what is upskilling and how do you help employees achieve it?

Technology has changed the way we do business. Things change at such a rapid pace that there's an ongoing need for employees to consistently add new skills and technical knowledge to their repertoire. Employee training programs are no longer a nice perk – they are a must to stay competitive. You need to ensure your top talent is up-to-date on trends, new industry developments, and has access to the best technology.

Companies can provide this type of training and development through upskilling. Here we look at what upskilling is, why it’s important, and offer tips for how to develop an effective upskilling strategy.

how to help employees upskill

what is upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills that will aid them in their work. Technology has sped up need for upskilling. There is a sense of urgency to continually provide training and development to your employees. As technology evolves, new skills are required and job requirements change. Upskilling fills this skill gap through ongoing training. Workforce upskilling helps your employees stay on top of new business best practices and ensures your company is competitive.

why is upskilling important?

Workforce upskilling has become a top priority for many organizations. With it being more challenging and competitive than ever to recruit top talent to fill skills gaps, companies can use upskilling to ramp up the skills of current employees. Upskilling is important for many reasons:

  • Job roles are shifting faster than ever
  • Employees expect growth opportunities
  • Upskilling boosts employee satisfaction
  • It can boost performance, morale, and motivation
  • It helps your organization stay competitive
  • Less employee turnover
  • Upskilling lessens the need to recruit outside the organization to fill a skill gap

how to develop an effective upskilling strategy

Organizations can approach upskilling in many ways. Here are some pointers to develop an effective and successful upskilling strategy:

determine the knowledge gaps at your organization

Every company is different. You have knowledge strengths and weaknesses. The first step for successful upskilling is to identify your organizational skill shortcomings. Ensure your upskilling efforts align with your workforce needs. Employees will look for opportunities to advance internally based on what they learn.

think both short and long term

It can be easy to get caught up focusing on the newest tool to hit the market. While there is value in staying up with industry trends and leveraging new technology, don’t focus solely on software competencies that will come and go. Core skills tend to have longer-term value. Find the right balance based on organizational priorities.

build training programs that make sense for your organization

There is no specific way you have to approach workforce upskilling. The key is to set up your training and development in a way that makes the most sense for your organization. Where are volume training programs needed vs. one-on-one training? Can you do training with internal teams, or do you partner with external educational institutions? What type of learning opportunities make the most sense – mentoring, virtual learning, post-secondary courses, training sessions?

understand each employee’s goals and tailor a plan for each individual

Upskilling is about addressing specific skills gaps. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. An employee’s upskilling needs will depend on their current skills, role within the organization, how the role is changing and technology requirements to do the job successfully. Get managers on board and have frequent open conversations with individual employees.

offer financial incentives to encourage employees to learn new skills

If you provide your employees with the resources to upskill, they will be more motivated to learn new skills. Offer financial incentives such as educational rebates, increased development and training budgets, employee grants to attend training and conferences. There are many great learning opportunities to help employees upskill if you simply provide access. Offering financial support to access external education is often less expensive and time consuming than developing an in-house development program. However, external programs should be just one part of your total upskilling strategy. It's important to have external training to contextualize new skills as they relate to your business.



Upskilling through employee training and development has a positive return on your investment. Yes, it will cost more money, but it also can boost performance, and more importantly, it reduces the need to spend money to find and hire outside workers with the skills you need. Invest in upskilling, improve employee capabilities, and reduce the need to recruit to fill skill gaps in your organization.

do you need help building a comprehensive training and development program that focuses on upskilling? our HR consulting division can help you get on track.

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