling consists of learning skills within an employee’s current career path. It is crucial for vertical employee growth, letting employees take on a greater role in the hierarchy. 

Reskilling is a combo of education and training that helps employees transition to completely different roles (ex. from Digital Marketing to Data Science) and horizontal employee growth

Reskilling takes longer and demands a greater investment from the employer’s and employee’s side. Upskilling is much easier and takes less time, money, and effort.

How Employers Benefit From Guiding Their Staff Through Upskilling

Employee upskilling is a rare gem among employee retention strategies, having a positive impact on several fronts at the same time:

  • Quicker and cheaper hiring — Hiring for new roles can take HR teams months, and that’s without onboarding and adjacent risks included. Companies can escape the draining talent acquisition process by investing in upskilling an existing employee who’s eager to grow.
  • Preventing skill gaps — With how fast the tech develops, and how deeply it impacts almost every industry, a timely upskilling program prevents many issues that arise when you simply don’t have the right person for the job. Upskilling creates the perfect employee, with a skill profile that matches your needs 100%.
  • Building company resilience — A company is as resilient as its workforce. Staff that keep their skills sharp, fresh, and useful in the current context help the entire company sail smoothly during times of high stress and dramatic industry shifts.
  • Boosting employee engagement and retention — Companies that invest in their workforce and award their effort continue to thrive and persist.
  • Increased job satisfaction — Employees who upskill regularly have more confidence in their work, gladly accept new challenges, and perform better overall. 

Employee Upskilling Checklist: Step by Step

While highly beneficial, employee upskilling is a demanding task you need to approach strategically. 

Below is a checklist of everything you need to consider to create a profitable employee upskilling program.

1. The Finance Talk

How much you’re willing - and able to - invest in employee upskilling is the question that will set the course for the entire program.

Learn what is your realistic upskilling budget, and decide when is the right time to make such an investment.

2. The ROI Estimation: Will It Pay Off (and When)?

Bring the experts to the table and examine whether is it currently worth it to invest in upskilling. 

Are there any more pressing investments on the line? While excellent to have, an upskilling program can wait if there are more urgent matters to settle.

3. What Do You Want to Achieve With Employee Upskilling?

Are you looking to hire internally, want better sales results, or is the upskilling a part of your employee retention strategy? 

It can (and almost always is) all of the above. However, you need to learn what would a successful upskilling program entail for your staff and company. 

4. Initial Knowledge and Skill Assessment

Start by identifying the skills gaps within your workforce. 

This task will involve different types of performance evaluations and skill assessments, such as:

  • Tests, quizzes, and questionnaires;
  • Simulations of realistic scenarios;
  • HR interviews;
  • Tapping into performance data to compare results and KPIs.

Another important task is to schedule discussions with employees to learn about their career aspirations and the knowledge they feel they lack.

Then, define clear objectives for the upskilling initiative. 

Determine what specific skills are needed, and why they are important for individual employees and the organization as a whole.

In the end, outline the desired outcomes of the upskilling program. This last part is crucial for measuring the success of your upskilling initiative.

5. Observe the Industry Trends

What should your workers upskill for? What does the market demand?

Here are a couple of pointers that will help you learn which of the current upskilling trends make sense for your workforce, and what’s going to go out of style fast:

  • Stay updated through industry publications, conferences, and online forums to understand the latest developments in your sector's skill requirements — how the jobs have evolved, and what’s the impact of the emerging technologies
  • Seek patterns: which skills have remained relevant throughout the years, and have stayed important no matter the tech advancement?
  • Interview industry thought leaders for insights, and study their recommendations and tips on LinkedIn and newsletters
  • Analyze competitor strategies to identify areas where your organization may need to upskill to remain competitive
  • Encourage employees to participate in continuous learning and share their findings with the broader team to foster a culture of knowledge exchange and innovation

6. Scaling the Upskilling Program

How will you initiate the upskilling program?

Creating a pilot version might be the best idea if it’s your first time providing upskilling for employees. Upskilling on a smaller scale lets you create a controlled environment where you can act fast and adapt if something doesn’t work.

From the very start, develop a scalable framework that can accommodate the growing training needs of your workforce. 

Remember your remote workers, too — select a couple of digital tools that facilitate learning, training, and knowledge evaluation for dispersed teams.

Finally, support your team leaders and managers: upskilling may require them to delegate tasks differently, or keep some tasks in the backlog, especially in case they’re the ones upskilling or train the employees.

7. Hiring Qualified Educators

Good instructors will have a trifecta of:

  1. Subject matter expertise and theoretical knowledge
  2. Hands-on experience with what they teach
  3. Previous teaching experience

The educators you chose need to present complex concepts in a clear, simple manner, and facilitate skill development in inexperienced crowd.

Partner with industry associations, academic institutions, or similar specialized training providers to create a pool of qualified educators.

8. Working Hours Reallocation

Employees will need to take some time off work to go through education and training. Demanding they take from their personal time to upskill is not a good look, and you’ll likely face pushback.

Talk to team leaders and managers to find a way to incorporate upskilling into their daily task lists as smoothly as possible. Don’t start the upskilling program during the busiest quarters, or within departments without urgent need for upskilling.

9. Evaluation Mechanisms

To make sure everything is running smoothly, continuously monitor and evaluate the upskilling progress. 

Track key metrics such as employee participation rates, skill development outcomes, and the impact on business performance. Use this data to make informed decisions and adjust your upskilling strategies.

10. Employee Knowledge Certification

At least this one is easy. 😉

Additional Pro Tips for Successful Upskilling

In the end, we’d like to share a couple of additional, miscellaneous tips that will take your upskilling efforts to the next level:

  • Foster a continuous growth culture — Emphasize how important a culture of constant learning and improvement is, and back it up  is, and create an atmosphere where growth . Emphasize the importance of upskilling and encourage employees to take ownership of their own development. Provide resources and support for learning, such as access to training programs, workshops, online courses, and mentorship opportunities.
  • Diversify learning opportunities — Provide various learning opportunities to cater to different learning styles and preferences. This could include traditional classroom training, online courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, mentorship programs, job rotations, and on-the-job training.
  • Personalize the learning paths for employees — Each employee has unique learning needs, career goals. Work with individual employees to develop personalized learning paths that align with their interests, strengths, and career aspirations. This could involve creating individual development plans and setting specific learning goals.
  • Promote knowledge sharing and collaboration — Provide opportunities for coworkers to learn from each other through team projects, cross-functional collaboration, and internal knowledge-sharing platforms.
  • Improve as you go — Upskilling is an ongoing process, so continue to adapt and evolve your strategies to meet the shifting company needs. Finally, be prepared to iterate and improve your upskilling efforts over time. Use employee and stakeholder feedback to refine your approach and address any areas for improvement. 
  • Recognize and reward progress — Acknowledge and reward employees for their efforts and achievements in upskilling. This could include public recognition, promotions, bonuses, or other incentives to motivate ongoing learning and development.

* You can find the organisation ID in the URL when you access your LinkedIn Company page as an admin.

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