The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce

February 18, 2021
Aisha Prince

The annual L&D Global Sentiment 2021 Survey is out! The number one priority for L&D in 2021 is upskilling and reskilling employees – the first time this has topped the list.

Technology is rapidly developing and Covid-19 has created a stagnation in hiring. With many companies pausing hiring in 2020 and teams shrinking, a rapid increase in unemployment has left wide skills gaps in the workforce. And in 2019, one of the biggest worries CEO’s had about their workforce was the “lack of key skills.” It's no surprise that many companies are looking to upskill current employees.

In this article, we’ll explore why it's important to upskill and reskill employees, and share some techniques to get started.

Minimising Skills Gaps

We’re seeing a rapid advance of technology in the workplace, with many workplaces aiming to become “digital first”. 2020 pushed employers and employees to experiment and adapt with new methods of working, such as instant chat on Slack, and adapting to virtual meetings on MS Teams. But 60% of companies had found that skills gaps prevented them from implementing necessary technology, restricting the development of a team's success and innovation. We’ve seen an explosion in new project management software that promises more practical solutions, marketers will need to adapt to new analytics software, or your team might be switching to a new CMS. All of these will have a learning curve for your current employees, and many new hires may have never used these programmes before. We can reduce this time to competency gap by training employees, new and old to keep up to date with the needs of the business.

As for soft skills, the top three soft skills managers struggled to find in potential applicants were management, IT and leadership. When you have a pool of talent of people within your company, it makes sense to encourage, develop and invest in their skills.

Employee Attraction, Satisfaction, and Retention

Employees want to feel valued at work and one of the most effective ways to show this is by investing in their development. Most employees would like to receive more training at work, 74% say that because of a lack of training, they’re not reaching their full potential. This results in 33% of employees leaving due to a lack of support from management and development opportunities.

Upskilling therefore works as part of your retention strategy. Many new graduates seek development opportunities within their workplaces as employers ask for more niche skills. Knowing that their employer is willing to help them succeed and support them in their success builds trust and improves retention, helping them feel like a valued and empowered member of the team.

When employees feel valued, they’re 2x more likely to stay on at the company and 6x more likely to produce great work. Employee dissatisfaction and disengagement results in productivity loss of 33% of their salary.

Save money on hiring

You won’t always be in the position to expand your team. Undercover Recruiter estimated that the average budget needed to hire a new employee is nearly £50,000. On top of pay, the cost of onboarding, training and productivity loss increases the cost of hiring new employees. Upskilling your workforce therefore saves you money on hiring, especially if you already have an effective succession plan in place to reduce productivity loss. 

Effective Upskilling and Reskilling Techniques

1. Mentoring

Mentoring connects an employee with a skills gap (e.g presentation skills, management skills, adapting to a new technology), with an employee who excels in that skill.

Mentoring not only gives mentees the opportunity to learn from a more experienced employee, but also connects employees with one another as isolation increases due to lockdown. Ultimately this helps to create more of a cohesive team and company spirit, leading to happier and more engaged employees.

Mentees see their chances of promotion increase 6 times compared to those who aren’t mentored, and the number is similar for those doing the mentoring.

The reason mentoring is such a valuable upskilling method, is that it can be done virtually, with no additional external costs, and participants do it in their own time. This is far more productive and effective than a training day, for example.

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2. Online Courses

Online courses give employees the freedom to study at their own pace. They can choose from a wide variety of courses including short micromodules, ideal for updating knowledge.

3. Webinars

Webinars can work as part of a longer upskilling course or as a string of one off opportunities. Live webinars give employees the opportunity to ask questions directly to experienced speakers as well as hearing other peoples questions. Alongside soft skills, many webinars offer the opportunity to learn and keep up to date with industry trends. 

4. Instructor Led Training

Instructor led training can be done virtually or face to face, in groups or individually. Like webinars, employees get an opportunity to ask the instructor questions. Instructors can tailor the content and method of teaching to the specific needs of your team.

5. Measuring Success

What’s the main mission of the business? What are the goals for the team? What are the goals for the individual? Which SMART goals should I set for each? These are all important questions to ask when measuring. Many education platforms and providers offer simple, easy to use platforms for measuring and reporting your ROI. We also have a handy guide for measuring the ROI on mentoring.

Finally, employees want to know that they’re heard. While it's important to provide training make sure it works for them. Some instructors might be confusing and some online course platforms might have limited options. There might be an online course provider that's already popular with your employees outside of work that works well for the rest of the time. You can explore this through anonymous surveys or one on one. Ensure you listen to the needs of your employees and take feedback on what could be improved.

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