A Complete Guide to Employee Upskilling


During the pandemic, we witnessed a visible transformation in the mode of operations in various organizations. It became more digital than ever. Industries were forced to adapt to the digital way of working within a short period.


The challenge now is bigger, in terms of keeping the employees skilled enough to work in the modern workplace in which virtual collaboration with teams is the new normal, using new tools and technologies to ramp up productivity is the way to meet and exceed the industry benchmarks. Upskilling is now not only essential but also the key focus area for organizational growth.


In this blog, we will discuss the what, why, when, and how of employee upskilling.


What is Employee Upskilling and why is it Required?

Employee upskilling is the practice of facilitating the employees to learn continuously so that they may benefit from opportunities for career growth and reach their full potential. This is done by providing training to improve their existing skills as well as to learn new skills.


Why is Upskilling Required?

Organizational growth requires continuous upgradation of technology, business strategy, and enhancement of operational procedures. Without these upgrades, it is difficult to be in business and win over the competition.


The employee workforce, being the backbone of the organization, must be equipped with the right skills at the right time. In a dynamic work environment, the job requirements or role changes need immediate take-over, leaving hardly any time for the employee to adapt to the changes. In such situations, continuous upskilling is the only way to keep employees job-ready and fill the skill gaps in advance.


Benefits of Upskilling

The benefits of upskilling are twofold - for the organizations as well as for the employees.

Organizational Benefits

Employee Benefits

Cost-saving

Instead of spending money on hiring and training new employees, the existing employees can upgrade their skills to take over new roles.

Confidence Building

It gives a great level of confidence in employees if they are skilled to perform their job roles. This increases their job satisfaction and gives them a feeling of loyalty toward the organization.

Employee Motivation and Retention

When the employees observe a clear career growth path through the upskilling process, they feel valued and motivated to perform better, hence staying back. This in turn reduces the attrition rate.

Career Growth & Specialization

Employees are valued and appreciated for their skills and that leads them toward higher levels of career paths. They can also opt for switching roles of specialization. For example, a graphic designer can take up tasks related to website development.

Improved Productivity

Productivity is measured in terms of work done within a set time frame. When the workforce is skilled, the time required to complete work will be less than work done by low-skilled employees.

Clarity and Focus

A skilled employee always has clarity and focus on goals. This helps achieve such goals at the individual level as well as the organizational level.

Organizational Success

Having a skilled and motivated workforce is the key to achieving organizational goals and objectives. Also, such a workforce always sets a benchmark for satisfying customer requirements consistently and continuously.

Healthy Workplace Relationships

A highly skilled employee can always help his/her colleagues perform their jobs better by mentoring, or by providing support as and when required. This creates a healthy and positive vibe at the workplace for everyone.

Quick Transition

For a dynamic business, the changes in technology, strategy, and operational procedures require a quick transition. If the employees are upskilled at the same level of the transition, it will be easy to switch to the new strategy and processes adopted by the organization.

Reputation

Continuous and consistent performance at the workplace creates a good reputation for the employees. This comes from the skills gained at the workplace through continuous learning. This reputation helps the employees to grow faster in any organization.

Upskilling Strategy

The upskilling strategy is a complete roadmap with action plans to achieve the organizational goal of making employees suitably skilled to become efficient, productive, and job-ready. There are several stages to consider for developing the upskilling strategy. Those are:

  • Identifying Current Skill Gaps

  • Identifying Training Needs

  • Selecting Training Modes & Methods

  • Selecting a Training Platform

  • Developing Training Programs

  • Tracking Learning Progress & Providing Feedback

  • Offering Rewards & Recognition

  • Certification

  • Linking Upskilling to the Growth Path

Identifying Current Skill Gaps

It is essential to identify the current skill requirements and gaps for all employee role specifications. This can be done in two steps. The first step is to map every Role Job Description (RJD) to the set of skills required to meet the performance expectations. For example, for a project manager, the RJD and the skill mapping would be like this:

RJD Mapping Into Skill Level (Required)


The next step is to identify the actual skill levels of all project managers and plot those against the “Required” level. This results in the skill matrix of individual project managers, as shown below (skill gaps are highlighted).

Skill Matrix


Identifying Training Needs

The next important stage is to identify the training needs. This can be done based on the skill gaps identified in the previous stage. For example, if there are 15 employees in the role of project manager, and 10 of them have a skill gap in the areas of estimation and budgeting (as shown in the above figure), then these are the areas in which upskilling training must be done. Other sources of training that need input could be organizational goals and objectives, supervisor feedback, customer feedback, and performance appraisal results.

 
To know more about the methods of training need identification, read our blog: How to do an Effective Training Needs Analysis to Bridge Skill Gaps
 

Selecting Training Modes & Methods

The traditional classroom training mode may not apply to a dynamic workplace. Hence, we need to choose either of the following:

  • Online Learning: In this, the employees will be offered the entire training program as online sessions and the learning methods could be using on-demand videos, gamified content, text-based reading materials, etc. that they can complete at their own time, place, and pace.

  • Blended or Hybrid Learning: This mode allows the learners to have face-to-face (live) learning sessions, as well as online learning.

The success of the upskilling programs depends on these to a great extent.

 
More about training modes in our blog: Developing A Digital Learning Strategy That Works
 

Selecting a Training Platform

A learning or training platform is an application that provides an end-to-end online learning experience. This is also referred to as the Learning Management System (LMS), which offers a personalized and structured learning facility with administrative functions for tracking progress, reports, and analytics.

 
If you need more information about using an LMS for deploying eLearning, read our blog: Why Should Organizations Use an LMS to Deploy eLearning?
 

Developing Training Programs

In this stage, the training programs are designed. However, this includes several steps, that are shown below:

  • Identifying learning objectives based on the role

  • Identifying the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)

  • Creating the learning maps for each role (topic or chapter sequence, with a timeframe to complete learning)

  • Developing training content and relevant assessments/ assignments

  • Defining criteria for certification

  • Launching the training programs with notifications (emails/ messages)

The training content must be engaging, with a suitable mix of gamification (challenges and levels), bite-sized (to quickly grasp the topics), and audio-visual or on-the-job projects.

 
More information in our blogs: Benefits of On-The-Job (OJT) Training at the Modern Workplace
 

Tracking Learning Progress & Providing Feedback

When the training programs are ready and implemented, it is important to track the progress of every employee in terms of learning status, assessment results, assignment completion status, etc. For on-the-job training programs, supervisory feedback should be obtained at regular intervals. The tracking mechanism helps the employees to follow the structure of the learning map, otherwise, the learning objectives will be difficult to achieve.


Offering Rewards & Recognition

Upskilling training programs are to be done in addition to the regular workplace assignments - hence it is sometimes an overhead for the employees. This reason might slow down or delay the upskilling process. To keep learning as a continuous process, it is essential to offer rewards to employees who achieve specific milestones of the learning map. This can be done through any of the following ways:

  • Appreciation notes (placed on office portal or notice board)

  • Gift vouchers

  • Gift items (books, tablets)

  • Monetary incentives

Certification

This is the best mechanism to encourage and motivate employees for upskilling. Every certificate must indicate the skills achieved within a set timeframe and the level (beginner/ intermediate/ advanced) that they can achieve on completion of the defined upskilling milestones.


Linking Upskilling to the Growth Path

The periodic appraisal is an essential process in the modern workplace to evaluate employee performance. If the upskilling tags are linked to the appraisal process for taking them to higher positions or a raise in salary, upskilling will become a mandatory requirement and hence a reason to learn continuously.


Upskilling is a Continuous Process

We have discussed the benefits and various stages of upskilling. However, the correlation between employee upskilling and organizational success depends on the systematic and sustained flow of learning and not on occasional sessions or events.


We must find ways to drive upskilling as a continuous process as a part of regular work assignments. The involvement of senior management and reporting managers would be the way to keep the employees active on their upskilling journey.


If you are about to start an upskilling drive in your organization, we are here to help you develop an appropriate training and skilling strategy, and implement it. Write to us at sales@s4carlisle.com for more information.