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The Importance of Upskilling Employees

Tuesday April 2, 2024

Female employee giving presentation at work helping lead upskilling initiative with her team in a well lit office building around a table

In today’s digital world, certain skills and in turn, certain jobs, are becoming obsolete. This has been exacerbated by ongoing technological advancements and the skills required to support those advancements.

As companies and employees alike try to remain competitive, investing in employee upskilling will become a critical component in distinguishing themselves from the competition.

Why Is Employee Upskilling Important?

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, employers believe that approximately 44% of skills will be disrupted within five years. This means that relying on existing skill sets isn’t enough for today’s workforce.

Additionally, recent advancements in AI have resulted in employees worried about their future, with 23% fearing their role could be usurped by AI in the next five years.

 

At its core, upskilling provides the appropriate training and development opportunities to keep employees relevant in their roles. This training often extends beyond an employee’s existing position 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 advance their existing skills but to learn new ones. This can engage and retain existing employees, attract new ones, and prevent costly turnover.

Providing employees with opportunities not only to learn but to contribute on a deeper level as a result of that knowledge is hugely impactful.

What Skills Are Most Important for the Future?

According to the World Economic Forum, the top skills employees will need over the next five years include:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • AI and big data utilization
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Resilience, flexibility, and agility
  • Curiosity and lifelong learning

As technology continues to develop, these advanced soft skills will become more important.

Since these proficiencies aren’t job-specific, upskilling employees in these areas will help in their career development.

Upskilling in AI and Automation

AI has experienced significant growth in the past few years, resulting in increased pressure for companies to incorporate it into their strategies.

As more organizations adopt AI into their workflows and processes, the skills required to effectively leverage this tool are becoming more apparent.

Since AI can replace many tasks previously performed by humans, many of the technical proficiencies of the past are slowly becoming obsolete. Soft skills like critical thinking and creativity are becoming more important.

According to HBR, this requires competitive and cooperative skills:

  • Competitive skills are the distinct strengths that differentiate humans from AI or vice versa
  • Cooperative skills are the proficiencies required to effectively leverage AI

By prioritizing these categories of skills, leaders will equip their employees with the skills required to succeed in the age of AI.

Related: AI in Human Resources: How To Maximize Its Potential

How to Implement and Encourage Upskilling

The first vital component of upskilling to understand is that one-time skills training isn’t enough. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), upskilling is an ongoing investment that must evolve.

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 isn’t realistic and misses an opportunity to engage employees in a common purpose.

To effectively implement an upskilling program, it’s important to begin with the following:

  • Conduct an assessment: Consider surveying both leaders and employees 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.
  • Understand your industry: Evaluate your competition and research trends to understand your industry’s trajectory over the next three to five years. A comprehensive understanding of your market will ensure you’re investing time and resources to upskill most effectively while remaining competitive.
  • Engage internal resources: There may be existing employees within your organization who have specific knowledge. Invite these colleagues to be involved in the upskilling process.
  • Leverage external resources: If internal resources aren’t meeting your needs, engage an external trainer, conference, or workshop. Just make sure there’s continued follow-up on the skills learned so they aren’t learned once and never used again.
  • Focus on team upskilling: Individual upskilling is effective for tactical and job-specific skills, but soft skills such as collaboration and communication are best learned in team settings.

As you’re upskilling and reskilling employees, ensure there’s a mechanism to track the training’s effectiveness, the progress of skills learned, and the organizational benefits.

This can be accomplished through:

  • Survey data
  • Self-assessments
  • Tracking employees’ career progression

For example, if an employee recently learned a new skill and was offered an advancement opportunity to utilize those skills, capture that success.

Foster a Growth Mindset With Teamraderie

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 companies cultivate a growth mindset among team members, employees experience:

  • Increased feelings of empowerment
  • More commitment
  • Better collaboration
  • Improved innovation

Fostering a growth-oriented culture creates an engaged workforce, one that embraces changes and rises to meet that changing tide.

Teamraderie experiences can support your organization as you upskill your workforce. Find the perfect experience for your team here!

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