Upskilling your team: The best approach for a successful result

Guest Author 3.09.2021
Upskilling your team

Recently upskilling has proven to be far more than the mere filling of a skills gap for your team, but a vital necessity for your company’s development and further success. In addition, team upskilling now goes far beyond providing every employee with a one-size-fits-all solution.

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When you aim at scaling your company, you need new leaders. Upskilling your present employees to find and raise ones is always a good option. Instead of hiring new employees and investing additional resources into recruitment, you can groom the leaders on your own.

The cost-benefit is only one of the critical benefits of the upskilling approach. It also results in higher retention rates, better hires, and higher productivity. Besides, employees tend to work longer with companies that provide development opportunities and guarantee growth.

But how to learn if your team also wants to grow? How to make sure all the workforce upskilling efforts will pay off in the future? Read on to find answers to these questions and learn ways to upskill your team.

Why is upskilling important?

A recently conducted study by PeopleCert found that six in ten job applicants lack the skills employers are looking for. This means finding the desired talents is not that easy, even if you’re looking for potential leaders outside of your organization. This is why sometimes upskilling combines investing in the development of new skills but also filling the gaps.

Thus, the meaning of upskilling is acquiring new and relevant competencies needed for the current or future position. There are several reasons for the increasing relevance of upskilling:

  • Skill gaps caused by an aging workforce
  • Skill gaps caused by rapid digitalization

Besides, Udemy’s “Millennials at Work Report” states that 34% of workers rely on their employers to train them and enhance their skill sets. Therefore, taking a proactive approach to upskilling your workforce ensures a well-equipped and motivated team for moving forward.

What is digital upskilling?

Nowadays, everyone should be able to live, learn and work in the digital world. Recent events related to the Covid-19 pandemic have brought forward the discrepancies between the standard employee skills and the need for efficient work in the digital world.

Upskilling appears to be more than teaching people to use new devices. Digital upskilling experience involves teaching people how to think, thrive, and act in the digital world. The modern world requires data fluency and a deep understanding of the current technological advancements, which are the industry’s leading trendsetters.

Developing an efficient upskilling approach

There’s a wide range of ways to upskill your workforce. Depending on your company goals and employees’ needs, different methods and techniques may be applied to achieve the desired result. However, it is crucial to approach the upskilling process correctly to make it a regular part of company culture.

Here are simple tips to keep in mind and follow to make upskilling strategic and smooth in your particular case.

1. Set the upskilling goal

Probably an essential step that predetermines the success of the campaign as a whole is identifying needs. First of all, you should determine the present level of specific skills and detect those missing at the moment.

This is the skill gap which is a crucial obstacle for further company scaling. Be sure to conduct numerous tests and learning needs analyses before setting concrete goals. These are fundamental for learning and development strategies in the future.

2. Allocate training time

For upskilling to be effective, it should take place during productive hours. Furthermore, if you want to make learning and development a part of your company culture, upskilling should be a part of working hours.

Thus, there are two possible options in this respect:

  • to allocate a whole workday for upskilling needs regularly
  • to give some hours during the workday weekly

It’s often difficult to motivate employees to take part in training when staying late hours after work. Thus, efficient time planning should be applied to preserve the balance between productive work, practical learning, and life.

3. Encourage personal development plans

A personal development plan is a crucial tool for mapping out future personal growth. As a team manager, you have an idea of what skills your employees need to learn. However, it’s essential to approach every single employee personally.

An employee often may have a more accurate view of the situation and adequate perception of the present skill gap. Furthermore, your desire to upskill someone is not enough. Thus, the initiative and enthusiasm should be supported in every possible way.

An excellent way to provide this support is to put your employees in charge of their upskilling. A personal development plan is the best option to make upskilling work perfectly for you ad your employee.

4. Have a dedicated learning space

With most companies having open offices nowadays, it might be difficult for employees to find a comfortable place and eliminate the distractions of training attentively. The same statement applies to remote and home online training sessions as well. Finding a quiet place is a challenging task.

Having a dedicated training space, no matter how small, and a library dedicated to training and self-development materials encourages employees to upskill proactively.

5. Utilize personalized learning

A generalized upskilling approach has one major drawback – for some employees, it will appear rather beneficial, while for others, it won`t bring benefits at all. 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace. This is quite natural, as all people have different needs and different learning capacities.

There’s no universal approach that would work equally well for all of your employees. Personalized learning will allow your employees to take different courses and pieces of training according to their needs. Furthermore, the upskilling plan can be tailored according to the previous experience and performance.

6. Encourage microlearning

Encouraging microlearning means supporting small steps towards big aims. Do not overwhelm your employees with tonnes of learning materials and long-hour training sessions. The consumption of small portions of knowledge pieces at a time makes learning easier.

Bite-sized content appears to be easier to digest. Small pieces of information in a text or video format have a concrete focus and clear takeaways for the learners.

7. Offer financial support

While developing talent in-house is an excellent and efficient way to spread knowledge among the employees, it can hardly bring new skills to your company. For this, you’ll need to complement the in-house approach with third-party seminars and pieces of training.

Sure, you can provide such opportunities to all your employees, but do not forget about the personalized approach. If employees show interest in such methods, encourage them by offering financial support. The initiative to learn new things and develop new skills should be supported in every possible way.

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8. Create a post-training plan

The upskilling course or training is just a first step towards the culture of learning. New knowledge can hardly bring benefit if not turned into practice. Thus, there must be a plan on how employees will apply their knowledge to real-life situations. The context always makes the learning more valuable.

9. Build learning culture

Building a learning culture predetermines numerous repetitions of the abovementioned actions, turning them into a systematic approach. Once the training is over, let your employees digest it, apply the knowledge into practice and reflect on the key takeaways. Right after that, start the process all over again.

Learning becomes continuous when you build a culture that nurtures development and growth opportunities. This culture refers directly to the spirit of your team and its productivity, and it’s the main thing what upskilling is all about.

Benefits of upskilling

Upskilling your team is not just making sure your employees have relevant skills. It’s about long-term perspectives and further development of your company. According to a recent TalentLMS survey on employee upskilling and reskilling, both organizations and employees positively view upskilling training. Besides, numerous employees view development opportunities as a benefit.

Let us concentrate on those upskilling benefits that seem most apparent and desired due to world business tendencies.

Improved productivity

Companies invest in upskilling to enable their teams to do more in less time. This concerns manual tasks, coming up with new ideas in a short time and tackling challenging projects more efficiently. More efficient work and higher productivity mean better results, which make the employees more engaged in the process.

Confident team

Deep knowledge of the subject and appropriate competence level always make an employee more confident. Thus, upskilling also contributes to the adequate understanding of one’s capabilities and aptitudes.

A confident employee is brave to speak up and present ideas to the general public. Besides such, employees are also proactive and take the initiative to find solutions for more challenging situations.

New technologies leverage

Nowadays, tech is transforming the way we live and work. Therefore, employees should be ready to use new tech advancements in their work, as technologies allow them to automate numerous manual tasks and concentrate on idea generation.

Rapid tech development appears to be a key reason for many companies to start investing in employee upskilling and looking into various options for digital adoption solutions. For instance, at PwC, they’ve developed a workforce upskilling strategy to build the ‘digital fitness’ as they call it, of all their people.

Soft skills development

Believe it or not, but upskilling appears to be highly efficient in cases when soft skills require improvement. Furthermore, some soft skills are essential for further career development. Thus, the employees themselves show interest in developing these particular skills.

Future managers preparation

Upskilling is not only for newbies or less experienced employees. This process highlights new future leaders and gives them a chance to fulfill their potential.

Training and development of your workforce will help to nurture skilled and more loyal managers in-house. Besides, management training will also clearly communicate that you appreciate and value your current employees and see them as an essential part of the company’s success.

Engagement boost

According to SHRM, only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with current career advancement opportunities available to them in the organization they work for. Furthermore, the absence or vague perspective of development and upskilling opportunities is a common reason to quit the position.

Thus, when you are upskilling your employees, you are already one step ahead. Apart from nurturing new leaders, you also retain your top talent and boost its engagement in company development.


Upskilling your team requires a strategic approach and systematic implementation to get the best possible result. Added to that, you need to leverage standard upskilling practices, methodologies, and valuable tools to make the upskilling process more efficient and engaging.

Taking a proactive approach to employee upskilling is just making sure you’re well equipped to move forward with your business and that you have a loyal and promising workforce.

This is a guest post by Erika Rykun, Content Manager at  Erika is a career and productivity copywriter who believes in the power of networking. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and playing with her cat Cola.

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