The Importance of Upskilling Employees

  • Thursday November 3, 2022
  • Productivity   Teams  

It’s a harsh but true reality that in today’s digital world, certain skills and in turn, certain jobs, are becoming obsolete. This has been spurned by ongoing advancements in technology, and by the skills required to support those advancements. Recent data from Gartner “shows the total number of skills required for a single job has been increasing by 10% year-over-year since 2017. Furthermore, one in three skills in an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance or sales are already obsolete.” As companies and employees alike try to remain competitive, investing in employee upskilling will become a critical component in distinguishing themselves from the competition.

What is Employee Upskilling?

At its core, upskilling is providing the appropriate training and development opportunities to keep employees relevant in their roles. However, as we dig deeper into the concept of upskilling, training and development may extend beyond an employee’s existing position and serve to prepare them for multiple roles in an organization (sometimes called “reskilling”). Upskilling prepares employees for advancement and cross-functional opportunities, allowing them to not only learn advanced skills but to learn new ones.

Why is it Important to Invest in Employee Training?

In addition to being an important retention tool, properly training employees can directly impact a company’s bottom line. According to, “employee training increases profits by lowering expenses, which happens in the form of benefits like reduced turnover or fewer fines due to incompliance. Training also helps to increase revenue, which comes in the form of accelerated sales growth and higher productivity.” 

As we’ve seen throughout ‘The Great Resignation’, employee turnover is costly and time-consuming. Promoting opportunities for growth and development will not only impact turnover, but will also engage employees in their work. Upskilling employees will empower them to learn with purpose. Upskilling, by nature, is based on need and not just interest. Providing employees the opportunity not only to learn but to contribute on a deeper level as a result of that knowledge is hugely impactful.

How to Implement and Encourage Upskilling

Employees will most often look to their employers for direction and opportunity when it comes to upskilling. Relying on employees to find ways to upskill themselves is not realistic and misses an opportunity to engage employees in a common purpose. 

First, conduct an assessment to understand where your organizational skill gaps are. If you are training people on customer service but your gaps really lie within technology, this is a missed opportunity and an equally poor investment. Consider surveying both leaders and employees alike to understand where perceived skill gaps are and evaluate common trends. Compare the results with your organizational goals and objectives and prioritize your upskilling investments accordingly. 

Second, ensure time is spent on understanding your industry. Take a close look at what your competition is doing, and research trends to understand the trajectory of your industry over the next three to five years. Having a comprehensive understanding of the market in which you exist will ensure you are investing time and resources to upskill most effectively while remaining competitive.

Consider engaging both internal and external resources in the training process. There may be existing resources within your organization who have specific knowledge – find them! Invite these colleagues to be involved in the upskilling of others and to serve as a champion for this particular skill. This will have the added benefit of empowering an employee with a new opportunity – serving as a trainer – an upskill opportunity in and of itself! If internal resources are not meeting your needs, engage an external trainer, conference or workshop to do the legwork for you. Just make sure that there is continued follow-up on the skills learned so they are not learned once and never used again.

Finally, ensure there is a mechanism to track the effectiveness of training offered, the progress of skills learned, and the benefits to the organization. This can be done through survey data, self-assessments or even by tracking the career progression of employees. For example, if an employee recently learned a new skill and was offered an advancement opportunity to utilize those skills, capture that success. 

How to Foster a Growth Mindset

Companies that encourage upskilling, growth, and development and who – most importantly – provide the resources to support it are often regarded as having a “growth mindset.” Individuals and organizations who embody this mindset deeply believe in their ability to develop, embrace the potential for failure, and welcome change. According to HBR, “When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.Fostering a growth-oriented culture creates an engaged workforce, one that embraces changes and rises to meet that changing tide.

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