Upskilling Your Team: Bring Your Business to the Top of the ClassWritten by Madisyn Villamil
Upskilling your team allows you to fill the skills gaps in your organization and ensure its continued success in a rapidly changing workforce. This investment in your workforce keeps employees productive, engaged, and competitive. But what’s the best process for upskilling to reap the benefits of your investment?
Like all investments, upskilling requires careful planning and execution to see results. With the overload of information about the dos and don’ts of upskilling, it’s easy to get confused about where to start. We’ll review the stages of the upskilling, different ways to upskill, and its benefits and challenges to assess the best way to invest in your team’s learning.
Why Is Upskilling Important?
Let’s first define upskilling and why it’s crucial to your business’s success. Upskilling involves equipping employees with new skills through additional training or education. A successful business makes financial investments in various things to stay competitive—with staff being no exception. In a rapidly changing digital world, upskilling has proven to be more effective than continuously hiring to fill skills gaps. Helping your current employees acquire new skills will drive your business forward while creating a loyal workforce.
Post-pandemic shifts in the workplace, including the Great Resignation, are perfect examples of why upskilling your team is crucial. In 2021, over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A study by the Pew Research Center found that the second most relevant reason for resignation was “no opportunities for advancement”.
Upskilling doesn’t just help your business stay competitive. It allows your employees to feel valued and receive opportunities to grow professionally, building loyalty and a culture of continuous improvement.
Before Upskilling Your Team
Successfully upskilling your team, like any business investment, involves careful planning. Thus, understanding your team’s needs and implementing the right strategies to meet them will ensure you reap the benefits of upskilling.
Determine Skills Gaps
Before setting goals and creating a plan for upskilling, finding the skills gaps on your team is essential. Conducting knowledge tests and surveys is a great way to determine what kind of skills your team members need further training on.
Hard skills like accounting, finance, business development, and digital marketing are in demand for employers today. Although hard skills are essential, employers are beginning to recognize the importance of soft skills. Soft skills such as communication, empathy, and management are crucial for building the leaders of tomorrow.
Set SMART Goals
You must set goals for your upskilling campaign that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. After upskilling your team, you’ll want to assess your strategy’s effectiveness. SMART goals help determine the success or failure of your efforts so you can improve your process in future upskilling campaigns.
Personal Development Plans (PDPs)
Asking your team members to create Personal Development Plans (PDPs) empowers them to take responsibility for their own learning and motivates them to reach their personal goals. Upskilling, like any learning process, isn’t one-size-fits-all. Adopting individualized, adaptive learning strategies like PDPs helps prepare every employee for success.
What are the Different Ways to Upskill Your Team?
There are upskilling strategies for every budget, team culture, and learning style. Let’s review 8 effective ways to upskill your team:
Utilizing In-House Talent
A cost-effective strategy for upskilling your team is utilizing existing talent to fill skills gaps. For example, let’s say your marketing director has extensive knowledge of SEO and Google Analytics. On the contrary, the more junior members of your marketing team lack these skills. You may ask your marketing director to present a formal training session to the junior marketing team employees to share their knowledge.
You might find generalized training sessions and seminars only benefit some employees. Everyone learns at a unique pace and finds different topics challenging. In fact, research shows that 58% of employees prefer learning at their own pace. E-learning solutions, for example, offer self-paced learning tracks that add flexibility to the learning process and improve knowledge retention. This is why self-paced training helps keep employees engaged in their learning and often yields better results.
Finding time to incorporate training sessions into a busy workday can be challenging. For time’s sake, many employees feel frustrated when asked to take part in on-the-job training. Micro-learning involves breaking up training sessions into small, digestible units. This makes the upskilling process more flexible and less overwhelming for your employees. Adding aspects like short assessments, gamification, and reward badges to micro-learning modules helps keep employees engaged and feel a sense of achievement.
Lunch and Learns
Lunch and learns are informal training or knowledge sharing sessions, usually held in a cafeteria or conference room. This strategy uses your employees’ time efficiently. It incentivizes them by providing training in a more relaxed environment with a free lunch. Lunch and learns also provide opportunities for team bonding and help build a culture of continuous learning.
Outsourcing a Specialist to Upskill
Outsourcing a specialist is an effective strategy if you’re looking to grow completely new skills for your team. An expert can help you determine the skills your team needs to learn and how they can apply them in their roles. Outsourcing your upskilling program is preferable when you’re challenged by time restraints and a lack of expertise in the skills gaps you’re trying to fill.
Virtual companies or global teams cannot hold in-person seminars or classroom training sessions. Investing in a virtual platform, such as a virtual reality campus, for training sessions allows you to upskill your team regardless of location. Employees can log into a virtual classroom at any time and place and complete learning modules at their own pace.
A great way to simultaneously build leadership skills and bring learning opportunities to junior employees is establishing a mentoring program. For example, a senior IT professional could be paired with a new junior member of the IT team. The senior IT professional would provide opportunities to shadow, train on new skills, and ask questions. Additionally, mentorship programs encourage team collaboration and ensure junior employees have the resources and support to expand their skills.
Consider offering credentialing programs if you need help motivating employees in your upskilling process. These training programs offer certifications that employees can add to their resumes, providing an incentive to complete them. Microsoft Learn, for example, is a skill-building platform offering courses and certifications for various skills.
Throughout your upskilling campaign, it’s important to assess whether you’re on track to reach the SMART goals set in the preparation stage. Conducting surveys and post-training assessments can help determine if your employees have acquired the skills they need and what they are and aren’t enjoying in the upskilling process. Designing solutions as a team and applying them to your ongoing upskilling efforts builds a culture of continuous improvement.
When upskilling, you’ll want to provide employees with opportunities to apply their new skills. Giving employees new job duties and encouraging them to solve problems in their current roles are great strategies for utilizing new skills. As a result, your company reaps the benefits of upskilling your team and empowers employees to use what they’re learning to expand their roles.
Bringing On Help
All the facets of preparing and executing an upskilling campaign can get overwhelming. Therefore, bringing on a team of experts to provide personalized solutions will help elevate your training program and create meaningful outcomes.
At Edstutia, our enterprise solutions provide customized learning experiences to fit your team’s specific needs. Our VR-enhanced L&D programs increase employee engagement during the upskilling process and reduce the time it takes to acquire new skills. Employees receive an immersive learning experience in our virtual campus, conference rooms, simulation games, and more.
Benefits of Upskilling Your Team
Increase Productivity and Motivation
Upskilling allows employees to expand their roles, which benefits the company and prevents employees from becoming bored with doing the same thing in their position every day. Employees experience increased productivity and motivation to excel in their roles when their employer invests in their career growth.
To illustrate, a study by Gallup and Amazon found that 71% of workers who have participated in upskilling say it has increased their satisfaction with their work, and they’re more likely to be good at their job. The bottom line is when your employees grow, your company will grow, too.
The workplace has evolved from office spaces and manual tasks to an increasingly virtual workforce and rapid automation of business processes. Following the pandemic, a study by LinkedIn found that 74% of Learning and Development professionals say that building skills is the most critical part of rebuilding organizations for what’s ahead. Therefore, as the workplace rapidly changes, employers must determine the best ways to prepare for the future and stay competitive.
Cut Down on Hiring Costs
Although hiring employees with new skills seems like a quick fix to bridge the skills gap, the cost of finding and onboarding top talent far exceeds the cost of creating top talent within your organization.
A study conducted by MIT and Deloitte found that only 29% of employees feel happy or satisfied with their organization’s investment in improving their skills and performance. If the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s shown us investing in employees’ well-being is crucial to creating a loyal workforce. Keeping employees stagnant in their position increases the likelihood of them pursuing growth opportunities elsewhere. Employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their career growth and equips them with skills for success.
Challenges of Upskilling
Time and Cost
There’s no hiding that upskilling your team requires time and money. On a busy workday, it can be challenging to fit in learning sessions, and employers may feel they’re losing out on business productivity and, thus, revenue. The upfront investment in a learning platform can also be daunting. Therefore, a lack of sufficient resources and time allotted to employees can hinder the success of an upskilling campaign.
Understanding Skills Gaps
Creating a successful upskilling campaign without understanding what skills employees are missing is almost impossible. Some departments might be missing different skills than others, and the same goes for employees of different generations. Understanding where the skills gaps are in an organization and creating unique learning opportunities for each employee presents a challenge for learning and development teams.
The workforce is more virtual than ever, with 26% of employees working remotely in the US. This eliminates the possibility of learning opportunities such as in-person seminars and lunch and learns, leaving many companies to invest in virtual learning platforms. With so many virtual learning platforms on the market, it’s important to choose the right one for your organization.
Upskilling Your Team: Wrap-Up
Upskilling is crucial to the advancement and adaptability of your team in the rapidly changing workforce. However, in order to take full advantage of upskilling, you must have a solid understanding of where skills gaps exist on your team and formulate a systematic approach to fill them. A proactive approach to upskilling will help you build a loyal, competitive workforce.
VR is a powerful immersive learning tool for upskilling your team in the digital world. Whether you want to design personalized learning experiences or offer training sessions in our entirely virtual campus, Edstutia takes your corporate learning and development strategy to the next level. Learn about our enterprise solutions and how Edstutia can improve your upskilling program.